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Alumnus Prepares Students for Film Careers

01/04/17

After more than 20 years in the animation and entertainment industry, Leonardo Quiles ’16 headed to MCLA to finish his degree. As an adjunct instructor on campus, he’s sharing his knowledge of the film industry.

Now completing his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Hartford, Quiles explained, “The one thing that I’ve found about my own career is that any opportunity I’ve been afforded has always come from folks that I’ve known.”

Likewise, Quiles aims to build connections for his students. Last semester, he introduced his “Film Editing” class to Diane Pearlman, executive director of the Berkshire Film and Media Arts Collaborative. The filmmaker and producer discussed ways that the students might become involved with the Berkshires’ tight-knit and thriving film-making community.

That community includes Pearlman and Quiles, whose company, “LQ Studios,” is headquartered in Dalton.

It also consists of local director and special effects pro Doug Trumbull, known for his work on films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Night at the Museum and The Matrix, and John Nugent, behind the effects for movies like the Lord of the Rings franchise and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In the mid-1990s, Quiles (below, on the right, working on the Mystique transformation for the first X-Men film) also worked for computer-generated imagery and effects artists Diana Walczak and Jeff Kleiser at the Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company, headquartered at MASS MoCA. Walczak now writes and directs at Harmless Little Bunny Productions in Williamstown, Mass., and Kleiser, a founding board member at Williamstown Film Festival, is behind Synthespian Studies, with offices in Williamstown, New York and Hollywood.

“I’m in a unique place in that I’ve spent the last 20 years working in the industry, and I’ve established a ton of great connections and I’ve helped others go on to bigger and better companies and projects,” Quiles said.

His current project involves character design, model building and 3D printing for “Gulliver’s Gate,” an entertainment venue set to open in New York City’s Times Square this spring. A world of miniatures, it allows visitors to interact with scenes from around the world, encompassing different time zones and historic periods.

During last semester’s “Film Editing” course Quiles provided MCLA students with valuable skill sets, along with perspective and an understanding of what’s happening in the industry.

“I really needed to get under the hood and have them understand the fundamentals of visual storytelling. The way to do that is through understanding film theory and editing – to really break it down and show them the parts. It’s the power of history. They need to understand what came before them. What were the milestones and how can they utilize groundbreaking innovation in their own work. That’s how they’re going to make any sort of difference.”

This semester Quiles is teaching something new – an introductory course on animation, to include two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation, stop-motion animation with frame-by-frame armature puppets, and computer animation projects.

“It’s not just Saturday morning cartoons,” he explained. “I want my students to look at animation and have something to say about it other than “wow” or “cool.”

To see Quiles’ work, go to www.leonardoquiles.com.