How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of animation? In the brief time I've been here, SCA has expanded my understanding of animation. Through Christine Panushka's history class, I've learned its scope to include cinematic special effects, visual music, and Victorian optical toys, among other things. Discovering the early technical stages of film and animation has been very resonant for me as the parallels between rhetoric of the past and today (I'm mostly referring to Virtual Reality) are uncanny.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program? I would say reach out to the professors and faculty here and get a conversation started as soon as you have any inkling that USC's MFA program would be a good fit for you. Don't be afraid to ask advice. Also, I would suggest that anyone planning on coming here start exploring the many offerings at this university as soon as you can. I did a lot of homework before coming here and I'm thankful I did because it has helped me dive and move towards right into the things that interest me the most. There is a LOT going on here and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the range and frequency of opportunity. It's a great problem to have and it helps to be one step ahead as best you can.
How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in animation? On top of a comprehensive training in analog animation as well as digital 2D and 3D practices, you get a remarkable amount of support and guidance from animation faculty. The department here represents a broad range of focuses from the field: specialties like documentary animation, experimental animation, classic 2D Disney animation, 3D character animation, special effects, scientific visualization, and visual music. Everyone is enthusiastic about sharing their corner with you and the range of perspectives helps you to forge your own path.
What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC? Balancing time! Animation is an inherently demanding practice and on top of that the resources and opportunities to work with artists and thinkers are phenomenal and seemingly endless. It's, both, easy and tempting to spread yourself thin here. I find it important to keep a calendar and journal to help me find my center and sort out what matters most to me. I'm going to end my response here because, you know, time...
What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC? As a kid, I used to get really bad migraines. I would take medicine for them but it wouldn't kick in right away and so I had to figure out a way to preoccupy my mind while I endured the pain. I started doing this by imagining an elaborate cartoon world inside my body where cells would engage in a bitter battle fighting bad guys off my pain receptors. What started as a coping mechanism, ultimately developed into a fascination with depicting invisible and unseen worlds. I have a number of ideas for stories and projects that visualize microscopic worlds and unseen spaces deep within the earth's crust. One thing that has been a major treat for me is the discovery of Richard Weinberg's Cinematic Microscopy lab here. Through his camera/microscope setup, he can show you these tiny worlds in breathtaking resolution. I lack the words to describe what it's like to look at these small organisms in real time– they become strangely relatable.
What personal projects have you worked on and/or are currently working on? A short background: I studied Sculpture and Art History and graduated from SUNY Purchase's School of Art & Design in 2012. After graduating, I lucked out and got a job working for an amazing independent filmmaker (who is a family doctor by day!) named Patricia Boiko. Patricia granted me an amazing opportunity by hiring me to edit photos and learn motion graphics and digital 2D animation practices on the job. All work I did was done towards a documentary called "Gameshow Dynamos." Shortly after that, I worked with artist/filmmaker Elisabeth Subrin and producer Scott Macaulay on the creation of a feminist film blog called "Who Cares About Actresses?" (whocaresaboutactresses.tumblr.com).
At the moment, I'm brewing an idea for my Production first film next semester but I'm going to keep that on the quiet side for the time being as I develop it. You can follow my website as I will be sure to post about it shortly in the future... http://cargocollective.com/mfmurphy