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Parlez Vous Adobe?

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Making movies aside, the most important job of any film school student is to forge strong relationships in the business, so that once they’re out in the “real world,” finding a place in the industry won’t be such a daunting task.

At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, 50 film school students were lucky enough to get a little networking help from one of the biggest names in the moviemaking software business when Adobe paired them up with some of the biggest names in the world of editing—for a week-long celebration of all things editing.

As the festivities kicked off, MM spoke with Claire Irwin, Adobe’s worldwide education senior marketing manager, about the company’s interest in the moviemakers of tomorrow and why Cannes is the only place to learn rules of the industry.

Jennifer M. Wood (MM): Adobe’s sponsorship of the American Pavilion Student Filmmaker Program at Cannes really says something about the company’s commitment to tomorrow’s moviemakers. Why is it so important to you to reach out to film students?

Claire Irwin (CI): The students are the future innovators of this industry. Adobe is acting as a facilitator between the student’s creativity and enabling them to create content representative of their experience in Cannes that will enhance their portfolio and possibly open more doors of opportunity.

MM: What makes Cannes a great place to do that?

CI: This program offers a unique opportunity for these students to be exposed to the film industry—it’s the golden ticket! The projects that are part of the program are real world and give the students the experience of having to run their own studio with real deadlines and expectations. It provides them with the opportunity to network and promote themselves and their work through their broadcasts and documentaries.

MM: Your Filmmaker Program pairs 50 students from 30 film schools with professional editors to mentor them. How did you select the participating students? What sort of criteria did you base these decisions on?

CI: The students submitted essays outlining what they felt were their strengths in filmmaking and their knowledge in post-production. We evaluated the students to make collaborative teams based on their varying experience. No student in any team is from the same school and nor do they have the same strengths. In essence, we put together film crews. We have students participating from many different countries, such as South Africa, India, China, Japan, US, Canada, the UK, France as well as others that I cannot remember at the moment. Because of the global participation, this has brought unexpected creative perspectives to the projects… unexpected unity and collaboration.

MM: What about the mentors? Who are some of the professional editors your students can expect to learn from? What are some of their credits?

CI: David Chai is an instructor of animation at San Jose State University and an animation director for Thunderbean Animation. He has worked on a variety of projects including educational software, animation for television and video, commercial advertising and independent films. His studio, Thunderbean Animation, received the Gold Award for Best Animated Television Commercials at the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International in 2005. To date, his independent films have been screened at more than 75 film festivals internationally, as well as on MTV2, G4 TV and ZeD in Canada. His filmography includes 25 Ways to Die and Flames of Passion.

Kathy Smith is chair of the Division of Animation and Digital Arts at the School of Cinema-Television, University of Southern California. Smith currently teaches expanded animation and contemporary topics in animation and digital art in the School of Cinema-Television.

Since 1984 her films have been screened internationally, including at Anima Mundi and the Hiroshima and Ottawa International Animation Festivals, and she has exhibited internationally at group and solo exhibitions such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Conservatorio di Santa Maria degli Angioli in Florence and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Smith has independently created 12 animated films including traditional character cartoons, experimental mixed media animations and, since 1994, digital animated films.

Bun Lee’s career in digital design began in the smoldering underground music scene of his native Hong Kong, where he became an award-winning mix master in the coveted Mixing Championship through the infamous DMC (Disco Mix Club). Lee’s mastery of particular musical genres led him to sound engineering and mastering in the Analogue to Digital Recording program at the Columbia Academy in Vancouver, British Columbia.

While maintaining his roots in the underground DJ scene, Lee continued his studies at the Vancouver Film School, working on digital design projects and graduating with a certificate of excellence focusing on special effects and nonlinear digital video editing. Upon graduation, Lee remained on at VFS as a teaching assistant in sound design, mentoring in Pro Tools and rapidly moving into advanced visual effects. Lee is currently VFS Digital Design’s instructor in visual effects and compositing and he continues to work with students as a mentor on matters of cine, lighting, nonlinear video editing and sound engineering.

Jim Kenney is the principal of Interstitch, a motion graphics and design film studio that produces films and designs titles and animated graphics for dramatic and documentary projects. He has worked for the National Gallery of Art, Adobe Systems and Imaginary Forces in Hollywood, where he first professionally created title sequences for film and graphics for broadcast projects. His personal work includes three short films and the current production of a feature-length documentary. Kenney has been honored by publications, festivals and organizations around the world, including I.D. magazine, RESFEST Digital Film Festival, the Type Directors Club of America and the American Institute of Graphic Artists.

Film projects to which Kenney has contributed have been honored by prominent international film festivals and organizations, including the Sundance Film Festival and the Academy of Motion Pictures. In addition, Kenney is an assistant professor of Graphic Design and Media Arts at the California College of the Arts and is co-founder and co-director of SF Shorts: The San Francisco International Festival of Short Films.

Alistair Hill is a lecturer of Ruth Prowse School of the Arts in Cape Town, South Africa. He is also an actor and design professional. He has been instrumental in coordinating our efforts in the American Pavilion and throughout Cannes.

I also have two industry mentors who were past Adobe Design Achievement Award winners now working in the industry: Evan Schoonmaker and Eric Finkelman of Original City Pictures of New York City.

MM: As the participants are film school students, they’re coming in with a certain amount of technical proficiency. But what are the sorts of lessons you think they will learn through the Student Filmmaker Program that they can’t learn in the classroom?

CI: It’s the exposure to what is happening in the film world globally. There is nothing like seeing a film at Cannes that you may never be able to see anywhere else—truly innovative approaches to the craft. The students, through participation in the program, are exposed to collaborative environments that may or may not be ideal. They are finding a way to network and manage real deadlines. They are also taking advantage of the partners who are supportive of the Pavilion such as SAG Indie, who are jointly providing pitchfests for students with Adobe, as well as other very informative roundtables on filmmaking.

Through the Pavilion we are able to provide the students an all-access pass, which allows us to walk throughout the festival, behind the scenes so-to-speak, seeing the bustle and hustle that makes Cannes… Cannes.

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