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Lesson Plans

Spfx firms and Art Ed in CA

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sun, 27 Oct 1996 01:30:11 -0400

Some prominent California executives are complaining about the lack of art
education in the state. They cannot find enough qualified artists to fill
open positions in their companies. The situation may have implications for
the state's economy as employers look overseas for talent.
The article "Effects Firms Decry Lack of Arts Education" (Los Angeles Times,
October 13, 1996) quotes the executives of a number of major film studios and
digital production companies in saying California schools have not adequately
educated their children in the visual arts. The lack of a workforce skilled
in simple aesthetics, let alone digital art tools, is forcing these companies
to look overseas for talent.

Job flight is a sensitive issue in California right now. A significant
number of companies are picking up and moving out of state to obtain more
favorable operating conditions and more highly skilled employees.
Entertainment media, including film, tv, and multimedia are California's
chief export to the world. This has caused concern in the state legislature,
who held hearings in June to address the issue. They were surprised when
executive after executive testified they could add significant numbers of new
employees to the state's workforce ...... if those workers had artistic

The current shortage of qualified artists has it origins in 1978, when
California citizens passed the Proposition 13 ballot measure which rolled
back property taxes, the key funding engine of schools. The loss of funding
resulted in many schools reprioritizing their curricula and loosening arts
standards. What was left at many schools were craft projects that lacked
education in art principles and simple aesthetics.

"I blame it squarely on the failure of the education system," says Rhythm and
Hues President John Hughes (creators of the Academy Award winning 'Babe').

"Look at the skills that will be needed in the coming century, then consider
the curricula offered in grades kindergarten through high school .... There's
a giant hole: visual arts." Dave Master, manager of artist development and
training, Warner Bros Feature Animation.

Masters estimates that 99 percent of those with computer reels that apply to
Warners are rejected. "They have computer skills, they don't have artistic

The article goes on:
"The repercussions of the dearth in arts training are only now becoming
apparent in the digital effects trade because that young field is growing so
rapidly, industry insiders say. The growth is being fostered by
technological advancements that have made computerized images commonplace in
films. These days, it's not just big-budget, effects-laden movies such as
"Independence Day" that use computers to simulate giant space ships and
planets being blown to bits. Even character-driven films such as "Sense and
Sensibility" incorporate computerized images - digitally created clouds,
shadows and city skylines."

Five years ago, an estimated 600 digital artists worked in California. That
number has grown to 6000. Demand for digital artists is expected to escalate
as demand for computer multimedia increases.

"Industry insiders predict that the need for digital artists could soon
mirror the seemingly insatiable appetite for traditional animators that has
consumed studios in the past few years. Artists who draw major characters
for films such as "The Lion King" are Hollywood's newest superstars, courted
by studio heads offering big salaries .... Already, salaries in the field are
surging-25 percent in two years. Annual salaries range from about $42,000 to
more than 150,000 estimates Steve Hulett, director of the Motion Picture
Screen Cartoonists Union Local 839 in North Hollywood."

In a separate article in the Los Angeles Times on April 26, 1996, Scott Ross,
chief executive, Digital Domain (creators of special effects for films such
as "Terminator 2" and "True Lies") was quoted:

"Not since the Renaissance has art played such an important role in commerce.
Don't tell your children to grow up to be cowboys, or doctors, or lawyers.
Tell them to be digital artists, because the salaries and opportunities are
Also see:
"Designs on the Future" Los Angeles Times, April 28, 1996
: As the computer industry shifts from equipment to content, L.A. and its
digital media companies are stealing the spotlight and reshaping the Southern
California economy
"No Longer Bit Players, Animators Draw Fame as Hollywood Stars", Wall Street
Journal, October 6, 1995

-Geoff Black
Orange County High School of the Arts
Los Alamitos, CA