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Catching up with... Shelley Page

This month we're meeting Shelley Page who graduated from Kingston with a BA in Graphic Design in 1977. Kingston University subsequently awarded her an honorary doctorate for her achievements in the arts in 2009. We track her path to becoming the Head of International Outreach at DreamWorks...

Shelley is currently Head of International Outreach at DreamWorks.

Why did you choose Kingston?

I wanted a course that had very strong associations with industry professionals and would give me the best launch pad to a successful career. I compared the available graphic design/illustration courses very carefully and Kingston just stood out from the rest.

What do you remember about your time at Kingston? In three words.

Working very hard!

Who was your favourite lecturer and why?

My favourite among the guest lecturers was illustrator Ian Beck – he didn't tell us anything about his artistic techniques, but he was incredibly informative about the ins and outs of life as a freelance artist. I have never forgotten his wise advice about agents and taxes!

Are you still in touch with anyone from your Kingston days and have you been back here?

I am godmother to the daughter of one of my Kingston friends and I am in regular contact with another illustrator friend. Recently I contacted another of my year who is now a leading figure in the special effects industry. I usually try to return at least once a year to give a lecture on international animation trends to the graduating animation group. I also try to attend the degree show if I am in the UK.

How has your time at Kingston shaped your career?

From the first year we were working to tight briefs and deadlines – which were a good preparation for my professional career. I don't believe in 'finding your own pathway' as an undergraduate – to be successful as a commercial artist you need to be taught professional techniques and working practices, preferably by a working professional who is aware of the latest trends, both artistic and technical.

Your job title is 'Head of International Outreach' at DreamWorks; what does that involve?

I am the primary contact for the leading international animation and VFX schools we recruit our younger artists from – I lecture regularly at schools and events in the UK, Europe and India. I am also the decision maker about which international festivals and conferences DreamWorks will take part in and I am a jury member at numerous of these events during the year. I source and recruit talented artists for our three studio locations – two in California and one in India. I contact the leading animation and VFX studios in the cities I regularly visit around the world to maintain a network of industry contacts and to spot coming trends.

Are there any big changes coming that will effect the film industry?

In the feature animation industry 3D stereoscopic techniques are evolving constantly to create a richer and more immersive experience for our audiences – there are new and exciting developments on the horizon – including 3D stereo equipment for the home. All DreamWorks animation features are now being created in 3D.

What's the future of animation? Is Avatar it?

The ground-breaking technology and artistry behind Avatar created a so far unrivalled cinematic experience, but in the end it's all about the story. The most extraordinary piece of animation I have seen recently – Loom – was created by three students in Germany and is a short film about a spider trapping a wasp in her web in an extended 'dance of death' – it's mind-blowing! The future of animation is in the imaginations of the next generation of great artists – it always is!

What has been your greatest achievement?

Still loving my job after 20+ years and getting excited about every new challenge that comes up! One of my great satisfactions is seeing artists I hired as graduates reaching the heights of our industry – as directors, producers, designers and film makers.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Don't take everything so seriously! Work just as hard, but also allow yourself to enjoy the moment.

What are you doing right now?

Multi-tasking! Calling animators I want to interview for DreamWorks in Paris next week, reviewing demo reels, planning a dinner party for some filmmaker friends from India at my place tonight, and packing my son's suitcase for a holiday trip tomorrow morning!

What last made you laugh?

This morning – a funny and acerbic Lost in Showbiz article, a silly news item on TV , a re-run of a House episode (I'm a Hugh Laurie addict).

What's your ideal weekend?

Going down to Leicester Square to see the latest Bollywood movie then coming back to have the house to myself so I can spread out my collection of gorgeous textiles from India and create something new to wear. That's what I plan to do tomorrow anyway.

Tell us something we would never guess about you?

I am an obsessive fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I think it is a work of absolute genius and I have the phone number of Buffy creator Joss Whedon pinned over my desk in case I can ever think of a clever enough reason to call him up!

You are to live out your final days on a desert island …

Who would you take with you any why? Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, the wittiest and most charming superstar of them all. He would be the perfect desert island companion!
What book would you take and why? Can I take a Kindle or an iPad? I couldn't possible choose just one book.
What movie would you take and why? Something silly and escapist – a rom-com such as Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally.
What food item would you take and why? Marmite. No explanation needed!

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