Meltem Şahin ('16) on being a teaching assistant for the animation course "Paris in Motion" in Paris, France

In the summer of 2016, ILP alum Meltem Sahin was selected to assist in teaching an introductory animation class in Paris, France. Meltem describes the incredible experience in her own words below.

For three weeks in June 2016, I was a teaching assistant for a course called “Paris in Motion” in France. The course is a summer abroad program of MICA’s Animation Department created by Laurence Arcadias, the chair of the department. Besides me, there was another assistant of Laurence, Jessica Whang, who is currently an animation major and illustration concentrator at MICA. 

The course was held in Paris at "Les Rėcollets,” a famous residency that nurtures artists and scientists from all over the world. One week before the course started, I met with Laurence and Jessica at there to create a schedule for the course. "Paris in Motion" allowed students to explore various aspects of the city while experimenting with moving images. There were five workshops that covers areas in animation and the students were asked to produce a final project at the end of their stay. In addition to improving their creative skills, students met Parisian talents, discovered world class museums, and marveled at the unique architecture.

We designed the course in a way that students would be immersed in a creative environment in one of the most beautiful and art-driven cities in the world. More than learning in the classroom, students were experiencing, observing, learning on the streets of Paris. Museums and sights that the students saw included Notre Dame de Paris, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Louvre, Centre Pompidou, La Gaîté Lyrique, Musée Picasso, Musée de Montmartre, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Art Ludique Museum, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Luxembourg Gardens, Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, Palais de Tokyo, Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

Other than museums and sights, we visited three artist studios and offices. The first one we visited was Michel Ocelot’s studio. Michel Ocelot is a French writer, character designer, storyboard artist and director of animated films and television programs. He is also a former president of the International Animated Film Association and probably best known for his 1998 début feature Kirikou and The Sorceress. When we visited Ocelot’s studio, he was working on his new feature length animation with eight other artists. In his studio, students saw different stages of animation from character design to background making to special effects.

Our second visit was to NORMAAL Animation Studios. There are approximately 120 people working at NORMAAL and Alexis Lavillat is the founder of the studios. Alexis has alternately worked as a graphic author, designer, screenwriter, director, but always as producer on 15 animated series broadcast in France and around the world. During our visit, he gave us a tour in the studios. Students observed the distribution of work in the animated advertisement and TV series industry, along with different techniques of animation from stop-motion to 3D animation.

In Paris, our last studio visit was to Ciclic to see two MICA teachers’ (Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter) studios. Ciclic is an animation residency for French and international directors and provides support for films throughout all different stages. Since 2008, Ru & Max have been working together as “Tiny Inventions”. They have directed and produced TV commercials, music videos, PSAs and independent films. When my class and I went there, they were making their characters, rooms, and furniture for their last animation. Students learnt about creating 3D objects and their process.

Along with these visits, we had three great guest lecturers. The first one was Veronique Vienne. Veronique is an author, editorial art director, and journalist. She is known with her book 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design, co-authored with Steven Heller. During her visit, she talked about perspectives of Paris. Our second visitor was Bernard Genin. Bernard is a critic, reporter, teacher of history animation, editor and the author of two history of animation books. Bernard gave us a lecture on the history of animation. Our last visitor was Alexis Hunot. In addition to teaching history of cinema, Alexis is a proud member of the Cesars Award committee. He also gives talks in video interviews for the Institut Français. Alexis showed us a selection of animations in very different styles, including award-winning animations from this year’s The Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

During the course, I led four out of the five workshops. The workshops were: Thaumatrope, Photoshop Gifs, Monoprinted Animation and Animated Faces. Except animated faces, the ideas behind the workshops and their assignments were of my own original design. I also gave weekly feedback to the students and moderated class discussions. When we were teaching our course at Les Recollets, California College of Art was also having a course there. For their final critique, I was invited to help and give feedback to the CCA students.

The Thaumatrope Workshop was a short introduction to one of the earliest and primitive form of animation. Thaumatropes use a flat disc with a different drawings on opposite sides. When spun quickly with two strings, it creates an illusion of a simple animation, or a combined picture. The students were assigned a different letter, which will later be combined to spell out “Paris in Motion.” 

The Photoshop Workshop taught students how to use the video timeline tool and create simple but interesting animated GIFs. It is a stepping stone to familiarize students with digital animation and introduce them to a variety of brushes and textures.

The term monoprint refers to the production of a single unique print. In this workshop, students animated signature buildings of Paris transforming into each other. Buildings included Louvre Museum, Palais Garnier, Sacré-Cœur, Arc de Triomphe, Gare De Paris-Est, Eiffel Tower, Centre Georges Pompidou, Notre Dame de Paris and Moulin Rouge. After they created their pencil drawings, they monoprinted each drawing to create the animation. 

For the Animated Faces Workshop, students animated their reactions to each building, space, or area that can be seen at their backgrounds in the videos. This workshop was inspired by Kim Noce.

For Paris in Motion, I created and designed a website: https://paris-inmotion.squarespace.com. On this website each student has their own page and during the course they were required to upload their own projects along with their written paragraphs about their projects. After that, assignment critiques were made from the website.

My main goal for the course was to make students live, feel, smell, and touch Paris, and then make them create those sensations or ideas in animation. That’s why we visited so many museums and walked the city step by step. I taught students the basics of the animation and animation tools, and giving them experimental, loose projects so they learn to take risks, to try new things and be open to improvement.

The time I spent at Les Recollects was so special. Since I was living in the same building with my students, Jessica and Laurence and I all had really strong connections. At MICA, I only had a chance to do teaching assistantships, but in Paris, I was the one who taught the classes. It was a great chance for me to see my strengths and limitations, whether or not I enjoy teaching, and feel how I related with students. Learning is one of the products of teaching. It helps one to understand what s/he is teaching through synthesizing and paraphrasing one’s own words. But also, by teaching one can see all the different windows that are facing disparate scenes. A teacher’s mind continuously expands and adjusts to novelties and dissimilarities. Boundaries between the learners and the teachers could be almost invisible and I believe that I nearly achieved that in Paris thanks to Laurence Arcadias and my very talented special students.