The Rookies spoke with Ria Benard from Lost Boys School in Vancouver to find out about the school, and what makes there learning experience unique.

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A Studio Environment
Lost Boys has it’s roots as an award winning visual effects studio. Starting in 1996 as a service shop with partner Virgin Digital Studios, Lost Boys became an internationally renowned visual effects and animation studio providing award winning content to films, commercials, television series, music videos, and game cinematics. Keeping with the industry proven layout and a creatively inspiring decor, we embrace an open floor plan and encourage students from both programs to communicate and collaborate on projects.

Our schedule is fluid, allowing us the flexibility to add in a last minute guest speaker or studio tour. Understanding the culture of visual effects production is best learned through immersion. A simulated production experience allows for the smoothest transition into your future career. Lost Boys is the studio that teaches

Our schedule is fluid, allowing us the flexibility to add in a last minute guest speaker or studio tour. Understanding the culture of visual effects production is best learned through immersion. A simulated production experience allows for the smoothest transition into your future career. Lost Boys is the studio that teaches

Focused Specialised (FXTD & Compositing) 1 Year Programs
You will not find a more definitive, industry relevant, deeply advanced curriculum for the specialised trades of Visual Effects Compositing and Effects Technical Direction (FX TD’s). We take pride in streamlining our curriculum, assuring craft relevance of all our material. Our programs are designed for those who know what they want to study and want to transition into a career as quickly as possible while still receiving a superior education.

Far more important than grades, the single greatest factor in a graduate achieving successful career placement is a solid portfolio.

Project Based Learning
Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching. Students learn real-world problems solving skills and challenge themselves in new ways. Each project reveals a new craft relevant challenge to overcome under the guidance of an experienced mentor. Unlike most educational methods that are only learning by listening, watching and memorizing, with learning by doing students learn to have greater understanding and better retention of the knowledge.

As an added benefit, the flexibility of this style of learning allows students coming from different levels of experience to always stay challenged. Students learn to cultivate problem solving skills and to adapt rapidly to the ever evolving situations they encounter. They are encouraged to find new solutions to problems they encounter on the different projects thereby continuously learning. This is imperative in an every evolving technology driven field. Learning doesn’t end in the classroom, it is a life long adventure!

Extensive Portfolio Development
Far more important than grades, the single greatest factor in a graduate achieving successful career placement is a solid portfolio. The industry wants to see how an artist performs under a wide variety of specialised tasks. Our graduate portfolios demonstrate a well balanced and extensive set of both entry level as well as advanced skill sets.

*High Production Quality Footage – In order to create a successful portfolio show reel students must demonstrate the ability to work with live action background footage. Filming professional looking visual effects shots can take a lot of resources. We take a lot of pride in supporting our students by designing and filming custom project footage plates of a high production value. A big part of what makes Lost Boys graduates stand out is our ever ambitious background plates. Costumes, props, SFX make-up, top notch camera gear, and beautiful sets/locations provide us with a production quality rivalling even the highest budget films and TV Series.

On top of being a source of creative inspiration and a foundation to build your visual effects upon, filming is a great way to teach you how to appreciate the entire film making process. We have found a direct correlation between the background plate and the overall visual effects quality. A beautiful well planned background plate can inspire the students to achieve more than they thought was possible.

Small Class Sizes
Currently we only accept 6 students to our Effects Technical Director Program and 12 students to our VFX Compositing Program twice a year (September and March). Having a higher full time faculty to student ratio makes all the difference when it comes to project based learning and successful skill development. The smaller class size also contributes to stronger bonds between classmates and the faculty. We have found building stable personal and working relationships plays an important factor in the learning process. Commonly our graduates report enjoying the feeling of family that comes with small personalized groups.

Active Industry Involvement

Community Building – We have a close working relationship with Industry through events we host and organize, these have included VFX Artist Spotlights, Career Fairs, and Industry Panels.

Program Advisory Council – We have a very competent program advisory committee and enjoy frequent interaction and feedback, which also includes having industry mentorship throughout the projects.

Industry Driven – We nurture close relationships with department leads and recruiters while connecting through the practicum component of the program. This helps us to stay current with industry needs and advances in technology and techniques from feedback of various studios.Alumni in the Field – Our alumni are also a great connection to the industry. Some of them are now in lead or supervisory roles in the industry and are an invaluable resource for the students. Every 2 months we also host alumni

Alumni in the Field – Our alumni are also a great connection to the industry. Some of them are now in lead or supervisory roles in the industry and are an invaluable resource for the students. Every 2 months we also host alumni meet ups, where past students are invited to meet with new students and connect. Alumni are also asked to do short presentations to share knowledge they have learned while in the industry.

