Written by: Jocelyn A. Gonzalez
Interview by: Jocelyn A. Gonzalez
Video by: Jasmine Veridiano
"You've got to make stuff. You've got to animate. Make stories. Find ways to create."
Founded by Brian Austin, The Animation Project, otherwise known as TAP, is the first of its kind — a “therapeutic workforce development program” innovating the television and film industry through their work.
This non-profit organization is dedicated to serving New York City youth, by providing them the space and tools to prosper in the competitive animation landscape. TAP specifically targets underserved and misrepresented communities, giving young people the opportunity to creatively express themselves. By combining the expertise of an animator and a therapist, the organization has become an outlet for many throughout the city.
Next Jeneration sat down with executives and students to get their take on the program and its impact. Students showcased their personalized scene projects where they incorporated their learnings of shading, lighting, rendering and compositing in animation.
When asked to describe TAP, Creative Director Dan Shefelman had this to say: “Therapy is basically in creating stories, by digging into their own stories in order to create fictional stories, they discover things about their experiences, [and] about empathy. At the same time they’re developing skills that are very marketable in today’s workforce — digital animation, storytelling, 3D animation design.”
TAP studio aims to bring out the talent of adolescents in the most diverse way possible, while providing a holistic experience. Comparatively to that of a teaching hospital, seasoned animators mentor future animators. The organization has developed relationships with local industry leaders to provide interns with the opportunity to attend Q&A events — such as Netflix’s screening of Klaus with Director Sergio Pablos — and tour major animation studios.
After completion of the program students have gone on to work in animation studios, have been accepted into design school and have even been hired by TAP studio itself. At The Animation Project, "every one of them is a success story, whether they go to the top and end up being a professional animator or not, they’ve learned something different from this experience," expressed Dan.
“Tap has helped me mature professionally and personally…It is a home away from home. Somewhere you can come to learn and forget about the outside world, and get stuck in this place to animate.” — Manny, sixth-year student
“TAP is a program that brings people together to learn new skills that could be applied in the real world. It’s providing me an amazing space to work alongside peers that have the same goals.” — Ming, first-year student