Animating Dreams: A catch-up with GOBELINS Paris masters students

Arts and Creative Industries

Her legs stretched on the tiled floor, a pen poised confidently in her right hand, with a book resting on her lap. She firmly stares at the television screen, where her favorite cartoon characters dance and play, serving as wellsprings of inspiration for her own artistic creations. This scene had been a daily ritual for Tshegofatso Pitseng since she was a six-year-old girl.

Now 25, Tshegofatso’s face still lights up with enthusiasm whenever she speaks about her passion for the visual arts, a love that took root during her childhood in Mpumalanga, the eastern province of South Africa. Back then, every sketch she produced gained showers of praise from her family and friends. Yet, the ultimate compliments that remain closest to her heart are those bestowed upon her by her late grandfather.

“He was always intrigued to see me draw. The way he was so fascinated made me feel like I’m doing something that’s making him proud,” Tshegofatso says. Without a doubt, her late grandfather would be immensely proud of her today.

In 2023, Tshegofatso was chosen, alongside Daniela Del Castello and Kamohelo Salemane, to be part of a prestigious master’s program at GOBELINS Paris, a renowned animation school in France. Following a grueling selection process, they were picked from thousands of talented applicants, and they are now completing their first year in the Master of Arts in Character Animation and Animated Filmmaking programme, conducted entirely in English.

As the summer sun strips off the freezing cold temperatures, and bathes the vibrant city of Paris, amidst their busy schedules, they graciously agree to sit with us and share their experiences so far. “What I like about the programme is working with different people from different places, who have different art styles and different ways of working. We learn from each other,” Tshegofatso says.

The program is meticulously designed to foster critical and creative thinking in animation filmmaking. It sharpens essential storytelling and animation skills while exposing students to many cultural landscapes. Daniela highlights the programme’s emphasis on technical proficiency and visual aesthetics, aspects often overlooked in the animation industry. “In South Africa, there is a tendency to prioritize production, and [not] give much time to pre-production, which is the look and the feel of your film,” Daniela adds.

For Kamohelo, the standout feature of the GOBELINS programme lies in its unconventional approach to teaching, facilitated by industry veterans. “What GOBELINS does is that they bring in industry professionals who have worked on huge projects, they will come [teach] a module. That’s like a truly unique experience,” Kamohelo remarks.

Tshegofatso echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the invaluable connections forged with industry giants during workshops and seminars. “I think I would not have met a lot of industry professionals from one of the biggest studios in the world. We had so many workshops with directors, and people who were once like us students, and worked their way [up] in the industry,” she reflects.

For years, GOBELINS Paris has cultivated strong partnerships with various South African institutions, including The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), The French Institute of South Africa, and Campus France. Through these collaborations, Tshegofatso, Daniela, and Kamohelo secured scholarships from NFVF and Netflix, enabling them to pursue their dreams.



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