Meet Derrick Duan, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Animation) student

Still from Adam (With An Eye) c.2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Still from Adam (With An Eye) c.2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Derrick took the plunge to move to Melbourne from South Australia to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Animation) at the Victorian College of the Arts. Fortunately, he's "200% confident" he made the right choice. Read more to find out why the BFA (Animation) is such a good fit for Derrick.

Hi Derrick. What attracted you to study the BFA (Animation) course? 

I researched animation courses in Australia and felt that the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music (FFAM) was the one for me. I had a chance to fly from Adelaide to meet with the lecturers, who gave me a tour around the studio, and we had some very nice chats.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (Animation) as a course was small and flexible, which meant that each of us had the chance to pursue whatever we wanted to. I knew I didn’t want to work in a studio environment or jump straight to commercial works after graduation, and I was interested in taking a more experimental approaching to animation, so FFAM was the perfect choice for me.

I actually had a bit of a winding path coming to FFAM. I completed SACE after high school back in South Australia, but VCE somehow had a glitch in the system, and basically, I couldn’t choose Animation as my major. But it worked out in the end.

Who has been of particular influence on your study at the Faculty? 

Both of my course coordinators, Rob Stephenson and Paul Fletcher, have had tremendous influence on me, not only in supporting my professional development, but also in helping me see what is possible in the realm of animation.

I realised there were so much more to it than just drawings and clay. And to be totally fair, I would not be doing what I am doing today without them, or any of the lecturers I’ve had in the past two years.

Still from Adam (With An Eye) (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Has your experience as a student here been as you expected it to be? 

Yes and no. I expected a typical university schedule, but the studio-based course structure here is very much like high school. All classes are scheduled for you, and each of us has a dedicated desk, with our own equipment and access to hardware and software. It was unexpected and downright amazing.

I did expect to be given the chance to explore my own interests, and I expected a lot of collaboration with other people, both from my course and from different faculties. I thoroughly enjoyed those opportunities and am now 200% certain I made the right choice coming to FFAM.

On that note, the Southbank campus is amazing in terms of having so many different disciplines on the same campus. I can literally walk down the street and hang out with my friends from jazz, turn around the corner, grab food, and then chat with some dancers. This melting pot of disciplines has definitely encouraged and facilitated a lot of my collaborative works, and broadened my view on what it is like to be an artist.

On a typical day, I arrive at the studio at around 9am via public transport, hang out with people I know on campus, then make it to the class at 9.30, go to the kitchen and make my first cup of tea of the day. There’s at least five more cups of tea throughout the day.

We all do different stuff during the day, and a lot of projects are self-driven. I chat to everybody in the room. We play music, dance around, watch movies together, and help out with each other’s project. It’s so wholesome, and honestly the best thing anyone can ever ask for.

I’m a bit of a workaholic sometimes so I typically stay behind till 8 or 9pm to take advantage of the studio space. Some people stay behind too and we just hang out, have food, and make art.

What do you enjoy most about your study? Can you tell me about any highlights or achievements?

Highlights? Honestly every day is a highlight. Every day has something new and unexpected, and I have had so much fun and made so much art with the people around me.

I have made great connections within the FFAM community and have been putting on shows with friends, screening my films at events and festivals both locally and overseas.

The thing I enjoy most, though, is the cohort I’m with. There are 9 of us. I’m very, very grateful to have all my classmates and we are like family now. They have helped me so much.

Have you found any opportunities to collaborate? Can you tell us about those?

If you haven’t figured it out by now – I love collabs. I can’t do without them. It is a major part of my art-making, and I have a strong passion for interdisciplinary practices.

I have worked on many films with my animation skills, and helped design posters, sounds and events for others. I have been approached by festival start-ups, dancers, composers here at FFAM. I have had the privilege to create content for museum, planetariums and projection festivals too.

Right now, I’m in the process of putting up a couple of performances – one of them involves a collaboration between animation, choreography and live music.

Still from This Generation (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Tell me about what inspires you and your work/creative practice? 

I get inspired seeing what other artists have been up to. Talking. Socialising. Taking a walk in the Botanic Gardens. Going to NGV. All sorts of things.

The challenges are obviously time and money. My course is very intense, with commitments to full days of study 4 days a week. I stay behind most of the time and come in on the weekends too, to make the most of my course. But this comes with the cost of not being able to work as much, or risk burning out.

Days are filled up very quickly with so much to do. But I don’t stress myself out too much because I love what I do, and I have amazing classmates to hang out with.

What advice would you give to prospective students who want to pursue a career in your field?

It’s okay to be unsure of what you want to do exactly. Art is constantly evolving and so will your idea of what animation is. Pliancy of media invites experimentation. Just be ready to commit a lot of time and energy for something you love.

Most importantly, have fun.