ESDA - Animating the Future
In Singapore’s diversifying economy, a career in digital animation is no longer thought of as a dead end. Helmed by active professionals and driven by cutting-edge technology, the Egg Story Digital Arts School is poised and well-equipped to mould the next generation of home-grown artists.
By Mohd Sufyan Saad
When Nickson Fong, founder and CEO of Egg Story Creative Productions, returned to Singapore after working in the United States, he felt that there was something lacking when it came to shaping and preparing would-be digital artists for the growing Asian Media Industry.
“I started the production facility first; it was only after that when I realised that there were a lot of gaps in terms of training, and that was when I started the school,” said the president of Egg Story Digital Arts School (ESDA).
Despite being fairly new – the school was only established in January 2007 – ESDA believes it has an edge over its competition.
“One of our school’s strengths is the ability to attract overseas professors and the professionals that are working in Hollywood. In my opinion, it’s important to learn from these people because they come with a wealth of practical industrial experience and our current students have greatly benefitted from that,” Nickson stated.
Jerry Ching is one such expert. He had worked for renowned production companies such as Industrial Light & Magic, and Disney, before signing on as a Principal Lecturer at ESDA. “I wanted to lend what I had learnt over in the United States to the new generation of animators here in Singapore.”
On the digital forefront
With the academy, Nickson aims to portray animation as a career that’s as respectable as any other. “Not only do we have to convince the kids but also their parents that this is a viable career that you can take on, that the industry here is growing. I am hopeful, Singapore will become a more vibrant animation and film hub in the future,” said Nickson.
Jerry reiterated: “To be taught by professionals who are also working on productions is really invaluable. The technology and the education that the students will receive are really relevant and up-to-date. I think that’s the core competence of ESDA.”
For Jerry, keeping his teaching material relevant and useful is a challenge he takes in his stride. “Thankfully, I can still rely on my past experiences as I have not been away from the industry for very long. Of course, being part of a production company helps as well and keeps my teaching continuously relevant.”
“Nickson also ensures we are always kept in the loop in terms of technology that we have developed and learnt, so there are no problems in that respect,” he added. With this “active participation” approach in place, the students will be able to access these developments,and hence explore their creativity without any restrictions from the lecturers.
“I look at the students’ work, take them apart and try to help them be as good as I can, without stifling their inner genius,” said Jerry. “I always encourage them to follow their instincts and try not to dictate to them too much. I guide them and provide the best possible support.”
Tapping on experience
Helmed by active and experienced industry professionals, ESDA understands that creativity and skill need to be groomed through experience.
At ESDA, the curriculum is predominantly hands-on. “Our curriculum is very practical and up-to-date with what people actually do in production studios,” stated Nickson.
Moreover, students get their feet wet through internships and working with Egg Story Creative Productions and their partnering studios. “We give them the option to do internships during the Professional Practice period. We also help by linking them up through our industry contacts here in Singapore and overseas,” Nickson explained.
Furthermore, ESDA encourages its students to actively participate in exhibitions, seminars, as well as art and film festivals. By submitting their works, these events provide the students with valuable opportunities to receive criticism and appreciations of their artwork. Nickson believes such avenues to be beneficial because they “allow the students to showcase their works” and more importantly, gain good exposure.
Essentially, ESDA aims for its graduates to be work-ready by taking the knowledge imparted by the school and applying themselves directly once they venture into the working world.
“I think it’s the practical experience, the production knowledge and the hands-on training. We try our best to guide the students as much as possible and give them the best knowledge across the board of what it really takes to make this into a successful career,” said Nickson.
Doing great things
Aside from the technical skills essential to succeed in this line, there are other factors that the school imbues onto its students, such as “the passion for animation, indulging in creativity, professionalism and doing things on time”. Jerry believes that these intangible elements, together with the skills that they have acquired during their course of study, will help them collectively become a formidable workforce in the global media industry.
“With so much untapped potential here in Singapore, we are hopeful that we can have a big wave of digital arts students who will graduate from ESDA and do great things,” Jerry summed up.