This is a great opportunity to for students to connect with other Lost Boys while enjoying snacks and drinks compliments of the school.

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When your graduates are ready to work in the big leagues – what support or mentorship do you extend to them after they have graduated?

Lost Boys provides ongoing Career Consultation helping students into the workforce and transition from one position to another. Students also receive continued job placement assistance through our recruiter connections and referrals. Studios often contact us to see if we have any students or alumni available when a position come up in the areas we train for.

The VFX Vancouver job board was created and is hosted by Lost Boys, which is widely used by the Vancouver industry.

Lost Boys created Social Networking pages for our alumni and current students to connect and share information and employment opportunities in their studios. Often studios recruit internally first and the lost boys are always sharing availabilities. As mentioned earlier alumni meet ups are hosted every two months and provide Professional Development to new and graduate Lost Boys alike.

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What distinctive qualities do your alumni have and what are some of them up to now?

Our program instills lifelong learning habits, advanced problem solving skills, soft skills (time management, professional working behaviour & co-worker interaction, artist marketing), and specialized skill sets (both technical and creative) relevant for working in visual effects production. We emphasize the importance of sharing knowledge with team mates which is highly valued by industry and commonly advances our artists towards leadership roles.

The majority of Lost Boys can be found working in Film and Television within Vancouver’s thriving visual effects community, with many others scattered around the world working in cutting edge visual effects studios. We are at the point where nearly every major visual effects production has Lost Boys on their teams. It is a tradition for us to display alumni credit film posters throughout our studio and with our credits now in the hundreds, I can see the day when we will run out of wall space. What a great problem to have!

Can you tell us what experience your educators have and how their teaching methods help students thrive?

Our Instructor/Mentors are a unique hybrid of practising artists as well as caring educators. We have learned that it is very important to get this balance correct. Too much or too little of one or the other and the outcome just won’t stack up. Our Program Leads bring over a decade of experience, are full-time instructors and stay with the students throughout the duration of the Program. A full time instructor (as opposed to part time/short term) will develop more impact-full and contributing relationships with students. A

A full time instructor (as opposed to part time/short term) will develop more impact-full and contributing relationships with students. A full time instructor feels more invested in the student’s success. We also have guest industry mentors during various projects to provide feedback and a personalized unique perspective on the process.

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What advice can you give to students when deciding on what education route to follow?

Take your time, choosing an education pathway is not a decision you want to rush. Be sure of your career objectives. Reach out to industry to clarify job descriptions and report which titles are most in demand (Career Fairs/Recruiting Events/Job Boards/LinkedIn). Make sure that all your education will actually result in a career and consider your competition.

How many students are already studying in that field (IE. Animators and Modelling grads are in high abundance)?

Once you begin researching schools make sure you stay sceptical of marketing claims. Education is a business just like any other. Speak with alumni (not just the three suggested by an admissions officer). Try sourcing them through social media sites like LinkedIn. Be polite and understand that they may be too busy to respond so spread your questions around to a few different alumni.

Ask about their experience, if the school lived up to it’s marketing claims, how their classmates job placement worked out, was the curriculum relevant to their new career, do they keep in touch with their school/alumni? Try your best to assess graduate portfolios, comparing skill levels and attempt to gauge industry relevance.

Keep in mind that school size usually has an inverse relationship to quality of curriculum. Typically the bigger the school, the longer the program, the harder it is for them to adapt to new techniques. The visual effects industry evolves rapidly, advancements in technology keep job descriptions a moving target. Usually the smaller more competitive private schools will be more in line with industry requirements.

What do you love about your job?

There are a lot of things to love about a career in visual effects. Many find the unique blend of creative and technological challenges fulfilling and stimulating. When we are young we are told over and over that you are either a creative or technically minded individual, never both. Visual effects allows/needs us to be both scientists and artists. Every day brings fresh new challenges to work on.

We are paid to develop our skills and become more valuable every day. We enjoy looking at the world in new ways, analyzing how human perception works, finding the most efficient solution to creating a photo-realistic illusion that supports the filmmakers storytelling process. Our job requires the teamwork of many creative engineers and a unique communal energy develops when those complex problems are resolved.

Our students are entrusted with their own set of keys and have pretty much full access to the schools facilities.

Sometimes there long nights, stress about how we can deliver what the filmmaker needs on time and budget, these temporary discomforts are shared experiences that tend to create strong bonds in the visual effects teams. They aren’t too many careers that create such a strong sense of family with your co-workers. Writers and Directors continually push the bar of possibility and visual effects continue to make large milestone leaps forward. Our job is making the impossible. The process can be thrilling and when teams work effectively together to overcome our challenges success has never tasted sweeter.

