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First Person: Teaching Animation in Morocco

Esin Ozdag (left corner, using camera) on location with Professor Brigid Maher (right corner).

Below is a first-person account from Esin Ozdag, a Film and Media Arts student who accompanied professor Brigid Maher on a recent visit to Morocco to lead a three-day animation workshop as part of the Casablanca International Student Film Festival 2011.

I did not know what to expect when I first arrived in Casablanca. I was nervous about the language barrier, not to mention having had no previous teaching experience. The next day, I would be assisting American University Professor Brigid Maher lead a three-day animation workshop for Moroccan students.

On the first day of class, students began to arrive as Maher and I set up the PowerPoint presentation. I was surprised to see such a large group; 15 to 20 people ranging in age from 19 to 27. As Maher presented an introduction to animation and demonstrated exercises, I walked around the classroom to help students with the assignments. My first hurdle was that the software they were using had the commands in French! Maher’s teaching style engaged these students from various animation backgrounds, who were energized by what they could achieve in a short amount of time.

On the second day, we met at a restaurant at 10:00 a.m. to shoot on greenscreen. The students were excited to act and use the camera; many even took photos of the process. The excitement continued into the classroom. After uploading the morning’s footage, Maher had to leave to judge the animation segment of the International Film Festival that was taking place simultaneously. It was up to me to manage the classroom and give each student an element of the music video to animate. They listened attentively as I walked around the room to consult with each student individually. We discussed the story being told in the music video and through interactive discussion, began to lay elements out on a timeline. At 7 p.m. the students were forced to stop working so I would have time to put together all the elements they created.

The next day, we had to work even harder to meet our afternoon deadline. Students took charge of the narrative, directing me where to place each element. Despite the difficult time constraints they worked to ensure that each of their creative visions was accurately portrayed in the final product.

The students’ music video was screened as the final event of the festival’s closing ceremony, and it was met with loud cheers from the audience. The students later approached Maher and I to thank us. The truth is that Maher and I were far more grateful to them. Their passion and work ethic was contagious. They had a motivation and talent to be envied, and I feel privileged to have been involved.

Upon returning to the U.S., Maher started a Facebook group for our workshop participants. We continue to keep in touch, and the students use the group as a forum to post current animation work. It’s very exciting to continue our community from so far away. It was the most satisfying experience I have enjoyed during my education, and I hope the partnership between AU and Moroccan students continues.