Imagery of Regent people and campus

Animation Students Tackle Real-Life Projects

By Amanda Morad | November 29, 2012

Senior Andrew McPherson gives artistic direction to fellow animation student, sophomore Josh Ireland.

"We're impacting the world in its native language: story," said Andrew McPherson, a senior animation major in Regent University's College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). "Couple that with a school whose life-blood is about training leaders to change the world, and you've got a recipe for something that could be world-changing."

McPherson is one of several animation students contributing to major projects with outside organizations, giving them real-world industry experience before they enter the workforce.

A group of Regent students is currently working with The JESUS Film Project to animate the story of the demoniac Jesus frees in the gospels, which is retold in the JESUS film. The audio assets of the film are being reimagined into short films for children. If the work of the students satisfies the organization's needs, the next six short films may be on slate for these and future students over the next six years.

"This is an excellent opportunity for our students," said Peggy Southerland, professional-in-residence and director of the animation program. "They're learning a lot about their craft and learning what it means to work in groups as animators. We have the students we need who are dedicated and talented, and we're getting them ready to work in real world situations. They're learning to subjugate their own egos to the ego of the project."

"Quality teamwork is essential. I know I'm not the only one who's learned something about working with a team, and this filters right in with our future, because any of us going into studio work will have to work with a team on every project," said senior Melanie Morgan, the project's student director. "The work is hard, but the rewards will be more than worth it. This is what we're made for."

Many students were drawn to the project as a chance to apply their skills to something that has the potential to reach the world. The short film will be posted online in 31 languages and shown across the globe. Based on the Gospel of Luke, the full-length JESUS film has now been translated into more than 1,150 languages, and has been shown in more than 230 countries.

Under Southerland's leadership, the students are able to take ownership of the work and not only contribute, but shape the final outcome.

"The most important thing I've learned on this project is how important good leadership really is," said McPherson, who is the editor and compositor on the project. "At 20-something, you spend a lot of time at the bottom of the professional totem pole, so you see a lot of good and bad examples of leadership laid out for you. Having students look to people like me for advice and leadership on The Gadarene Demoniac, I have a chance to put the best of what I've learned into practice.

"I know this leadership experience is going to be a stepping stone to something so much greater in the future," he added. "Even with what I've learned over this semester, I know I'm being trained to be a leader in my industry."

Regent is also one of two universities selected as a beta test site for new cutting-edge animation software called Factory Connect. The program allows for nonsynchronous review of work from anywhere in the world. Creator Tom Mikota was in charge of texture mapping for the 2009 film Avatar and developed Factory Connect in order to collaborate with the hundreds of people required for a project of that magnitude.

Partnering with Amazon.com for "cloud" space online, the software will make it possible for Regent students to review, submit and comment on a variety of projects via the web, at 3 a.m. or over a school break. "This is a great tool for collaboration," said Southerland.

Animation students are also working with Operation Blessing to animate an educational video project for use in Peru. Worm Wars, Episode 1, explains to children in small, impoverished villages how intestinal parasites can enter the body through the bottom of bare feet and make them very ill. Operation Blessing will show the video as they distribute hundreds of pairs of TOMS shoes to village children. TOMS shoes donated a million pairs to Operation Blessing this year.

The episode is narrated by Dr. Gillette Elvgren, professor in the School of Communication & the Arts. Students have already received scripts for two more episodes and will also be making coloring books from the animated frames of the episodes.

"These are significant achievements for us," Southerland concluded. "This is significant work and will open up opportunities for Regent in the future."

Learn more about the animation program.


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