As a child, BA (Hons) Animation Art student Hillary Soe Naung was only allowed to watch cartoons. And for the fairytale lover, that was perfectly fine.
“I always had a very active imagination as a kid,” she reminisces. “When I was younger, I actually believed things like fairies and mermaids were real. I loved seeing magic come to life in animation.”
Becoming an animator
Hillary first entered LASALLE as a student in the Diploma in Animation programme, through which students gain a comprehensive understanding of the animation industry and develop essential skills.
“I loved illustrating and spent all my time drawing, but I had no experience in animation before LASALLE.” As a Diploma student, she built up her skills in animation, specialising in 2D animation.
Hillary’s Diploma in Animation final year project, Dew.
Building on the skills and competencies developed in the Diploma programme, Hillary and her peers focus on storytelling, working in teams to produce longer works in the BA (Hons) Animation Art programme.
“In the degree programme, you have a lot more space to tell a fully fleshed out story instead of focusing solely on animation. That was very appealing to me — to have a piece of work that sends a message across.”
As a final year student, she is currently working on a five to six-minute short film for her graduation project.
"By working in teams for their final year project, students get to have a feel for the industry, where they collaborate while specialising in specific areas. Students are called to apply all the skills and knowledge they've acquired to use animation as a vehicle to share stories and make an impact,” explains Christopher Shaw, Head, Puttnam School of Film and Animation.
Students are also prepared for the industry through internship opportunities. For Hillary, this meant interning at the Singapore-based animation studio Finding Pictures, and for prominent animation director Tan Wei Keong, where she worked on an independent short film. More than anything, working in the industry gave her the confidence that she is able to adapt to different styles and produce good quality work.
“Adaptability is an important skill to learn, because when you work in a studio, you have to be able to work with many different styles. Mr Tan was very supportive and encouraging, which I really appreciated,” she recalls.
Getting out of her comfort zone
Hillary with a group of friends at the University of Portsmouth
Many students at LASALLE receive the opportunity to undertake an international exchange programme with established partner institutions. For Hillary, her experience spending a semester abroad at the University of Portsmouth in the UK proved to be one of the highlights of her educational journey. It gave her a taste of being part of a larger institution, meeting and working with people from around the world. It also gave her the fairytale experience she always wanted.
“England has so many castles, and I visited as many as I could. It was like I could experience my art in a way, since so much of my work is set in castles and palaces, and also build up my visual library.”
Choosing the art school path
Hillary with classmates from BA (Hons) Animation Art.
The fairytale experience has not just been limited to historic towns and castles. Hillary may have just built her real-life fairytale at LASALLE, where she found her tribe.
“I love that you are allowed to be your own form of weird here. I think LASALLE is the one place where I can come to school in a ballgown and I wouldn’t feel out of place. If you dress differently, people just compliment you, and you never really feel judged. It’s really a safe space where you can embrace who you are.”
Advice for aspiring animators
To aspiring animators, Hillary shares, “if you feel you have something to show and something to say, and you are prepared to work hard, even if you have no prior experience in animation, you can definitely succeed.”
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