I have this week been in Barcelona, teaching on the Masters in Stop Motion course at BAU. For all I saw of the city I could well have been in a suburb of Manchester – certainly, the weather for the most part, reminded me of home. Grey. But a truly international group of students, and I think we had seven languages, but thanks to a lot of pointing and some English, we got through it all. I would have loved to have given them more resources but by the end of the sessions they were producing some remarkable footage.
Now I have been lucky enough to teach around the world, and have seen great courses and not so great courses, and some frankly awful courses. I would never teach full time as my need to tell stories and be behind a camera is too strong, but if I were to run a course, I would certainly take elements of all I have seen. It would be broad ranging and not just be about stop motion/animation in an isolated bubble. History would be very important, with access to films before Nightmare before Christmas, which seems to be most student’s starting point.
But I would talk about art in all its’ forms, from sculpture, through ballet and theatre and opera, trying to get to the very basic question of why we tell stories, and why we enjoy metaphors, myths and artifice. I would include acting classes, dance classes, music classes (certainly the ability to read a score is essential).
I would include all the technical knowledge of cameras, editing software, puppet making, and lighting, but I would keep coming back to the why of storytelling. Why, why, why. There would be big sessions about puppets and the cyphers they are; sessions about communication and visual storytelling, and animation every day, every single day, with puppets, objects, anything you can touch and get a performance out of. I would fill every day with inspirational ideas.
Stop motion is only the peak of a very big iceberg. Some colleges aspire to all this but have their hands tied by resources and budgets, but inspiration is free.