Drawn to Webster

Annual Animation Festival Puts Spotlight on Webster University Program

ST. LOUIS, April 10, 2013 – When the sixth annual Kinematifest opens its doors on April 19, it will be more than just a small indie festival where college students show their home-made animation. Instead, it will be a chance for the community to see the next wave of animation, and for the students to jump-start their careers.

Just ask Leah Bend-Latham, a 2010 graduate of Webster's animation program in the School of Communications and one of the founders of Kinematifest. Bend Latham, who currently is working as an Editorial Production Coordinator for the upcoming Disney animated feature, “Frozen,” credits her work on the Webster festival with helping her career take off.Leah Bend-Latham

“When I was a student, we wanted an opportunity to celebrate our work and the work of students from all reaches of the globe - so, we made one,” said Bend-Latham. “Through my years with Kinematifest, we coordinated master classes and keynote speeches from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, and New York Institute of Technology. Producing Kinematifest every year was one of the most difficult and definitely most rewarding experiences of my Webster University career.”

Kinematifest will be held April 19 and 20 on Webster's main campus in Webster Groves. It is open to the public. The submitted films will be screened on Saturday, April 20, but the weekend will include a number of educational sessions, including a workshop and screening with Academy Award winner John Canemaker who's film “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation” won both an Academy Award and an Emmy in 2005.

“Animation is hot, video games are hot and comic books are hot,” said Chris Sagovac, assistant professor and animation program facilitator. “Everything we do in the animation program contributes to those industries and no one else in the region can compete.”

Because of the program's growing reputation, he has seen the number of students in it grow from 18 to 50 in the past four years. Alumni of the program now work at Disney, Dreamworks, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic and Stereo D and are putting their animation skills to work for such major blockbusters as “The Amazing Spiderman,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Madagascar 3,” and “The Avengers.”

As a result of this success, Kinematifest has grown as well.

The festival showcases student work to help raise interest in animation and interactive media and allow students to have their work critiqued by professionals.

Chris Sagovac and Amanda Taylor“Kinematifest has grown so much in the past three years since I first became involved,” said Amanda Taylor, student director of the festival. “We are giving students from all over the world a chance to submit their work, get some festival play and get their name out there – this year we have more than 60 submissions from all over the world.”

“It's truly become an international festival,” said Sagovac. “We'll be showing work from not only here at Webster University but also students from Australia, Croatia, Vienna and even the Czech Republic.”

By hosting the festival, students can see what their peers are doing. The festival also helps students get real-life experience in editing and improving their works before they are screened at the festival, Sagovac said. Plus, students will get a chance to meet those who currently work in the industry.

Bend-Latham said that the hands-on experience in the animation industry helped her figure out how to begin her career.

“I had a tenacious vision of where I wanted to be when I graduated and Webster gave me the freedom to build my opportunities,” she said. “Through leadership opportunities and internships, I realized what I really wanted to do was to become an animation producer and Webster put me on the right road to get there. When I graduated, I had the real experience and confidence to shoot for the moon and I landed right where I always dreamed of being.”

Shanese Williams also graduated from the program in 2010 and she agreed that the animation program helped her in her current role as Asset Technician at Legend 3D, one of the largest 3D stereo conversion studios in the United States. Legend 3D has worked on a number of feature films including “The Amazing Spiderman,” “The Smurfs” and “Green Lantern.”

“The animation program helped me get to where I am now by not being too narrowly focused,” said Williams. “Some enter school thinking they know exactly what they want to do, but after four years they leave with a passion for something new thanks to the wide range of classes. The flexibility of the animation program ultimately gave me the skill-set and confidence that was needed to adventure out and begin my current career path.”

Although Amanda Taylor is busy planning this year's festival, she also has her eye on what she will do when she graduates.

“I will be graduating next year if all goes according to plan and I want to get a job working on video games,” she said.

The festival will help Taylor network in her future career field by featuring a panel by local video game developers from Six3Six studios.  In addition to this session, attendees will be able to learn more about mobile application development and also traditional animation in addition to a number of networking events. 

For more information on the event schedule, visit the festival's website.