And The Winner Is …

(c) PhotoPin

(c) PhotoPin

Award season is in full bloom.

Film enthusiasts, fashionistas and the media are thoroughly engaged in the recognition that is synonymous with this time of year.  So it seems like a good time to talk filmmaking shop.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Ron Saks, Chair of the Cinematic Arts Program at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD).  He was thrilled to share with me that CCAD has become a potential feeder school for the American Film Institute Conservatory’s (AFI) MFA program.   That’s a feather in the cap for any college, given that AFI was recently ranked the #1 film school in the world by The Hollywood Reporter.  The world-renowned AFI Conservatory offers a two-year MFA degree in the filmmaking disciplines of: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

So, how does an art college located in the heartland of Ohio gain the attention of this top film school?  Clearly, CCAD has something special going on.  I find things usually begin at the top, and Ron and his team are no strangers to the world of making movies.  But the students coming out of the program have to have the technical skills, instincts and creativity to make the cut.

Two undergraduate majors at CCAD directly focus on the world of digital media; Animation and Cinematic Arts.  Coursework begins with the basics of drawing, (including human anatomy), design and photography, moving on to emphasize narrative development and storyboarding.  Continued study focuses on character design, effective layout and timing, lighting, and the relationship between story and sound.  The end result is fluency in both two and three dimensional animation.

Cinematic Arts majors take exploration of the medium in different directions, developing a deeper understanding of light, sound and motion.  They explore how and where animation integrates with motion graphics, photography, video, and interactive design.  Career-wise think web design, stop-action photography, production design, visual effects and computer game design.  In both majors, students work across disciplines, growing through hands-on practical exploration.

Beyond traditional classes are project-based workshops, bringing together students from across the spectrum of art and design disciplines, giving them opportunities to blend their strengths and integrate ideas.  Students also participate in the CCAD Animation Student Collective, which provides guest speakers, workshops, and additional tutorials and demonstrations.

The school’s coolest new opportunity for exploration is MindMarket.  A place where innovation, entrepreneurship and business intersect, it gives CCAD’s faculty and students the chance to solve real-world design challenges.

So at this point you may be asking yourself, what does it take to get into this type of program? Ron stated it clearly, “if you’re creative, have a strong visual sensibility, consider yourself to have a unique voice or perspective, and are committed to a career that is based in art,” then this could be the field – and the place for you.  Open-minded individuals with a strong portfolio and strong grades should apply.

CCAD’s comprehensive, inter-disciplinary approach to digital media studies provides students with the skills to create the overall look of a film from top to bottom.  As a large feeder school to UCLA, School of Visual Arts, and USC, it’s really no surprise that AFI should get in the game.

Think Do Art

AP Scores: From The Inside Looking Out

In an earlier post I discussed AP Art History and AP Studio Art courses from the student perspective; whether or not you should take them, and what you get out of them.  Since that writing I’ve had the chance to research and talk with several art and design program admissions counselors to get their perspectives on the value of APs.  What I’ve found are parallel yet varied viewpoints.  Each school sets its own value on AP courses and each has a nuanced reason for that applied value.

Those who accept AP course credits equate them to courses taken at another college; they’re categorized as transfer credits.  Each AP course taken translates into 3 – 5 credit hours (depending upon the institution) that you’ve already completed.  Depending upon the type of AP you take – studio or academic – you’ll need fewer credits in that area of study in college.



Each school has a maximum number of transfer credits allowed per student.  Most likely you won’t hit that limit. Take Maryland Institute College of Art for example.  For academic AP courses with a score of four or five, they’ll accept a maximum of nine transfer credits.  That’s equivalent to three academic electives.  AP Studio scores also need to be a four or five, and are only accepted for art electives.  The difference is there isn’t a limit on the quantity of AP Studio credits that are accepted.  From talking with Taryn Wolf, MICA Director of Admission, I learned that applicants often take different AP Studio courses multiple years in a row.  The benefit of taking all those studio courses?  Well, besides fine-tuning your craft, they’ll help you create a portfolio theme.  And as Taryn explained further, “our higher scholarship winners have a cohesive work portfolio, usually with a theme, idea or style running through their work.” AP Studio courses provide the chance to develop your consistent theme or style.  The opportunity to win a scholarship is an added bonus; reducing the cost of your college tuition.

Ringling College of Art + Design

Ringling College of Art + Design

I haven’t found any schools that will accept AP Studio coursework in place of Foundation classes.  At Ringling College of Art & Design students are required to take all their studio courses on campus as well.  Eric Kaster, Assistant Dean of Admissions, likes the focus and discipline students acquire from taking AP Studio courses.  “However,” he adds, “ours is a very structured and stair step curriculum, and students who become exempt from studio classes often are missing critical learning practices necessary to their success at Ringling.”  AP academic courses with a score of four or higher in English Language/Composition and English Literature/Composition are accepted for academic course replacement.  All other academic AP courses are accepted with a score of three or higher.

Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design requires an AP Studio test score of five to be considered for elective credit, and a three or higher for academic courses.  Admissions Counselor Mike Bonardi explains how the credits are applied.  “Within studio art AP credit is transferred to required electives and not directly to a particular class.  Academic AP credit is transferred over directly to a required course where applicable. Otherwise [the student] will be awarded three academic elective credits.”  Again, when it comes to AP Studio the emphasis is placed on the value received from taking the course.  “Even if they have not met the score requirement it gives them a leg up with portfolio requirements,” added Freshman Admissions Officer Thom Glick.

Last week I profiled California Institute of the ArtsCalifornia Institute of the Arts.  CalArts is a very different school.  It attracts students who – almost exclusively – want a future built more around the theory, definitions and relationships of art rather than its technical applications.  According to Admissions Counselor Brian Gershey, they are “more interested in the creative content of work done in an AP Studio course” and less interested in final AP scores, giving the student’s portfolio and its accompanying statement the most importance.  That doesn’t preclude students from obtaining credit for top AP Studio scores, but it speaks to the emphasis placed on them in admission decisions.

From my findings, those on the inside looking out believe AP courses are worthwhile.  The many benefits include gained knowledge, skills and focus while still in high school.  To an admissions counselor that translates into a mature student, ready for the challenges and opportunities college will bring.  Add to that the potential financial benefits that accompany AP work and it seems like an easy choice to me.

Art School or University Education: The Conversation Begins

Michael Bonardi, admissions officer for Columbus College of Art & Design, visited the AP Studio Art class at Bexley High School in Bexley, Ohio a few weeks ago.  He advised students on how to build their portfolios, spoke about the variety of creative programs available at CCAD, and gave students a sense of what it would be like to attend an independent college of art and design in Columbus.  To me, one of the most memorable nuggets he handed out had to do with attending a school where everyone is an art student.  Think about it.  Attending a school where everyone is like you.  They’re all artists.  They think creatively, have similar interests, and are passionate about the world of art – just like you.  It might be what you want, it might not.  But, when you’re deciding whether you want to attend an art and design school or an art program in a larger university – that is a huge differentiator.