Best Deal Around…Ever

BY NICHOLAS K. WHO GRADUATED IN 2008

Before I came to Lost Boys Learning I was kinda stuck in Chicago doing odd jobs to make a living. Not really my cup of tea per say. I was 27 Iand had talents that I wanted to use, but no real way to package them. found out about Lost Boys from my buddy Drew. We both wanted to do something career wise that didn’t completely suck our souls dry. We did improv shows together and wrote sketch comedy; just two kinda weird dudes to begin with. So, we figured if we learned how to make Visual FX we’d be able to get descent jobs and continue to do fun things with new tools in our belts. We figured this school was worth a shot.

Living Expenses And Such…

Gillian will help you find a place to live on the island…she’s awesome. Drew and I procrastinated a bit on finding a place; even when she was sending us leads in our email. We ended up staying at a hotel for a month at a discounted rate of 500 bucks, not too bad. Then we moved into the basement of a house and paid 400 each with everything included. Our class mates and good friends George and Perry found a dope 2 bedroom apartment for 800 a month as well. Both apartments were within walking distance of the school.

On the weekends we were usually at the school. Sometimes we would take bike rides around the island or drink a few beers with our classmates.

It was a very structured/loose atmosphere…if that makes any sense.

The Average Day/Week

Come into class around 9:30. At 10, Mark would briefly talk about the plans for the day, whether it was working on shaders, modeling, or whatever. I think they put the course outline up on their website. So we’d work, ask questions, etc. Then we’d break at twelve for lunch, come back and talk, work on stuff, and ask more questions. It was a very structured/loose atmosphere…if that makes any sense. You have a project to work on, but how you use your time is kinda up to you.

Mondays and Tuesdays are work days. Wednesdays are work days as well but Gillian also teaches hour long drawing workshops. Thursday is industry studies, where you learn about different studios and how they work. You’ll end up visiting all of the shops in Vancouver. Mark knows everybody which is great. Friday is screening day where you show your work and get feedback from the class.

Some Fridays we’d cook epic meals at their house.

Projects Galore

All of the projects are laid out in a thoughtful way. This stuff can be overwhelming, but Mark and Gillian have devised a way to acclimate you to the strange world of VFX. You start with the basics and evolve from there. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite projects.

  • Ghost Project: This was our introduction to compositing. In this project we learned how to use 2d elements and compositing tricks to make a believable ghost scene. I really loved this project. There were plenty of chances to act. We got complete creative control over our projects. It was a splendid experience to say the least.
  • UFO Project: In the UFO project you are to create a believable paranormal scene. I also loved this project as well. The idea was to model, texture, animate and composite a CG element into a live action plate. It’s great fun and the friday screenings are hilarious.
  • 24 Hour Project: This one is hilarious…you can puke and cry if you need to … but it’s deadline time and you have to endure 24 hours of production endurance.
  • Bug Project: This is the big one: modeling, texturing, UV unwrapping, rigging, tracking, animation, compositing CG into live action plate. This project is near the end, right before your personal project. These all turn out great. I highly recommend visiting the website and checking out the bug projects. Mark and Gillian plant the seed of inspiration early, taking you to a bug zoo in Victoria and helping you to gather good reference for your chosen little beast. Really, really, really fun.
  • Personal Project: It’s the end of the assigned projects; now go do whatever the fu*k you want. It’s the last one. You can do anything…anything. I personally concentrated on animation for this one…but man the possibilities are endless.
  • Demo Reel: This is huge. Its the last thing you do, and you’ll get ample time to get it right. Mark and Gillian know a good/bad reel when they see one. They are simply great at this.
  • The Unmentioned Projects: Spoon project, logo project, group project, product project, still life project.

One Final Note

I own everything I did at that school. Unlike VFS, I can promote myself without having to show a 20 second school advertisement in my demo reel. Mark and Gillian actually care about us and want us to succeed. They are different because they are the little guys…not a big money making machine. Just make sure you have a good portfolio, because unlike VFS they don’t accept just anybody who can pay the tuition.

Basically it’s a 10 month intensive program run by a very intelligent couple on Vancouver Island.

The Verdict

Personally I think it’s the best deal around, and it’s 22,500. Basically it’s a 10 month intensive program run by a very intelligent couple on Vancouver Island. Mark Benard is an excellent teacher and knows pretty much everyone in the industry. Gillian Benard is an excellent teacher as well. She’ll teach you how to apply to jobs in the industry, write cover letters, make good first impressions, etc. They keep the class sizes small, so that’s a plus. The studio is also open all night, so you can really use the time to your advantage.

It was hella worth it for us. The school rocks on so many levels, if you are a highly motivated person that wants to do Visual FX of any kind…whether it is compositing, animation, modeling, or lighting…I would highly recommend this school.

Best deal around….ever.

Since graduating, I’ve interned at Pendulum Studios in San Diego. I’m now freelancing as a VFX artist in LA working on features.