The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection has partnered with the U.Va. School of Architecture and the Virginia Film Festival to offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for middle school students to use Pixar-style animation software. The final product will be a short animated film of an Aboriginal Dreaming story, which will be used as an educational resource by the affiliated Aboriginal community in Australia. The full-day workshop, titled Dreaming in Animation, is one of many programs offered at the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day on Saturday, November 9th.
Each middle school participant will be mentored by a U.Va. student and taught the basics of Autodesk Maya, a comprehensive 3D software program. Then, each of the fifteen pairs will create movements for one animal in the Dreaming story, which will later be stitched together to create the final animation short.
The program is spearheaded by Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, and Earl Mark, Associate Professor in the U.Va. School of Architecture. Mark, who has extensive experience working in computer animation, teaches three U.Va. classes where digital moviemaking and animation is the primary focus.
Jane Freeman, Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Film Festival, explains that the “workshop promises to be an outstanding experience for young filmmakers. Not only will participants work with U.Va. experts, but each will have a mentor to guide him or her through the animation process. The combination of the student support along with the unique equipment incorporated in the workshop makes for a very special program!”
The “Dreaming” is a term used to describe the belief systems of Australian Aboriginal cultures, which explains the spiritual origins and existence of the land and its people. The story that will be animated in the program is about Jiddelek, a frog who drinks all the water in Australia. Animals including a wombat, a kangaroo, an emu, and other birds and lizards, become thirsty and devise a plan to make Jiddelek give the water back. Each animal dances before the frog, and finally the humorous antics of a wriggling eel cause Jiddelek to laugh, emptying the water back into the rivers, creeks, lakes and waterholes.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has collaborated with the Aboriginal group that owns the story of Jiddelek, the Gunai/Kurnai people of East Gippsland. Community organizer Doris Paton will provide the narration for the story, and the final product will be used as a tool to preserve and educate young generations of Gunai/Kurnai people about their traditional stories and heritage.
“It has been exciting to see how, with the superb dedication of Earl Mark, the program has grown to include such a variety of partners and beneficiaries. Both the workshop and the final product will provide an unparalleled opportunity for all involved,” said Lauren Maupin of Kluge-Ruhe.
Four U.Va. students (Tina Cheng, Caitlin Gallagher, Marina Michael, and Monica Mohapatra) and two alumni (Roderick Cruz and Carter Tata) are dedicating numerous hours to building the characters and the environment for the animation in preparation for the program. Fifteen U.Va. students from varying disciplines have volunteered to be mentors on the day of the program.
Professor Mark believes that “tapping into the high creativity of middle-school age participants combined with the imagination and intelligence of University students has a wonderful potential to build visual interpretations of the Dreaming Story.”
Middle school students who want to participate in this free program are encouraged to apply as soon as possible by pre-registering on the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day website and completing the program application. The program will take place at Campbell Hall on Saturday, November 9th from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, with lunch included.
This workshop is part of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s Indigenous Film Program at the VFF, which was supported by a grant from U.Va. Arts Council.