The Right Path

The elusive ‘perfect career path’ is more often than not, just short of our fingertips. Now happy and thriving, Chelsea Mirus shares her adventures choosing, and re-choosing, the right degree.

As the start of university for 2015 begins, a small article in The Advertiser foreshadows the inevitable drop off of student lecture attendance. ‘More than 30,000 students will begin a South Australian university course today but… about one in eight – will withdraw before the end of first semester,’ it reads.

I should know. Since jumping straight into university from school I have transferred across three different degrees, at all three different universities here in SA, before finally settling in a Media Arts degree majoring in Animation.

According to The Advertiser, Adelaide, Flinders and UniSA, ‘have joined in a project to investigate the reasons for withdrawal.’ I certainly don’t speak for everyone – there are numerous and varying reasons for course drop off. However, I know with great certainty the reason I withdrew from my past courses. It was as simple as being in the wrong degree.

You might be wondering what a Bachelor of Paramedic Science, Bachelor of Arts, and a Bachelor of Human Movement, have in common (trust me, I’m still asking myself that same question). Nevertheless, the semesters I spent in each degree have all given me invaluable skills and learning. Not to mention a developed perseverance, determination and resilience.

Looking back, it seems beyond crazy I didn’t enrol in a Media degree to start with. I have always loved films and television, am self-taught in Photoshop since I was 12, am a keen photographer when I have the time, and have just always had a knack and enjoyment for digital design.

I know with absolute certainty where my life is now headed. I am now studying study full time at UniSA, with most of my earnings funding part time study at CDW Studios to supplement my animation and visual effects learning. When I’m not scouring the Internet to watch visual effects breakdowns or scrolling the job listings from major companies (even though I have no hope of applying yet), I am developing my LinkedIn profile and networking with industry professionals.

Now, besides study, my current goal is campaigning to raise awareness for the CG Student Awards. Sponsored by Autodesk (the software company behind every Oscar and Golden Globe winning/nominated film you can probably think of), the awards encourage Visual Effects, Feature Animation and Next-Gen Gaming students to showcase their skills. Free to enter, everyone who does so receives a prize pack valued at $96, and there are 25 internships around the world up for grabs, with a Bootcamp Internship offered at Adelaide’s very own Rising Sun Pictures (recently Oscar-nominated for Best Visual Effects for their incredible ‘Quicksilver scene’ in X-Men: Days of Future Past). I am going to be encouraging all of my peers to enter. There really is nothing to lose by doing so.

Campaigning to raise awareness for these awards, I have realised half of my work is going to be in encouraging my fellow girls to enter. Talking with Wayne Lewis from Rising Sun Pictures at a recent software presentation, he said to me to encourage more women to get involved in visual effects. Victoria Alonso, Executive VP at Marvel Studios, held a keynote presentation and addressed the issue last year, imploring, ‘You’ve got to get the girls in here, boys. It’s better when it’s 50-50… They’re smart, they’re talented. They bring a balance that you need.’

Here in Adelaide, all three universities offer Bachelor’s degree in animation and visual effects, with TAFE and AIE offering Advanced Diplomas, and CDW Studios offering both full time and short course study. With a talk already lined up at Wilderness School, I aim to start sharing my knowledge and experiences with prospective students, especially women, and encourage this incredible resource of study pathways to the next generation of visual effects artists.

Words by Chelsea Mirus


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