Writers and Directors continually push the bar of possibility and visual effects continue to make large milestone leaps forward. Our job is making the impossible. The process can be thrilling and when teams work effectively together to overcome our challenges success has never tasted sweeter.

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What about your students?

Students come from all over the world to study at Lost Boys with dreams that are both ambitious and daring. They have an energy and a passion that transfers to the staff, which inspires and motivates all of us to evolve the curriculum to match their ambition.

We adapt our projects and continually push the bar and the student consistently meet the challenge. When we see students succeed in their dream careers and they report back to us with exciting new film credits and hair raising stories from production, we have an opportunity to share in their enthusiasm and excitement.

Can you name some proud moments you have had that has validated the hard work you put into the school/your students?

Our projects are full of proud moments but I would have to say that we are most impressed when our alumni return to Lost Boys and share their experience and/or new techniques that they have learned in production with our current students.

Soft skills such as how to behave in certain situations commonly requires guidance and reinforcement from experienced professionals.

As an educator it’s very gratifying to see our protégés being proud of their own achievements and at that point of confidence that they are willing to share with the new Lost Boys.

Do the students have access to mentorship from industry professionals in addition to their lecturers/mentors?

Yes. We feel that experienced mentors offer valuable reinforcement to the instructors’ lessons. Sometimes the students need that reminder of what skills will serve them best out in the field and the advice of a senior artist really helps bring that clarity.

Stories about production will also help them to visualize their future working environment. Our industry can be a little difficult to navigate for juniors. Working environments are a strange mix of casual youthful attitudes coupled with high pressure demands.

Soft skills such as how to behave in certain situations commonly requires guidance and reinforcement from experienced professionals.

Describe a typical day at school?

At Lost Boys we strive to provide a simulated studio experience. We have created a hybrid of scheduled academic lectures, weekly screenings and projects work time. These areas are blended with a more organic approach that flows with the unique challenges specific to our project based curriculum.

Sometimes we may have a chance to go on a studio tour, host a guest artist or go out filming some plates for an upcoming project. We would never want an inflexible schedule to limit our learning opportunities. Students are expected to be at their desks by 9:30 and ready for lectures or working on their projects by 10AM, with most structured activities completing by 5:30PM.

Our students are entrusted with their own set of keys and have pretty much full access to the schools facilities. Commonly our students spend a lot of time in the studio and more often than not, ambitious students work well into the evenings and often on weekends.

On occasion, when they are not working on their projects, we find them watching movies in our theatre, playing board games in our lounge, enjoying potluck barbecues on our deck, or playing soccer in the park behind our school. We have worked hard to create an inspiring environment that can act as a second home full of like-minded friends.

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What challenges do you think students are facing in today’s working environment and how does your school help solve them?

Visual Effects Studios operate in a very competitive market. As visual effects becoming increasingly ambitious, teams need to grow quickly with artists that are specialized and high level. Studios no longer have the time to grow their talent internally, slowly working people up the ranks over a period of 5 years. Often they need artists that can hit the ground running and be contributing in a meaningful way, as quickly as possible.

Usually they are afraid to take on juniors directly out of school, since they may still require further training. This can distract their internal resources from their primary challenge of delivering visual effects shots. Most schools offer more of a generalist training which consists of a little of this, a little of that, but rarely enough in and area to have your job ready for a specialized role.

Studios are reacting extremely positively to our focused programs. As a result, most of our students have been placed in jobs, matching their program of study, weeks prior to graduation. Our programs provide consistency that they can rely on. All students vary subtly in higher level abilities but studios can be confident that every Lost Boy has been trained to provide consistent entry level skill set.

Why do you think your school gives today’s budding artists the edge?

We have worked hard to nurture strong industry relationships. This is what opens doors to our alumni. The credibility that we have worked so hard to achieve relates directly to how our graduates are perceived by industry. Being one of the only schools with dedicated specialized programs we had to work hard to shift the existing belief of what a recent graduate is capable of.

We have spent years educating Recruiters and Dept. Leads to the benefits of hiring Lost Boys by explaining our projects and unique demo reel structures. The industry can feel confident about the consistent quality of skill sets found in our alumni. We create a pathway for our graduates to transition into careers with the least amount of resistance.

Job placement success depends largely on two main factors, industry connections and portfolio strength.

Quality and relevance of the artist portfolio is what seals the deal. Our students can be confident that their specialized program portfolios show clear career objectives, demonstrate effective time management, and showcase solid understandings of entry level skills as well as more advanced techniques and work-flows.

We take a lot of pride in redefining what makes a professional Compositing or Effects Technical Director show reel. Lost Boys can feel confident that they will stand out from the hundreds of other recent graduates competing for the same jobs.

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