Cartoon College Shows Life at Center for Cartoon Studies
April 25, 2012

Cartoon College is a new documentary about The Center for Cartoon Studies. That school, founded in 2005 in White River Junction, Vermont, accepts 20 students a year to work towards a Master of Fine Arts degree focused on the comic medium. The film’s directors, Josh Melrod and Tara Wray, shot from 2007-2010, exploring “what it takes to make it in the world of indie comics”. They describe the graduates as “ready to face the uncertainty of a career in one of the world’s most labor-intensive, drudgery-inducing art forms,” which makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.

I had the pleasure of viewing a screener of this hour-and-fifteen-minute movie. Watching the trailer, shown below, demonstrates a who’s who of comic creators, including Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Scott McCloud, Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Douglas Wolk, school faculty members Jason Lutes and Stephen Bissette, and James Sturm, who’s also the school’s Director. While the big names will certainly be an attraction, I found it more fascinating to watch the faculty and hear the students talk about their work and bits of their lives before they came to the school. Especially since I’ve read the comics one of them, Jen Vaughn, talks about producing. That passion, showing how the students struggle and how their intentions may not be realized the way they hope, is the real strength of the film.

I was very happy to learn more about the school, its courses, the Schulz Library, and how learning is structured there. (I think there’s a followup to be done examining how the town population views the school and its creators in its midst.) It was also interesting to see the comments about different kinds of comics available these days and how to approach them as art. But it’s the students themselves, especially the brief moments where they acknowledge what they gave up and the choices they made to pursue cartooning, that will stick with me. Plus, there are cartooning couples and a visit to MoCCA Fest. If you’re at all curious about where the next generation of comic creators is coming from and what their influences are, you need to see this movie.

Speaking of which, the film will be shown on the West Coast this Sunday, April 29, at the Newport Beach Film Festival in Southern California. I hope the filmmakers make copies available to purchase, because it’s good watching.

7 Responses  
Freeloader by Nomi Kane » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] seeing Nomi Kane in the Cartoon College documentary, her name rang a bell. Then I realized I had been given a copy of her minicomic […]

Jennifer writes:  

Looks like a good film, especially for those who want to break into the indie comic scene. Please inform us if the film becomes available to the public.

Johanna writes:  

I will. I found out that the plan is to play a few more festivals — and you can find out which ones by signing up for their mailing list on their website — and then make the movie available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD, etc.

Craig Fischer writes:  

Johanna, I wanted to add to your comment that there should be a follow-up “examining how the town population views the school and its creators in its midst.” I went to White River Junction last September for the ICAF conference, and when I ventured off-campus and into the community, I heard nothing but positive words for the energy and life CCS has brought to WRJ. My sense (limited though it is) is that there’s a terrific synergy between the locals and CCS.

Nomi writes:  

Craig- completely true. I worked at the convenience store in town when I was a student at CCS and had an opportunity to immerse myself in the community of White River as a whole. It was one that really embraced the school. CCS has had a profound and ongoing impact on helping to revive both the arts community and the economy of the town.

Johanna writes:  

That’s so good to hear, and it’s hinted at a little bit in the movie, which is why I was curious about it. I thought a movie exploring the good relationship and how it was formed and maintained would be interesting.

Cartoon College Movie Comes to DVD and Download » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] to an ad at their website, as of June 11, the documentary Cartoon College (which I saw and strongly recommend) will be available to buy on iTunes and to pre-order on […]


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