Ten CalArts Student Films From 2009

Following my post about David Ochs’s short Who’s Hungry, Brew reader Marianne Hayden sent over several links to other shorts produced at CalArts this year. That made me curious to find even more student films that have been posted online, and the result is this post, which offers a collection of ten new CalArts films spanning from first-year efforts through graduation shorts. Obviously there are dozens of films that haven’t been posted on-line yet so this is not intended to be a comprehensive look at the school’s output nor a selection of the best work coming out of the school. However, it does make for a decent representation of the quality and range of work currently being produced at CalArts. Happy weekend viewing!

Lifeline, graduation film by Andres Salaff

A Werewolf Film, graduation film by Noel Belknap

VooDoo Carnival, graduation film by Joshua Dotson

My Totally Shitty Valentine’s Day by Henry Yu

Such Great Heights, a third-year film by Ryan Shaw

Sharing, a second-year film by Kris Anka

Low Oxygen, a second-year film by Dylan Forman

This One Time… by Nelson Boles. Icing on the cake? He’s only 19!

Madame Babette, a first-year film by Marcos Cohen

The Thirsty Gargoyle by Sabrina Cotugno


  • http://www.rossphillips.net Ross

    the nelson boles one is fantastic. its been inspiring me all week

  • Saturnome

    This hurt! My first year films I have just completed looks nowhere near this! I wish I had time to do 2D animation too, I mainly did stop-motion.

  • Keisha

    Maybe I should have went to CalArts. I’m a first year at SCAD.

  • http://chippyandloopus.com/ John S

    These films are not only far beyond what we could accomplish back when I attended CalArts in the VERY early 90′s, at least in terms of finish and filmmaking. There is also a lot more variation in terms of styles. Nelson Boles’s stuff blows me away. I will definitely start recommending students to CalArts again after seeing this group!

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    These are from the Character Animation program at CalArts, correct? It’d be cool to see some films from the Experimental program as well…People seem to forget that it exists? I’ll be attending the latter this September.

    For me, it’s really nice to see the Character Animation students expressing their artistic voices and styles rather than only showcasing their character animation skills, which isn’t easy to do (both)…especially when you’re jonesing for a job at Disney in 2D animation. I love the focus on personal storytelling and straightforward design in Henry Yu’s film. Some of the other films, like Nelson Bole’s and Dylan Forman’s, demonstrate a strong desire to experiment artistically within the 2D realm. David Och’s film is as good (if not better) in storytelling, animation, and design, than any shorts I’ve seen come out of the major studios (Disney, Pixar), or from independent professionals.

    Congrats to all of them! I say, keep looking for your unique voices, that’s most important.

  • Tom Pope

    I too went to CalArts in late’80s-early”90s. The shorts on this post ARE much more polished stylistically then they used to be. Ironically, however, the “Peer’s Pick”, “Who’s Hungry?”, MOST resembles the pencil-test look of the earlier period. Congrats to all the film makers represented. You do the program proud.

  • http://glenmoyes.blogspot.com/ Glen Moyes

    Wow. “This One Time” was awesome! Great job!

    Also liked “My Totally Shitty Valentine’s Day” for the story and “Low Oxygen” for the art style; I loved the painted animation and the poses were really strong.

  • Marianne

    Emily – Yes these are all from the Character Animation program. The Experimental program produces just as many great films every year, too. And in my opinion, they are often better films as a whole. A lot of what comes out of the Character program are pencil test films, or great animation/design with a loose story (with a few exceptions above). Unfortunately, I have not found as many films from the Experimental program online as I did Character.

    Eventually both shows will be on the CalArts website, here http://fv.calarts.edu/main/streaming/2008/expanim.html and here http://animation.calarts.edu/CIACAassets/CIACApages/CIACAproShow.php.

    -Marianne
    CalArts MFA Experimental Animation ’06

  • http://www.michael-levine.com Michael

    Wow. I went to Calarts in the mid/late 90′s, and these are so much more polished than the old pencil tests films that would be done back then.
    Just amazing what one person (or small group of people) can do these days.
    Makes me sound like an old fart.

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    I laughed out loud at “A Werewolf Film”, something I almost never do when watching web videos. On the whole, that was my favorite.

    Well, none of these were the horror of incompetence I was fearing based on previous coverage. I do notice a tendency towards slow pacing and over-padding a story idea.

    That’s probably typical of student films which may be why “Who’s Hungry Now” was such a stand out; it didn’t have those problems.

    One variable that makes it impossible to judge the merit of the school’s program is that we don’t know what level the students started from. Maybe the weakest film here represents a light-years advance in a student’s output. Or perhaps the best one here represents nothing the school can lay claim to. We just don’t know.

  • http://www.seegoatrun.com Sabrina

    Thanks for featuring my film (even if it only was because it happened to be online….). I’m usually left out of these types of things….. 8D;;

    I’m rather fascinated by the comments that these films look more polished than Char. Anim films used to be–you’d assume the opposite, given all the complaining from outsiders and upperclassmen.

    Re: robcat2075–your quote: “I do notice a tendency towards slow pacing and over-padding a story idea.” Could you define that, please?

    Also all the compliments on “My Totally Shitty Valentine’s Day” . . . er, that’s a bit awkward. . . .

  • http://www.onanimation.com Dan Caylor

    This is a great showcase of variety. Some have great story, some have great animation, some have great experimentation. I love how they’re all finished, you never seem to see that. It’s usually pencil tests, so this is nice for a change. I can’t wait to attend.

