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This week, Ulster University welcomed the next generation of aspiring new talent onto the Belfast campus as part of the RENDR Festival. Over 200 school pupils from across Northern Ireland joined together to explore the exciting opportunities within animation, games design, and screen production.

The day commenced with morning workshops, engaging 28 young people from St Malachy's College, Blessed Trinity College, and Impact Training in the captivating world of animation and 3D modelling. Delivered by INTO Film and animators from Southern Regional College, the budding young creatives delved into designing animated characters and skilfully brought them to life using 3D graphics software.

Highlighting the innovative technologies available at Ulster University in Belfast, participants enjoyed a tour of the virtual production studio where they were immersed in experiencing impressive virtual sets, providing a firsthand experience of the remarkable capabilities of the soon-to-be launched Studio Ulster – a £72 million studio complex delivered by Ulster University due to open at Belfast Harbour later this year.

In the afternoon, an additional 180 pupils from Belfast Boys' Model School, Aquinas Grammar School, Strathearn School, Fort Hill Integrated College, Hazelwood Integrated College, and Enniskillen Royal Grammar School were treated to an inspiring keynote address by Suzy Fagan Parr from Aardman Animations, lead character creator on "Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget". Suzy shared her career in animation, shared insights of her experiences, leaving the audience fascinated.

This was followed by a panel discussion, hosted by Professor Declan Keeney, Director of Ulster Screen Academy and interim CEO of Studio Ulster, where early-career professionals shared their personal journeys into the industry, and offered students a panoramic view of the diverse pathways into the creative sector.

Declan emphasised the importance of equipping young talent with the skills to drive a successful creative industry in Northern Ireland. As the industry continues to expand, there is a growing demand for a highly trained creative workforce that sees opportunities on these shores and not to lose them to industries in the UK, the US and beyond.

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Ulster University Provost, who welcomed the learners to campus, said:

“We were delighted to welcome so many budding filmmakers to Ulster University in Belfast today to learn about the many opportunities available to them in animation, games design and screen production.  Young people don’t need to look beyond Northern Ireland to start a career in the film industry.  Ulster University is committed to delivering high quality training and education through the Ulster Screen Academy, so that pupils like those we met today can develop the skills they need to excel in a filmmaking career right here on these shores.  These are the animators, designers, directors, and producers of tomorrow and we can’t wait to see what stories they have to tell.”

Looking forward, Ulster University, in collaboration with Ulster Screen Academy and Studio Ulster, is proud to sponsor the RENDR Festival taking place at the Portview Trade Centre on 29 February and 1 March 2024. The festival promises to be a cornerstone for creative professionals and learners, with talks from leading figures in the industry and demonstrations of cutting-edge technology.