One of the more enticing aspects of the New York Film Academy is its belief that our instructors should not only be well versed in their crafts, but also strongly established in their respective fields. As a testament to this commitment, we focus on the New York Film Academy Los Angeles 3D Animation and Visual Effects Chair, Mark Sawicki.
After attending USC film school, Mr. Sawicki entered the film industry as a lab technician at Cinema Research Corp., where he worked on the original Superman film. He later began working as a cameraman for Roger Corman’s New World Studios on low budget sci-fi pictures such as Escape from New York. From there, he went on to shooting effects and creating award-winning animation for commercials, rock videos and 3D features including Jaws 3D and Friday the 13th Part 3.
In 1986, he became the matte photographer for Illusion Arts, working under visual effects masters Albert Whitlock, Syd Dutton, and Bill Taylor. During this period, while working on mainstream films, Mr. Sawicki became an instructor for Kodak’s Cineon system (a landmark digital film compositing system). After a 10-year stint of compositing matte paintings at Illusion Arts, for such projects as Cape Fear, The Birdcage and Star Trek IV, he became a co-supervisor for Area 51 on Tom Hanks’ From the Earth to the Moon.
Mr. Sawicki was later the head effects camera supervisor and digital colorist for Custom Film Effects, contributing to films such as Gangs of New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Tropic Thunder, and The Dark Knight Rises.
As to reaffirming his remarkable insight into the field of animation and visual effects, Mr. Sawicki has authored three DVD’s on the art of clay animation and a documentary entitled Twilight Camerman, which focuses on the craft of optical printing available from firstlightvideo.com. He is also the author of the book “Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography,” published by Focal Press.
And to top it all off, Mr. Sawicki frequently performs as an actor in independent films. Indeed, an incredible career that carries with it a lifetime of knowledge and hands-on experience that can be passed on to his students.
“Whenever possible, I will take pictures of professional green screen set-ups and share them in the classroom,” says Mr. Sawicki. “This is extremely helpful in giving the students an up to the minute, real-world exploration of what is happening in the industry today.”
His involvement with the school’s animation and visual effects students is not only valuable to NYFA, but also to himself. “Teaching at NYFA has been a rewarding experience for me as I am able to address an international community with different insights and attitudes. The one commonality among them all is the love of movies and the desire to work hard toward their goals. It has been a pleasure to see them blossom and grow to be artists in the field.”
His advice to students graduating from his program, with the intention on working in the field, is to build up an impressive reel and resume that can only be created by working with a small team or as a vendor on independent films and TV commercials. Graduates should expect to work on projects that may not be particularly glamorous, but getting even the most mundane animation job will keep animators focused and allow them to build credits and move up the ladder.
As a professional who embraces most aspects of the entertainment industry, Mr. Sawicki recently wrote a feature screenplay called Call Center, which he describes as a comedy comparable to Mike Judge’s Office Space. He also has a short film in the works that he hopes will bring interest to the script.
One thing is for sure, Mr. Sawicki’s hard work and dedication to both his career and his students is extraordinary. There is no doubt that under the tutelage of Mr. Sawicki, NYFA’s 3D Animation and Visual Effects department will continue to grow as one of the most demanding schools for aspiring animators and visual effects experts.