  • Spike

    What was wrong with CalArts’ animation programmes again?

  • http://www.mikebustacappa.blogspot.com Mike Caracappa

    “What was wrong with CalArts’ animation programmes again?”

    You know, Cal Arts doesn’t nessicerily make these students the way they are with their films. A lot of those students come into the school already posessing the knowledge of techniques they use, wether it’s photoshop or whatever medium they use. They have a chance to beef up their technique in most classes, but the school essentially gives them the tools of animation and filmmaking to work with.

  • Anonymous

    “You know, Cal Arts doesn’t nessicerily make these students the way they are with their films. A lot of those students come into the school already posessing the knowledge of techniques they use, wether it’s photoshop or whatever medium they use. They have a chance to beef up their technique in most classes, but the school essentially gives them the tools of animation and filmmaking to work with.”

    the calarts website specifically says that they expect incoming students to know how to draw already. calarts is there to teach you how to animate, not to draw. if you wanted to learn how to draw at calarts BORROW AN ANATOMY BOOK from the library. you blame the school for not spoonfeeding you! it’s like saying “i have no food in my fridge” and then not bothering to go to the supermarket, instead opting to starve to death in your own home. it doesn’t make sense!

    your blog is nothing but a stream of complaints directed towards the school and your inability to get a job. you talk about personal voice, but looking at your student films and pencil tests–no offense, but they are as dull, uncreative, and disney as animation gets. your second year film that you say was the turning point of your life due to its “darkness” was dull and drab. i can sense no personal voice, though you obviously write about how there was.

    i’m sorry that you don’t have a job, but blaming it on calarts and your classmates is the wrong way to go. and you talk about students losing their voice and whoring out to the big studios, but look at your kung fu panda fanart!

    i respect John K because he has valid views concerning dull animation and the flaws of calarts because his work doesn’t contradict himself. he’s cartoony and anti-disney. your work is the embodiment of disney and the dull calarts pencil tests and you criticize the school for churning out drones! if there’s someone who doesn’t see anything wrong in that please tell me!

  • amid

    Please keep the discussion on topic. This post is about the work of 2009 students, not previous graduates. Further off-topic posts will be deleted.

  • http://www.onanimation.com Dan Caylor

    Don’t forget to Google for Carlos Romero’s film. He’s one of the students that helped me put together my portfolio (thank you Carlos!), and he just got the Disney internship! Congrats Carlos!

    Least I can do is plug your work man :)

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    Marianne-
    I saw the 2009 Experimental Animation Showcase and there was some great stuff in there. I wonder why we see fewer Exp. films online. Is it because of the festivals, or just because there are far fewer Exp. students to begin with (than character)?

    I agree with you about the films as a whole. I’ve found the content in the Experimental program to be generally more mature and also more adventurous (hence the experimental), while the character animation and design styles in character program tend to be polished and informed by clear trends and influences.

    I mean, the program is called Character Animation…So I assume that’s the focus of the program.

    P.S. I like your work, Marianne.

  • http://www.cupojo.net Joanna Davidovich

    These student films are so excellent it makes me ashamed of my work. I can blame SCAD’s animation curriculum all day, (a four-year college with a two-year animation curriculum, light on foundation skills and heavy on technology) but I guess what it all comes down to is talent and determination. Thanks for posting these- I’m going to do my damndest to catch up to these kids.

  • Tom Pope

    Joanna- It’s ninety percent determination.

  • http://jamalotolorin.blogspot.com/ Jamal Otolorin

    I was fortunate to attend the Cal Arts 2009 Open show on April 25th thanks to former Cal Arts Grad Jahmad Rollins & 2009 Grad Eliza Ivanova. This was my first time attending, and given the school’s amazing reputation I had astronomical expectations. The screening was shown on campus in Valencia, in the The Bijou Theater, on a large projector screen to a seated and standing excited crowd of about 300, students, friends and faculty.

    Ok so… I was kind of shocked at the lack of Quality in the first round of films. I’m like wait a min.. this is Cal Arts, and some of the drawing quality in the first batch of films was so horridly bad..I wondered how some students even got accepted.

    Apparently most, if not all, of the better films were towards the end of the open show. These students turned in their films later and got pushed back to the end of the show. So you had to sit till the end to see the best stuff. They take it serious there, if you stayed for the whole event, you were watching films till the wee hours of the morning.

    It was refreshing to see a variety of approaches and styles, and
    not strictly the same ole…wannabe Disney fare. I talked to some folks who were pretty concerned about lining up a job, but the real
    standouts didn’t seem to care about this…they just made what they
    wanted to make.

    My favs: A piece of cake: Eliza Ivanova
    This one time: Nelson Boles
    Who’s Hungry: David Ochs
    Voodoo Carnival: Josh Dotson

    Congrats to the Graddies! welcome to the world : )

  • Leocadio Almonte

    Dear CalArts Student Films:

    My name is Leocadio Almonte. I’m a student of Aaron Copland School of Music in Queens College. My major is composition. I want to have an opportunity to demonstrate my talent in composing music.I thought that you don’t maybe have a film composer for your great short film you make. That is why I would like to offer you my service, matter if you payed me or not. Yes, I would do it for free. Then you can decide if I can be part of your great team or not. Either way I will accept it. Thank you so much.

    Sincerely,
    Leocadio Almonte.