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Replay: a Spotlight on Dawson’s Behind-Screen Talent

by Miranda Lalla


October 18, 2018 | Arts and Culture

Household names like The Revenant, Assassin’s Creed or Blade Runner 2049 often seem so grandiose in their conception that attempting to grasp the technicalities of one single frame can often give the average Joe a headache. We chalk up things like the texturing of the legendary Captain’s underpants, or the chaos of Wonder Woman’s battle scenes to simple “movie magic.” Living in a world of ever-present media, it can be easy to take for granted the great progress, technology and minds behind the pixels that surround us. Unbeknownst to most Dawson students, a small community of art-students-meet-computer-geniuses, to which we owe so much on-screen wonder, create fervently in the labs of the G Wing.

It has been ten years since Dawson’s department of 3D Animation and CGI opened its doors, introducing into the workforce a wave of distinct young talent that has gone on to shape a recognizable generation of work. On October 11th, Replay, an exhibition in the Warren G. Flowers gallery, aimed to showcase just that. Notable alumni, family, and friends returned to Dawson to talk about their experiences in the unique field, and what doors their training of three years has opened for them. What was most striking, however, was the sheer diversity of creative occupations held by the members of the 25-student cohort who went on, so quickly, to make names for themselves within the industry.

What most alumni consistently brought up when reflecting on the experience of Dawson’s unique program was none other than the family dynamic the environment provided, ensuring a great support system in such a demanding specialty. Upon arrival to their first semester, many students had little to no background training in the field. What Matt Mciver, a professor in the program, deems most remarkable about the students’ training is that it is first and foremost in the artistic domain. Beyond that point, they focus on applying their artistic skills to the technical aspect of the trade. By the end of the program, students are able to animate and create short films in their entirety. An impressive Dreamworks-esque piece on display in the exhibition displayed just that.

Dawson alumni have gone on to occupy a wide range of fascinating careers within the field. Naomi Savoie, a 2013 graduate who began her career with Ubisoft, went on to do concept art in Japan. Her role is to create the rudimentary plans for characters before they even reach the other artists participating in their conception. For Valérie Lafrance, her dream took the shape of a unique and remarkable specialization: texture artistry. Her job is to meticulously design the surfaces that distinguish and differentiate materials within an animation. Stephanie Volpi of EA creates the skeletal and muscular systems responsible for making a character move in the phase before animation. Ian Cooke-Grimes has been a senior lighter on Oscar-winning Hollywood films.

With the success emerging from Dawson, it is no secret that it has a considerable edge over other similar programs. Besides the incredible dedication of students, a lot of this is due to the teachers who are dedicated and constantly keeping up with the evolving field. Furthermore, being condensed into three years, a program as demanding as this one requires a co-operative and supportive group dynamic, forging lasting bonds between creative minds that translate into work within Montreal’s greater 3D/CGI community. What was so evidently showcased at Replay was that the learning environment created by Dawson has allowed for ten years of talented 3D/CGI graduates to thrive in their field, leaving nothing but optimism for what the next ten years might hold.



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