“Support of nature” is a term sometimes used to explain why positive events occur in your life when you live in harmony with universal or natural law. Life flows more smoothly. Positive things happen. Opportunities arise.
That may have been the force at work 17 years ago when Alan Phillips decided to start a vocational college in Vancouver, Canada in media arts studies — just as the city was poised to expand into an international center for the film, television and gaming industries, making it the perfect location for such a school.
Thus, Vancouver Institute for Media Arts (VanArts) got off to a great start, and today, still thrives.
“This is the third largest market in North America for film, animation and visual effects work,” says school founder Alan Phillips, who graduated from MUM in 1991. “Vancouver is only behind Los Angeles and New York.”
Support of nature? Perhaps. Good business sense and hard work, definitely. And maybe a little luck thrown in.
Four years after earning his MBA from MUM in 1991, Alan developed a business plan for the school and secured investors. In 1995, VanArts was born as a private career training institute.
A critical step was hiring Academy Award winning animator and director Lee Mishkin to head up VanArts’ animation program. Mishkin, a long-time Hollywood insider, had had a storied career at UPA, Warner Brothers and DePatie-Freleng Studios that spanned four decades. He’d worked on dozens of films and TV shows, including “Mr. Magoo,” “Batman,” “Jetsons: The Movie,” and “The Simpsons.” With Mishkin onboard, the Walt Disney Studios offered their endorsement and support, including annual visits by a top executive.
Over the years, the school expanded to include diploma programs in visual effects, game art & design, broadcasting, acting, digital photography and web development, in addition to its 2D and 3D animation programs. Faculty arrived from big name studios, including DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, and Industrial Light and Magic. VanArts graduates started being hired to work on movies such “Avatar,” “The Dark Night,” “Harry Potter,” and “Life of Pi.”
Today, VanArts is ranked #11 in the world on Animation Career Review’s “Top 100 Schools for Animation, Gaming and Design” list. It carries a #1 ranking in Western Canada.
As the school’s founder and president, Alan Phillips had built the business from the ground up. The education he received at MUM, along with his practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM), has played a significant role in his success.
“I loved my time at MUM where the central focus of all study areas is consciousness,” says Alan. “The professors were all very knowledgeable in their fields, many having graduated from top universities in the U.S. It was a precious time that I will never forget.”
Alan has been doing a regular practice of TM for 43 years. “Tapping into those quieter levels of awareness has helped me stay focused and clear in challenging situations,” he says. “When you build a business, you find yourself in many trying circumstances. TM has been a huge benefit. It helps me think through challenges effectively and solve problems more easily.”
Alan, a TM teacher himself, intends to make learning the practice of TM available to all VanArts students and staff.
Written by Warren Goldie