Conservatory of Performing Arts

Cinema Arts Students Learn From Oscar-Nominated Animator Bill Plympton

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pictured is animator Bill Plympton. Photo | Kelly KlineOscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton offers career advice to cinema arts students.

Bill Plympton stood on the GRW Theatre stage narrating his simple marker strokes as they became "Ella," a character from his feature film Cheatin'. Beginning to shade in shadows, he stopped explaining and all that his microphone picked up was the felt-tipped swishes of his Sharpie until he joked, “I can’t stop. Someone stop me!”

From the way the audience laughed, it seemed this was a familiar feeling.

Point Park’s cinema arts department partnered with the Toonseum to have Plympton, an Oscar-nominated animator, teach a master class on Saturday, March 16.

Pahl Hluchan, professor of animation, thought the opportunity to interact with Plympton and see his work would inspire students.

“It’s really good to watch somebody draw and see how they construct the figures,” Hluchan said. “When you look at a finished film, everything looks so complex. […] The students get to see someone professional in the industry starting very simply, and it makes them believe that they can do it, too.”

Plympton rounded out his process by showing clips of his work, both early stage pencil tests and completed shorts, and he also shared his “three rules of success” for animated filmmaking: “make your work short, cheap and funny.”

Plympton also encouraged students to not only enter their work into film festivals, but to try to sell them to distributors, which was something Kaitlyn Colhouer, a junior majoring in cinema and digital arts, had not considered. She believes that with the internet and platforms like YouTube and Kickstarter, it is becoming easier for independent animators to share their work and be successful.

“You hear about Disney [and] Pixar, which are great, but you don’t really hear a lot about the independent animators,” Colhouer said. “But I feel like that’s changing.”

Plympton also told students to draw every day.

“I think it’s a really important skill that you have to nurture,” he said. “I’m still trying to get better. I still look at my drawings and think they’re crap and I think that’s what drawing’s all about. You’re always improving yourself.”

Sophomore cinema and digital arts major Bill Anderson has been drawing for as long as he can remember and shares Plympton’s passion for putting pencil to paper.

“If you don’t like what you’re drawing, then draw something that you do like,” Anderson said. “Basically, just have fun and love what you’re doing.”

Article by Richelle Szypulski, senior double majoring in multimedia and mass communication 
Photos by Kelly Cline, senior photojournalism major

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