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Observer at Large


In my last column I covered three of four major worldwide trends during 2007 in production and related public policy: incentives, global content creation and growing outlets for content. Here I conclude my year in review by focusing on efforts to retain, grow, or steal an artistically and technologically savvy workforce.
The combination of incentives, the global expansion of content and the explosion of the animation, games and visual effects markets has led to significant growth in training initiatives. Some are still in the announcement phase. Others have blossomed into robust programs with an abundance of students, faculty drawn from industry, and often a large helping of government support.
Retraining Vets
Even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to new film training programs. The Wounded Marine Training Center for Careers in Media program consists of a specialized training center where more than 30 film industry professionals will share their video and photojournalism expertise with participating wounded Marines and Navy Corpsmen. The foundation’s a pilot program will train two classes of 25 or more per year.
Graduating Marines will acquire professional certification in specific skills and also receive union membership in the International Alliance of Theatre Stage Employees (IATSE) and job placement if and when they need to be medically retired. The Center will teach classes in its new San Diego facility.

Efforts in Asia
India continues to pursue visual effects and animation training with at least one announcement a month about a new program. In Vietnam, The Ford Foundation created a $9 million fund to support arts, media and cultural initiatives. Approximately $600,000 is allocated to training filmmakers. Singapore saw the opening of a new MFA program with a film production track from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Terry Thoren, formerly of animation company Klasky Csupo, launched Rocket Fish in Malaysia in January 2007. As of September, Rocket Fish was offering recent graduates an opportunity to train for six weeks at the studio.

New film production programs sprouted at the University of Louisiana—a direct result of the staggering increase in production brought on by Louisiana’s generous tax incentives. In South Carolina, the first round of Production Fund Grants was announced in the fall of 2007. “Bona fide” motion picture-related entities, individuals, or other higher education institutions must collaborate on their film project with at least one South Carolina Film Consortium member to be eligible to apply for the fund. Consortium members currently include the Trident Technical College Department of Radio, Television, and Film; the University Of South Carolina Department Of Media Arts; and the Clemson University Department of Digital Production Arts. Awards will be announced by March 2008.

Video Games
The burgeoning video game industry, spanning console, PC, mobile, and online games, spurred a raft of new programs. For example, the University of Bradford in the UK set up the Game Republic Academy with support from Screen Yorkshire and Skillset (the UK’s audiovisual workforce initiative). Also in the UK, the secretary of education unveiled new diplomas in 14 industry areas–one of which is in interactive entertainment. These programs are similar to California’s new Career Technical Education efforts in Arts, Media and Entertainment in high schools.
Columbus State University in Georgia launched a new video game track in its Computer Science Department. Private post-secondary colleges such as DeVry, Westwood, and National University also started game programs. In March 2007, Southern Methodist University in Plano, Tex., graduated its first class of master’s degree students in video game development. The school also announced a program for computer science and art students to let them receive their bachelors in computer science and fine art and a masters in interactive technology in only five years.

On-line Training
Training is also evident on the internet, where the BBC continues to expand its online offerings. In New Zealand, free online courses and tutorials are available through Media College. Videomaker magazine has articles, tutorials and videos to help budding filmmakers. Studio Daily focuses on motion graphics and visual effects. Apple’s resources for educators are available to anyone and offer modules on videography, sound and music.
A new site,, was created by the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation in Worcester, Mass. Their mission is to build a more open world of online video using the open source program Miro. Even a Wiki has emerged called WikiU Film School. With curriculum created by Wiki users, there is no telling where that particular effort will go. Proprietary schools and programs like Animation Mentor, Gnomon and offer anyone with a computer and some free time a chance to learn a new skill or upgrade an existing one.
There is a demand globally for true talent. There always has been and there always will be.
Kathleen Milnes’ column focuses on private-sector initiatives and public policy in the entertainment industry. Milnes is founder of The Entertainment Economy Institute, a nonprofit research and education company. [email protected]

Written by Kathleen Milnes

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