New studios to provide a great Escape for filmmakers

Story by Jack Foley

BUDDING directors are being offered the chance of a great Escape to Hollywood with the opening of a new special effects school in London.

Escape Studios, based in Notting Hill, has been created in response to the lack of specific skills-led training facilities outside of the US and aims to discover the next generation of TV, film and video games talent.

Students will learn the latest Hollywood techniques in 3D computer animation and 2D visual effects.

Studios managing director, Dominic Davenport, said: "The world of digital special effects has exploded and is impacting on our lives in more ways than ever before.

"At Escape, we will be training the special effects stars of the next generation, working to find the successors to worldwide hits like Spiderman, Star Wars, Tomb Raider and Walking With Dinosaurs."

The new studio has already won the backing of some of the biggest companies on both sides of the Atlantic, including the BBC and Disney, and has also been supported by some high-profile directors, including Britain’s own Oscar-winner, Ridley Scott, the man behind hits such as Gladiator, Hannibal, Alien and last year’s Black Hawk Down.

Scott, who regularly employs state-of-the-art special effects in his pictures, said: "The British visual effects community has some of the most talented people in the industry. In order to continue this level of excellence, it is essential that facilities are developed to continually train the artists. The industry needs a school like Escape."

Jamie Hewlett, creator Damon Albarn's animated band, Gorillaz, added: "Escape has discovered a gaping hole in the market and has taken the initiative to fill it by setting up a school for creative crack pots to learn high-end computer graphics."

Escape's team of tutors has been handpicked from both sides of the Atlantic, and is supplemented by leading industry figures to ensure that techniques and technology are always one step ahead but grounded in the real-world. The curriculum has been developed in association with design and post-production executives at the BBC, Mill Film, Cinesite and the Moving Picture Company.

The course programme has been developed to cater for both entry-level students and established industry talent seeking to develop their skill-set.

Students will be taught on state-of-the-art IBM workstations to emulate a fully operational real-time production environment. Packages taught include Alias Wavefront Maya, Softimage XSI, Pixar Renderman, Apple Shake, Discreet Combustion and Adobe Photoshop.

The Escape advisory board comprises Andy McNamara, head of 3D animation at the BBC; Jim Radford, creative head of CG at the Moving Picture Company; Neil Hughes, facilities manager at Mill Film; Jonathan Privett, head of CG at Rushes; and Paul Kingsley, managing director of Crow TV.

Escape Studios, 126 Westbourne Studios, 242 Acklam Road, London W10 5JJ.