"Never Let Anyone Tell You It's Just a Student Film."

By VFS Web Team, on December 9, 2013

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Henrique Barone, a VFS Classical Animation and Digital Character Animation grad, lives by wise words: "Never let anyone tell you that you're doing 'just a student film.' Some of the best shorts are made by students." And his advice paid off. Tough West, a short Henrique made while studying at VFS, was accepted into the 2013 Adobe Design Achievement Awards and was selected as one of the top three finalists from thousands of entries. Henrique was generous enough to chat with us recently and talk about animation at VFS, life after graduation, and what it was like being in NYC for the ADAAs.
Where are you from? What were you up to before coming to VFS?
I was born in a city called Ribeirão Preto, in the countryside of São Paulo, Brazil. As a kid I used to cut out cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tom and Jerry from a TV guide magazine and put them in a folder so I could draw them anytime. My passion for drawing led me to choose to study Design, where I found out about animation. My graduation project was a pilot for an educational TV series, which won a grant back in Brazil!
Were you always interested in this kind of work? What made you want to pursue a career in animation?
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I started being aware of animation as a career when I visited the Anima Mundi Animation Festival for the first time in 2005. The thing that impressed me the most was the variety of stories and especially the use of different techniques. Because I had no idea how to do animation, I was really fascinated by techniques that seemed possible for me to do, like cut-out and clay.
So, with this motivation, I started doing independent shorts! In my opinion, the coolest thing in animation (and especially short films) is the fact that it incorporates different skills and areas into one single product. By doing a short film you need to think about a script, storyboard, art, animation, compositing, sound, and everything else. Being in touch with all those steps is incredible.
I believe, however, that in the end, it doesn't really matter if the visuals are amazing, the animation is smooth, or the music is great. People may even like it, but I believe a film has a bigger and amazing potential when it has a strong story, and that's what drives me to continue doing films and pursuing a career in animation. Some films really touched me, some made me think, some made me talk about it with friends, some made me laugh, some made me cry. If I can do this with my short films then I will be humbly fulfilled.
Why VFS? How did you find out about the Classical Animation and Digital Character Animation programs? Why did you decide to take DCA after CA?
Coming to Canada was both a personal and professional decision, made together with my fiancé (and also a Classical Animation alumnus)Fernanda Ribeiro. Though we had already worked in Brazilian productions and also as freelancers for different clients, we felt it was about time to invest in concrete training, not only in animation but also in storytelling and the cinematic language as a whole.
On the personal side, we wanted to stop for a while and have some time to explore our own styles by doing an animated short. Professionally, we wanted a chance to live and work outside the country to learn from a culture with a bigger and more established animation market than the Brazilian one. Choosing the Classical Animation program seemed to mix these two aspects perfectly. And it did!
Although I had wanted to eventually learn 3D animation, the Digital Character Animation program wasn't part of the original plan—it just came along one year after I graduated from Classical Animation. I'm very glad I took Classical Animation before and that would be my advice to anyone.
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What was your experience like in the programs? What was the hardest thing about them? What was the best thing?
The thing that definitely makes the Classical Animation program unique is the amazing team of instructors and mentors likeMoose Pagan,Dieter Mueller,Andy BartlettMarv Newland, and Jim Inkster, who are amazing at giving feedback on your film and listening to your ideas. In the end, you not only feel like you learned from the best, but also that you made some good friends!
Also, I loved the mood of the Classical Animation class environment, where you can have your references and drawings on the wall and be inspired all the time. People also pin up caricatures and funny things, which helps to never get the mood down in class. It was awesome!
The Classical Animation program is also not just about animation. It has some other amazing classes like Composition, Acting for Animators, and Film Theory. These classes truly helped me to overcome my biggest obstacle, which was coming up with a good story and to be able start my shorts Tough West and This Idea Is Not Working

A year after I graduated, I definitely used a lot of this knowledge and experience to create The Man Who Saw a Boat in the DCA program, which has a very tight schedule for learning a new technique (Maya) and, on top of that, creating a good short. But again, great instructors and a great mood in class are key.
What has life been like since graduation? What's on the horizon?
After I graduated from Classical Animation I got the chance to work in Vancouver for companies such asAtomic Cartoons andTiny Speck, and also as a freelancer for different projects. Then I took the DCA course, where I created my most recent short calledThe Man Who Saw a Boat, which I'm sending to festivals. And now I'm part of the incredible team atGiant Ant. There are so many different projects, styles, and techniques that are very inspiring to work on in Vancouver.
Your short Tough West was selected as a finalist from thousands of entries for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. Congratulations! What was that experience like?
I like my three shorts in very different ways.This Idea Is Not Working was the first and I learned a lot during the process. I was very eager to explore all the possibilities of animation. I wanted to squash and stretch the characters as much as I could—morph, transform, and all of those things. Thanks to animation that was actually possible and super fun to do!The Man Who Saw a Boat is the most recent one and the one I'm the most connected to right now. But I thinkTough West has something special because in many ways it wasn't planned as much as the others, so it left a lot of room for very good surprises, like the words I came up with on the last day. Having a tight schedule was a good way to not overthink stuff and just simply let it be. That happened withTough West and it was very special.
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I'd say that this special quality came through for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards judges, because they selected Tough West as one of the top three animation finalists, from 3752 submissions in 11 categories. Each year the Winner Announcement Ceremony takes place somewhere different around the world, and Adobe brings all the finalists together to share ideas and learn! This year the ceremony was held in New York City, where I met some amazing and very inspiring people, visited design studios, and showcased my work. Unfortunately I didn't get the big prize, but it's hard to not see all this experience as a prize itself. The awards are a great opportunity for students animating with Flash like me, or using any other Adobe software. I'd really recommend everyone to apply for the ADAA 2014!
Do you have any advice to share with new students? For people thinking about a career in animation?
I think my main advice would be to never wait for the next opportunity. Never wait until someone has watched your short. Never wait for a position to open. Share your short! Having a short film in hand is a great way to introduce yourself to someone you admire and has inspired you. Ask for feedback, say what you like, and be interested.
The same goes for companies and studios you admire. It's not because they don't have positions that they won't watch your short and reply to you. So don't be afraid to share, to talk about your film, and to show who you are. In my opinion, a lot of times, knowing how to communicate is more important than knowing how to animate.
Also, some of the best shorts I've ever watched were made by students, so never let anyone tell you that you're doing "just a student film."
Wow, thanks for taking the time to share all this with us Henrique! Best of luck at Giant Ant and on future projects!