the AIM gang at ACTF interviewed by Meredith Badger
Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF)
was established in 1982 with the aim of producing quality children's programming
that is entertaining as well as educational. Some of its best known programmes
include four series of Round the Twist, as well as Lift Off
and The Genie from Downunder. In 2000 the ACTF produced
its first feature length film; Yolngu Boy, which has received critical
acclaim around the world. The Foundation's most recent series is The
Legacy of the Silver Shadow, which aired on the Seven Network last
year. The ACTF is currently making a new series in conjunction
with the BBC called Noah and Saski. The ACTF has
provided employment for a number of AIM alumni over the years, including
Jeremy Parker and
who produced animated pieces for the Lift Off series. Currently there
are three ex-AIMers sitting in a row in the New Media Department: Carolena
Helderman (1993) Tim MacDonald (1998) and me, Meredith Badger
(1999). Chris Hancock (1995) worked at the ACTF until
the beginning of this year and is now with Unreal Pictures; the company
that is developing the digital component of Noah and Saskia.
I recently subjected all three
to a grueling interview process and even managed to extract a couple of
answers from myself....
had you been doing before you got into AIM? (both in terms of study and
I studied Art and Design and Ceramics. I worked as a Theatre Stage Manager,
I also did Lighting, and I worked as an actor.
Tim: I'd been writing scripts,
proposals and synopses for CD ROM based projects, most of which were never
produced, as well as working on my own rather involved hypertext projects.
Chris: I'd completed a BAppsSci
in "Computer Science and Instrumental Science" at Swinburne and worked
on a video analysis system for a company in Melbourne.
Meredith: I was one of those
perennial students who are a drain on the system. I did a Bachelor of
Arts, then an Honours year, then I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts (yes, they
are different, ok?) and felt like I was continually circling around wanting
to write and wanting to draw. When I heard about multimedia I had a feeling
that it was what I'd been looking for. And it is.
much did each of you know about the AIM course before applying?
didn't know anything about AIM. l think l enquired
about the course a week before the application was due. So l started doing
the application and rushed it there with a few minutes to spare. When
interview time came around, well it was' 92 and that word 'Multimedia'
wasn't known. Whilst waiting to go into my interview a student from the
previous year was there, l grilled him about 'Multimedia', just so that
l had some idea what to say in the interview......l had the animation
bit covered but had no idea what this new technology called 'the Am' was.
Needless to say, you told people you studied 'animation' so you didn't
have to explain 'Multimedia' again and again. Oh, how things have changed!
Tim: I didn't know a lot about
AIM. I was looking for courses that dealt with interactive media, particularly
hypertext, and at that time (1997) there weren't that many about. I hadn't
realised how much of the course revolved around traditional animation,
so the first semester was a bit of a stretch for me (I can't draw very
well), though now of course I'm glad I did it.
Chris: I did my undergrad at
Swinburne, and heard about this mysterious place there that used Amiga
computers to produce animation.
Meredith: I heard about AIM
through one of my lecturers at the Professional Writing and Editing course
at RMIT. I went up to see what it was like and I was so taken with the
atmosphere of the place- all those fascinating things up around the walls
and lots of interesting looking machines everywhere that I decided on
the spot that I had to get into the course.
Q3. Why did you decide to do AIM?
Carolena: Although l was lucky
to discover the course just before the application was due, l knew that
l needed a change and my life up to that date had involved art and theatre
and my twisted mind came up with animation being the next obvious step.
I never had a plan. l just went with the flow.
Tim: There were very few courses
that dealt with interactive media at the time, I'd heard of some of the
AIM graduates, and the course had a good on-line presence (some other
courses in digital/interactive media didn't even have a web site).
