Guillaume Hellouin and Corinne Kouper, TeamTO co-founders
Leading European content creator TeamTO recently announced a partnership with Canada’s House of Cool to expand their non-profit free-of-charge animation school ECAS with a new storyboarding course. After three successful years, the French training program has produced 91 graduates in the field of CG animation, increasing the national number of graduates by 50%, tapping a previously untouched pool of candidates, and – most importantly – helping to feed the growth and creative power of the French animation industry. TeamTO co-founders Guillaume Hellouin and Corinne Kouper talked exclusively with Señal News about how to help other countries boost their local industries by offering their training programs on a free franchise-like basis.
Can you provide a brief overview of the ECAS Program’s history?
"There have been theatrical growth in the worldwide animation industry for the last decade – and so it has become more and more challenging to find the best possible talent to keep up with the high-quality, artistic demands of the market. We believed that a new school that could increase the volume and excellence of creative talent with a strong, targeted curriculum was the best way to address the issue. So in 2018, together with various governmental departments, we launched France’s first-ever free school for 3D animators. In the last three years, 91 talented young people have graduated from the school, with 77 of them working in our studio today."
Who can attend the program, and how were they selected?
"This is one of the most important aspects of the school, and a big reason for its success: the students don’t have to pay to attend or have any prior experience or qualifications; they are selected 100% for their raw talent. This is based on the assumption that the ability to be an outstanding animator has equally spread among any population regardless of its ethnic, geographic, or social origin. Approximately 1000 candidates (per year) are given an online test to assess their instinctive abilities. From there, the top 150 applicants are given a much more robust exam followed by a personal interview for 50 to narrow the field to the top 30 candidates. As a result, the quality of the students is truly exceptional since the only requirement is a natural talent."
Can you tell us about the Curriculum?
"Each intensive eight-month course takes place on the campus of the world-renowned Cartoucherie animation school in Bourg-lès-Valence, near one of ourTeamTOstudio, which is essential to the program. To replicate the experience in Latin America, the school will have to partner with an animation studio because, even if TeamTO provides all the course material, it would be the studio’s animation directors that would actually teach the students. The last three years focused on 3D character animation. This year we are adding a course on storyboarding to be taught in collaboration with Canada’s House of Cool. In addition to the courses and lectures on animation history, students also get coaching, counseling, team-building weekends with TeamTO executives, tickets to cultural exhibits, the cinema, the theatre, and other artistic events. It is a very comprehensive experience that genuinely changes lives by providing an entry to an entirely new profession."
How is the school financed?
"The cost for each student is approximately 8000 euros (9,500 USD) financed by several regional government agencies, employment agencies, and TeamTO, with lodging and food expenses covered by regional grants. The return for the government has been excellent since 90% of the students are gainfully employed, having learned an elite profession attached to an industry in immediate need of workers."
What is the impact on diversity?
"Huge. It is the only high-level school in France where money and previous education are not required to participate, opening the door to people from any background. Many of these students’ stories are very touching. Some had never even moved from their hometown, and because of their social origins, many would not have had the means to experience this environment. The school has provided fresh opportunities for many deserving young people from very diverse origins. This is great for them and a more representative society since our industry – storytelling through animation - helps shape society as a whole. "
You say you would like to extend the program on a franchise basis to other countries and studios. How would this work?
"The franchise concept is straightforward; the local implementation and financing, of course, would be more complex, depending on the local government support available. Our idea is to share the entire project plan – from our experience to the curriculum and student care – with a local studio with the means and interest to set up a parallel training program. We feel we have created a model that works by every measure (quality of the graduates, rate of employment), which should be a huge support to anyone seeking to develop 3D animation capacity at the highest level. We are currently speaking with studios in South Africa and the Ivory Coast. We would absolutely love the opportunity to work with artists and studios in Latin American, a region for which we have a great personal affinity."
May you tell us a last reflection about the training program?
"Good animation must be grounded in good stories. At TeamTO, storytelling is at the heart of all of our shows, and we always look for original voices to keep sharing new, original, diverse, and important ideas from around the world. We very much hope that by working with local studios in places like Latin America, we can access, nurture and broadcast undiscovered, magical talent to audiences around the world."
By Romina Rodríguez
We feel we have created a model that works by every measure which should be a huge support to anyone seeking developing 3D animation capacity at the highest level” Guillaume Hellouin and Corinne Kouper TeamTO co-founders