Okanagan College students get animated at graduation

Local animation studios had the opportunity to canvas the next generation of talent from Okanagan College’s animation diploma program.

The third-annual Industry Night, which showcased students’ artwork, demo reels and professional portfolios, opened its door virtually May 13.

The popular art-and-network event brought together industry partners, community, students, faculty, mentors and supporters in celebration of the program’s 2021 graduating class and first-year students who have now crossed the halfway mark of their studies.

OC student Isabelle Stuetz is a passionate Taiwanese Canadian artist who specializes in layout design, concept art and animation. For her, graduation is the next step to a life-long career in the animation industry.

“I came into this program with little to no knowledge about the animation industry and now I can’t imagine not being in it,” says Stuetz. “This program has pushed me into new growth as an artist – in ways that I would not have been able to do on my own – and with my skills, artistry and knowledge I am empowered to launch into a career that is so inspiring.”

Vernon local Ryan Lazar – who specializes in 2D background design and 3D animation – is ready to start his career after a tough yet rewarding two years of studies.

“The courses are extensive, class sizes are focused, and the instructors are experienced and because of that, the program and this graduating class are so versatile,” Lazar said. “We spent a year exploring all areas of animation – storyboarding, animation, character design, layout, theory, 2D, 3D and more – and then once we found which area resonated with us the most, our instructors and mentors helped us specialize our skills.”

Added Lazar: “Over the past two years my classmates, instructors and I have become really close and I can’t wait to see what they all accomplish in the future.”

Despite the transition to an online event for the second year in a row, students were not deterred. You can check out the demo reel, including Lazar’s work at the 19-minute mark, at https://www.okanagan.bc.ca/technologies/animation#video.

“You’ve accomplished so much this year and we’re incredibly proud of you,” says Yvonne Moritz, Associate Vice President Educational Services and Interim Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “The talent and work ethic from these students paired with the hard work and perseverance from our instructors and partners will lead to a very bright future for the animation industry.”

Throughout the evening’s events, Lazar, along with the rest of the graduating students, hosted their own breakout rooms where guests joined them to chat, network and view their individual artwork.

“The quality of work we’re seeing from our students is very high – these are eager professionals who have honed their craft and could walk into a studio right now and start performing,” program acting chair James Wood said. “The pandemic has resulted in more video consumption and the animation industry is so hot right now because of it. Some of our students have already been offered positions and it won’t be long before the entire class has obtained employment in their field.”

READ MORE: Okanagan film boom owes to industry’s strong pandemic response: Sandhu

Amber Phillips gave the address on behalf of graduating students during the event, delivering a poignant message about the bittersweetness of graduating – a highlight that is echoed by many of her classmates who have formed close bonds during the past two years.

“I know I’m not the only one who is reluctant to leave Okanagan College. We’ve made so many great memories and great friends,” says Phillips, a born-and-raised Kelowna resident. “While this may be the end of our college experience it is truly just the beginning. The industry is full of exciting opportunities and I look forward to working alongside many of you in the future.”

Phillips provided a word of advice for anyone interested in the animation industry.

“Art is subjective and everyone has a different process so you’ll need to work hard and keep an open mind to critique and feedback,” she explains. “Be ready to learn not just from your professors but from your fellow students as well. Training for this industry requires long hours and hard work but it will be most rewarding, so put the time and effort in and I guarantee you will reap the rewards.”

Rounding out the evening was a heartfelt congratulatory message from Okanagan College’s new president Dr. Neil Fassina.

“I want to extend my sincere congratulations to you all on your hard work and dedication. Learning during the pandemic requires creativity and determination, both of which you all so clearly demonstrate,” said Fassina. “In the pandemic, we’ve all witnessed what an important role animation plays to inform, educate, entertain, comfort and in bringing people together. I am confident that the reels we see tonight won’t be the last of your work that dazzles audiences on screens both big and small.”

The college will welcome its next intake of students into the animation diploma program this September. For more information visit okanagan.bc.ca/animation.

READ MORE: Dan Levy exploring animation, thriller and rom-com worlds post Schitt’s Creek


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Jennifer Smith

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