Media Arts & Animation
Ready for a formula for success? Well, here it is in four simple words—Beginning is half done. Marilyn Webber , Adjunct Faculty , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
When I was a child, I saw Disney’s animated The Jungle Book, and I yearned to be forever lost in that jungle with those amazing characters. I knew at that moment I wanted to write and make films that touched people’s lives as that film touched mine.
That dream became solidified when I wrote and co-produced a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award while I was earning my degree at The American Film Institute. Watching audiences react to my film was a natural high that I’ll never forget.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?
I tell them stories when applicable about my experiences. I confide my regrets and mistakes on opportunities missed. I am an open book for them so that they may remember my words and not make the same mistakes. In addition, I share with them my achievements and successes in hopes to inspire them to persist through all the challenges and difficulties their careers will bring them because in the end, dreams are worth the sacrifices they’ll have to make.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
In my animation class, I show students five story questions to ask when writing a springboard then I show them professional springboards, including some of my own. After that, we watch a clip of the cartoon that evolved from the springboard and later discuss some imperfect springboards and how to fix them.
Next, I challenge the students to write springboards based on their original story ideas. The students then pitch these to the class and the class critiques the pitches, making suggestions on how to improve the springboards and also what is working well. It’s important to tell and show, then show again. It’s also important to help students understand that writing is a journey and perfection must be constantly sought after. It’s not something you just type out and you’re done.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
Collaboration is highly critical to students’ learning process. I love to incorporate group-writing assignments on the very first day because it’s a great icebreaker that works every time, even with the most shy of students. I watch them tentatively sharing their ideas at first, then growing more confident as they start their creative banter and make those artistic discoveries together.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
I like to ask the class to call out the strengths and weaknesses we have as artists. Our character traits are as important as our talent, even more so really. It determines if we will succeed or fail more than luck or talent will. So If we are honest about our weaknesses then we can overcome them.
Most artists are champion procrastinators; we like the dream part, and the idea of being an artist, but many of us have trouble with the hard work part of it and the sticking with it. So I impart a few words of wisdom my basketball coach once told me. I took his words to heart and breezed through college. Ready for a formula for success? Well, here it is in four simple words—Beginning is half done.
It’s that simple. Unfortunately, most of us never get started. So if you only have twenty minutes to work on a project that you know will take you hours, just START and do it for twenty minutes. Ninety percent of the time, you’ll continue working much longer than you thought. The other ten percent, you may stop after twenty, but now you’re more likely to come back and complete it as soon as you have time. It’s the BEGINNING that kills us. So just START!