Chris: I applied on a bit of
a whim after finding the advert in the Age just after graduation. I'd
always been interested in animation, sound, and "production". I thought
this would be an interesting field to get into, a useful extension of
my freshly-acquired computer skills, and an opportunity to rediscover
Meredith: AIM seemed like a perfect way of learning how
to combine my interest in both writing and artwork. Plus I can be a little
obsessive and animation seemed like a career where this would be of benefit.
you had any multimedia or computing experience before doing the course?
Carolena: No. I had to watch
very closely where the other students were putting their hands when turning
the computers on....com
e to think of it, the story l wrote for the application was typed on 1920s
Tim: Self taught
Chris: I'd had too much experience,
which is one reason why I decided to do a claymation for my major project!
Meredith: I'd used Director a little bit when I was doing the Prof Writing
course. Up until that point I'd had a real fear of computers. When I was
doing my BFA the guy who ran the computer lab at the uni put a pirated
version of Director on one of the machines for me, but I had to quickly
shut the box down whenever one of the teachers walked in. It was a weird
way to work.
did you hear about the job at the ACTF?
Carolena: AIM Newsletter posting
via Rhonda Smithies.
Via Rhonda Smithies (it wasn't advertised as far as I know).
Chris: Initially via the patented
"Rhonda Grapevine Email System", and then a friend mentioned it too.
Meredith: Wow, four out of
four. I heard about the job through Rhonda's list, too. It was initially
for a three month contract and I've now been there for three years. I
remember when we were looking to fill both Tim and Chris's jobs and the
decision was made to not bother with advertising in the paper but to go
straight to the uni mailing lists as it would directly target the right
were you employed to do here / what projects have you worked on since
Carolena: Serve tea from a trolley but they haven't
noticed that I've taken over the Kahootz web site. I've been here nine
months and have mastered the crazy code it's constructed in and await
the masses about to buy the Kahootz Software and flood the web site.
Tim: I was hired to develop
"Texts on TV" (CD ROM based educational program) and during development
I helped scope out the proposal to develop "Kahootz 2" in-house
at the ACTF. I've been working on that project since then.
I was employed by the ACTF to work on Kahootz (available now!) as a Director
programmer. I'm currently working for Unreal Pictures on Noah and Saskia,
where, among other things, I am helping produce some of the "virtual-world"
Meredith: I was initially employed
to work on Kahootz 1- the 2D version. It was lots of fun- I couldn't
believe I had a job where I got to make animated dinosaurs and pandas
all day. When that finished I started learning about websites and made
the promo site for Yolngu Boy and then reworked the ACTF site.
I've also done a bit of video editing- we made a clip to send out as a
promotion for our 20 year anniversary. I've always sworn they'd have to
drag me out of this place kicking and screaming and it seems to have worked
for me so far.
Carolena: wish I'd known you
were originally the tea lady- I would have so taken advantage of that
situation.... Is it too late to ask for one now? (Kahootz is an educational
software package built using a combination of Lightwave and Director,
which allows students to construct animated scenes and add sound and interactivity.
They can also email the files to other schools that have the software
on their computers. You can find out more by looking at the Kahootz website
graduates seem to have very good reputations in the workforce. Why do
you think this is?
Carolena: I didn't know that
we had a good rep, but everyone l've known from AIM works pretty hard.
Tim: It's our natural animal spirits and exceptional personal hygiene.
(Some very talented people have gone through the course in the past -
and continue to do).
Chris: I think the AIM course
manages to cover quite a lot of ground in just 1 year, encompassing quite
a broad range of skills. I also think that the selection process itself
manages to ensure those that go through the course are genuinely interested
in what they're doing. I think the skills AIM afforded me have been certainly
seen as an asset in the workforce.
Meredith: When I was interviewed
for the ACTF they said that the fact I'd come through AIM was a
big recommendation for them. I suspect this is because you end up trying
so many different aspects of multimedia and animation when you go through
AIM so you have a very broad general knowledge. I think perhaps AIM teaches
people to just plunge in there, even if we've never tried something before
and give it a go. Obviously, this is a very useful ability- one that employers
value. We also learn to function on minimum sleep and to strive to meet
seemingly impossible deadlines.
