Student Feature: Ran Sheng - 盛然
July 24, 2019
Name: Ran Sheng - 盛然
Home: Beijing, China (born and raised)
Major: Animated Arts
School Attended Before PNCA: Beijing Film Academy
Graduating Year: 2018
Current Occupation: Stop-Motion Animator at Ozwest/Zing
Fun Fact: Before joining PNCA, Ran received his associate’s degree in Animation from the biggest film academy in China.
After completing his degree at the Beijing Film Academy and working as an animator, Ran Sheng sought to further his education in the United States for its access to opportunities. Ran’s original goal was to find a school in California, due to the availability of jobs within the animation field. However, during his college search, Ran found PNCA ranked on a website that focuses on animation careers. Three factors played into his decision to ultimately attend PNCA. First, Ran’s focus is in stop-motion animation. PNCA is one of the few art colleges that heavily focuses on stop-motion animation. Additionally, LAIKA Studios, a major stop-motion animation company, is located in Portland. Secondly, PNCA offered Ran scholarships to make tuition more affordable. Finally, Ran preferred the idea of living in the West Coast culture of the U.S. He was especially attracted to the unique cultural atmosphere of the Portland metropolitan area. Therefore, Ran chose to earn his BFA at PNCA in Portland.
At PNCA, Ran was surprised by the amount that he learned from his peers. He learned from his classmates as much as from his instructors and professors. From Ran’s experiences, PNCA students come from different backgrounds, education, life experiences, and cultures, which leads them to approach the same assignment in different ways. According to Ran, students in China learn directly from their instructors. Students in China maybe inspired by each other, he says, but they are not learning from their colleagues to the extent that they do at PNCA. Ran had more opportunities to collaborate with classmates on projects than he expected.
Expressing Individual Stories
In China, Ran says, techniques are taught to an industrial standard. Students at PNCA value industry standards, but they are also encouraged to create pieces that express their personality and detail their own life experiences. Instead of focusing on commercial production or industry standards, PNCA encourages students to creatively tell their story. For example, Ran created a multi-projection installation piece, which was the first time he created a piece about himself. He loved it and enjoyed the audience's response to the piece.
Before arriving at PNCA, Ran was an established animator in China. His projects in China were primarily commercial-focused, rather than artistic. When it came time for Ran to begin his thesis project, he was able to tell a story he wanted to tell. Ran had the idea for his thesis project for years, but he never thought he’d have a chance to make it a reality. For his senior thesis, Ran created “Karma Has You,” a short stop-motion film inspired by traditional Chinese shadow puppets. (You can view its trailer below.) Completing his thesis project was a dream come true and Ran found telling this story to be invaluable.
Using His PNCA Degree
Ran hopes to make a living within the animation field, and he intends to keep seeking all kinds of opportunities within the animation industry. Ran sees two directions for his future. One direction he could pursue is joining an animation studio as a professional animator, with the ultimate goal of working at the LAIKA Studios someday. Another direction would be to become an animation artist like his professor and mentor, Rose Bond, who creates projected animated installation projects. Because he enjoyed creating installation projects at PNCA, it is now a path he is considering.
Advice for Aspiring Animators Considering PNCA
Ran advises that animation students should be prepared and ready to push beyond their own limits. Sometimes students think, “I don’t need to get an A. I just need to pass the class.” Ran believes that this way of thinking is OK, but if they want to get to a higher level of personal development, they should push themselves harder. Among his classmates, Ran is known for overdoing his class assignments. He knew that if he spent two more hours on a project, it would be even better. “Don’t overwork yourself,” Ran suggests. However, working a little bit longer was something he did with his work at PNCA. Ran would complain and was stressed out, but the end results made the work worth it to him.
Because there are many art schools, Ran suggests that prospective students learn the difference between PNCA and other art schools. If you value those differences, PNCA is the place for you. Ran believes that PNCA is vastly different from other art schools. Some art schools train students to do one specific job, whereas PNCA pushes students to explore animated arts and all that animation can be as an art form.
Listen to Ran speak about his experience at PNCA!
Below are some samples of Ran's work. You can find more on his website.
Camila, a first-time freshman from Mexico, explored Portland to find the best spaces for students to find creative inspiration.
Mert Kocabagli (BFA '18), a designer from Turkey, talks about his experience at PNCA!