From 22nd to 25th of April the annual FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Transmedia takes place in Stuttgart, Germany. AKV|St. Joost is present at the School Campus to promote the BA and MA courses, just like last year. It’s great to meet all the schools again, and to meet up with people from the industry. Even though we have to keep an eye on our booth, we take turns to check out some of the program. FMX is a great place to get a feel for new developments, and the ‘tracks’ presented offer a great in-depth view of particular subjects that are currently relevant. Here are some things that we take back home with us to think about.
Innovative ways of storytelling
Quite a few tracks pay attention to storytelling, like the Serial Storytelling and Innovative Practices track. The presenters’ experiences are valuable since everyone is still looking for the best way to use the digital means available.
Telltale has won many awards with their The Walking Dead series. But their presentation shows this success did not come easy. For the last ten years they have looked for a formula that works. For a player to feel their choices matter, the developers had to work on a complex way of building the story. It is interesting to hear Telltale even changed parts of the story according to user comments at the online forum. They urge every developer to really make use of this interaction with the audience.
There are more people present that show new ways of storytelling provide great opportunities but also challenges. At the presentation about ‘Collider‘ it becomes clear that keeping an eye on the continuity of the story line disseminated across different media becomes a full time job.
It is also interesting to see that not everyone feels obligated to use as much features of digital media as possible. Google’s Jan Pinkava explains about Spotlight Stories and their choice to keep the story line ‘closed’. Interactivity and story clash in some ways, so Google choose to embrace some options and to dismiss others.
The Disruptive Education is of course particularly interesting for St. Joost; how to address current skill sets that are needed in a quickly changing practice?
Teaching students about software and a pipeline of production is only partly relevant: most practices will have changes completely once they graduate. So it is more important to teach students a life long learning model of study, to work closely with the industry and to teach them soft skills (communication, working in a team, having an opinion).
Carl Rosenthal from Carnegie Melon shared a nice anecdote to show the importance of group dynamic. At PDI (Pacific Data Images) they practice ‘roofchucking’; in front of all personnel the CEO chucks old monitors, melons and other objects of the roof of the building. This functions as a binding factor amongst people. Rosenthal urges schools to think about the expectations of a student vs the expectations of the industry and how to manage them as a school. For instance in the case of film and animation industry, it is a stable and mature one, but there is also the risk of laziness. Schools should focus on innovation and teaching students to be ahead of their field, to provide incentives for the industry. The industry on their part can teach schools and students a lot about the hard and soft skills students need to learn.
FMX 2014 again proved to be a worthwhile festival to visit, we are already looking forward to next year!