Toronto-based pre-production company House of Cool is partnering with TeamTO on its free animation school. ECAS (École Cartoucherie Animation Solidaire) will now include a storyboarding program run by House of Cool instructors that’s designed to develop a pool of experienced storyboard artists.
“We’ve just been really busy, and we can’t take on as many jobs as we want to—not because there isn’t enough work, but becasue there isn’t enough talent and we can’t train them fast enough,” says House of Cool co-founder Ricardo Curtis.
The new program will run from mid-September 2021 to March 2022 for a select group of 16 students. Applications will open this summer for residents of France.
Through a combination of government grants and funding from both TeamTO and House of Cool, ECAS is able to give each student a US$9,700 (€8,000) grant, as well as providing lodging, coaching, counselling, team-building weekends, cultural exhibitions and movie/theater tickets. And that’s on top of the actual classes being offered for free.
“It’s free so that social barriers are no longer a barrier for this school,” says Curtis. “When you’re looking for storyboarding talent, you’re looking for people who have a wide range of interests in styles, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, and that’s difficult to get [usually].”
The program is aimed at students with no prior experience or qualifications (or the means to attend an elite school). But each person must submit an application and go through several rounds of tests before being selected.
In previous years, the school has received close to 3,000 applications, and 95 students (pictured) have attended, all of them focused on production skills like character design.
When they complete the program, the students are all offered a job at TeamTO (so far 77 past grads have accepted). Through the new pre-production program, House of Cool can also keep an eye on talent and offer employment opportunities to the right candidates.
Moving forward, Curtis is hoping that other companies get involved in order to expand the model beyond France. And in the meantime, any course materials created by ECAS will be available for other studios to use in training, according to TeamTO’s Guillaume Hellouin.
“We would love it if studios would consider doing something like this in other regions,” says Curtis. “There’s talent out there, and giving them a way to access the industry, when they never would otherwise, will only be better for the industry as a whole.”