Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Family Guy Visit to CCAD April 29, 2013

Breakfast in the cafeteria at CCAD.  

On Monday, April 29th, CCAD was pleased to host two members of the creative team behind the hit animated TV series 'Family Guy' on campus.  Mark Hentemann, the executive producer of the show, and Dominic Bianchi, a supervising director, both spent the day on campus talking about their work on the show and interacting with students.  

The day started off at breakfast with the leaders of the Animation Student Collective as well as with the dean of the school of design, Tom Gattis. The ASC is a student formed group which meets once a week to discuss topics in animation, to mentor one another and to listen to guest speakers.  The students had a lot of questions regarding the production of the show, which we learned takes about thirteen months per episode to complete.  They also learned that many of their favorite episodes were either written or directed by Mark and Dominic which lead to some good conversation.  Breakfast lasted for about and hour and a half and the students were really able to have a great talk with them.

At around 11am, we had a presentation in Canzani Auditorium which was open to the public. After a five minute highlight reel of some standout scenes from the show, Mark and Dom walked us through the production process in depth.  They showed pictures from their writing room, talked about how storyboards were produced for the show and discussed the process of writing gags. When the writers get stuck on a cut away gag, they usually send a group off to another room to brainstorm five or six options for that gag.  After a while, the writers come back to pitch their ideas to the room.  Mark read off a list of jokes that didn't quite make it into the show, but still left the auditorium in stitches.  Mark also discussed Standards and Practices, the process by which the network gives shows notes on gags that need to be revised or taken out of the show.  Some of the examples were quite funny.  In one instance, the writers actually made up a word that sounded vulgar ('clemin'), but had no meaning whatsoever.  Standards actually called for that gag to be removed.  After explaining that the word was fake, they allowed the joke to air.  However, on a later episode they decided to bring the word back.   By this time, someone had actually came up with a definition for this fake word on the online Urban Dictionay website and the joke was flagged again.  

Talk in Canzani Auditorium.  
In the afternoon, Mark and Dom visited an animation class.  Dom drew some of the characters and talked about the importance of meeting deadlines and drawing clear but not necessarily clean, something that we talk about as well in our animation classes.  As an artist, you don't want to spend a lot of time on a drawing that most likely will get revised.  Define the shapes and make the expressions clear, but don't spend too much time on it.  Knowing when a drawing is finished is something that takes time to learn as well.  We screened our student film 'Lumin' for them and they were very impressed with the quality that the students were able to achieve in this film especially given that they started and finished it in one semester.  'Lumin' has currently screened in about five festivals around the world and has also won a Telly Award.  

Mark and Dominic spent a lot of time talking with the students throughout the day and were very approachable during their entire visit to campus.  Everyone at CCAD was extremely happy to have them there for the day.   They were both very complimentary of our students' work and the resources available to them here at school.  The fact that they both took the time out of their busy schedules to come visit Columbus and spend the day with us at school really demonstrated the quality of their character.  They passed along a lot of very valuable information to our students.  These types of visits are things that students remember for a long time after they graduate. We work hard at CCAD to bring as many professionals to campus as we can.  Mark and Dom also commented numerous times throughout the day that they remember quite vividly being in the same shoes as our students not to long ago.  This was a big part of why they wanted to come to campus and interact with our students, remembering back to when they were in school and professionals came to talk to them.

Once again, a HUGE special thanks to Mark Hentemann and Dominic Bianchi for being so giving of their time and for sharing their experiences with us at CCAD! 

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