AIM is famous for being a very intensive course. What on earth made you
decide to go back to do a Masters Degree?
Carolena: I'd had long enough
to recover, the therapist told me it would be healing. But basically I'm
cheap and nasty, it was free and David dangled the cheese in front of
me! It's one of those things that just happened, not really by choice,
but it ended up being a very worthwhile personal experience.
Meredith: Hmm, that's funny.
I had a very similar motivation for doing my Masters, too. Now I find
myself wondering what I did with all that pesky free time before I had
an MA to fill up every available second...
Carolena is mad, of course, but at least now she's not prowling
the early morning streets of St Kilda, twitching and muttering, a wickedly
sharpened pencil clutched in one hand, malign intentions in her eyes...
Meredith: I wouldn't be too
sure of that.
it ever annoy you that people think that the ACTF is the same as the ABC?
Carolena: I never knew that
people thought that.
Tim: No, although I am irritated by people who confuse it with with
the Asteroid and Comet Tracking Agency or the Association of Corporate
Chris: Yep, I think the combination of the words 'Australian'
and 'Television' in the same title instantly makes people assume it's
a part of the ABC.
Meredith: I'm never quite sure
how to answer when people say "Are you still working for the ABC?" It
seems rude to say "Well, I've never actually worked for them at all" but
then I'd be lying to say that I was still there...
Q9. Where else have you worked, post AIM?
Carolena: Mickey Duck Animation,
Animation Works, Unreal Pictures, teaching at RMIT, Freelance & volunteer
web site work.
Tim: Some teaching; casual
jobs on web sites; 2 years at a PR/marketing company doing Flash, Director
and some web stuff.
Chris: I spent four years working
for a games company called Torus Games, which involved using practically
everything I'd ever learnt, as well as plenty of things I hadn't.
Meredith: I got the job at
the ACTF in my last week at AIM and I've been there ever since (over three
years). I have worked on a couple of freelance things during that time,
including an interactive CD component of an IT textbook published by Macmillan.
ACTF show character do you think you most resemble?
Carolena: Crabgirl (from Legacy
of the Silver Shadow)... and l don't want to talk about it.
Tim: That evil dude in the
motorised wheelchair. (The Crab from Legacy of the Silver Shadow)
Chris: The ACTF make television
programs? Don't you mean the ABC? Erm, "B2"?
Meredith: I'm EC- the mute,
eyeless puppet from Lift Off.
and most importantly - do you have a comfy chair at work?
It's average... Meredith is claiming victory over
the comfy factor. I must do the time... to earn The Chair.
Tim: Sure, but I'd like something
that reclines more, or maybe even vibrates softly.
Chris: I had a comfy chair,
before the accident. Now my comfy chair is just a shadow of its former
self, a broken shell of a chair, a post-pew . I've currently "borrowed"
one of those newfangled "kneel-before-the-computer-god" hippy chairs from
a work colleague who worshiped too long. However, I'm not the famed "cathedralist"
that Meredith is.
Meredith: Yes, I only asked
this question to rub in just how fantastic my chair is. Sometimes I'm
so comfortable I don't even want to get out of it at the end of the day,
and I ride it home instead of catching the tram.
The ACTF is located
at level 3, 145 Smith St Fitzroy. Unreal Pictures is in Banks St, South
Melbourne. We are happy to answer more questions if you want to buy us
coffee. That's a latte for Carolena, a long black for Tim and a decaf
for Meredith. I don't know about Chris, but I know he likes yoghurt. A
lot. You can look at our websites if you like:
AIM coursework graduate 1993, AIM Masters by Research graduate 2000
Chris Hancock , AIM coursework graduate 1995
Tim MacDonald, AIM coursework graduate 1998
Interviewed by Meredith Badger AIM coursework graduate 1999