Sync NI visit the Nerve Centre's Summer Animation School

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  • August saw the launch of the Nerve Centre’s much-anticipated Summer Animation School in Belfast’s Ulidia Resource Centre. Eagle-eyed students who were quick enough to book their space in the school were lucky to be taught and mentored by renowned animator Joel Simon, who, as an accomplished animator, worked with groups such as UTV, Channel Four and Sesame Street. We were granted a sneak peak of the animation school, where we got to chat to Joel Simon, the scheme leaders, and of course the future leaders of animation in attendance. Check it out!

                    When it comes to animation, there may be none better-placed to talk about the subject than Belgium’s own Joel Simon. As with many professionals in varying fields, Joel never planned on doing what he does. “I planned on becoming a photographer, originally. It was a subject that I loved, and something that I had serious thoughts about forging a career in. As a student in Belgium, I studied photography,” says Joel, reflecting on his time before coming to Belfast over20 years ago. “When I was on that course, a friendly teacher lent me a Super8 camera – it was awesome, especially at that time. I was fooling around with the camera, and realised that it had an animation function. I messed around with some plasticine, and before I knew it, I had my first film. I was smitten, and that’s where my love affair with animation began. From that point, I decided to make a career of it – and here I am,” says the animation expert.

                  Joel was full of praise for the school’s young participants, who boasted impressive models and animation skills (check out our photos!). “The course has been brilliant - I’ve been working with a group of 15 participants, all aged between 15 and 19. For a lot of them, it’s their first time experiencing animation, and we’ve taught them how to animate digitally with programmes like Photoshop and AfterFX,” says Joel. “At the minute, they are doing claymation films with a programme called Stopmotion Studio.  A lot of them have found new ways of making films, and they seem to be really getting into it. They are a very creative bunch!”. Joel’s advice to young people seeking a career in animation is to practice, practice, practice: “Practice animating as much as possible – over time you will become great, regardless of what your qualifications are!”

               Jennifer McAlorum, Creative Media Trainer at the Nerve Centre was tasked with coordinating the animation school, and took a few minutes out from the class to talk to our reporter. “I coordinated this week, along with Joel Simon - specifically for this age group. We do a lot of primary school stuff, so we thought we had to target more teenagers!” says Jennifer, in a brief period of quiet in the class. “We had a music production week, then we had this animation week. Next year, we hope to run this again, with even more people on the course!”

                We couldn’t let our visit pass without chatting to some of the lucky students who managed to book a place on the high-demand course. Brothers Lucas and Ethan Yandall of Campbell College praised the school, and swear that they will be back:  “the course is awesome, a great opportunity. We have plans to enter the film or media industry, so we feel that this course will really help us get a feel for it. We’ve always loved animation, and this course has really given us a taste for it! Joel Simon is so talented. We will be back next year!”

            Similarly, Emma Noble of Assumption Grammar spoke of her time on the course positively: I’ve loved the course, Joel is really good. I don’t have much of a background in animation, apart from my moving images A-Level, but it was great to come in and see this. I want to go into production, and all of these skills are transferrable. This was a great course, and I would really recommend it for anyone considering it next year.” (Check out Emma’s guest post for Sync NI about her experience on the course here).

    • To find out more about the Nerve Centre’s Summer Animation School, visit
    • Follow Joel Simon on Twitter @joelsimon

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