Student Work : This is MMA Short Film

By Michael Jones

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Houcem Boudaha just completed Class 1 Introduction To Design & Animation in the summer of 2019. His mentor was animator and designer was Steve Savalle. This project in Class 1 is called the, Visual Essay.

For his Visual Essay, Houcem decided to tell the story of Mixed Martial Arts. His film took shape over a 9 week process in our mentorship program. This blog post will cover the process of the film. 

But first, take a look at the final film.


We ask our students to start with visual research and references. This part of the process is helpful for students to gather their concepts and present them to their mentor and classmates. When doing this kind of visual research there are two kinds, visual research and style references. Visual research simply helps to curate ideas and style references help to set a tone for the style of the film.


The next step in the process is blocking out the structure of the film in storyboards. We encourage students to take a few weeks to think through their storyboards before ever designing the look of the film or developing their style. Storyboards are useful for quickly roughing out ideas and eventually creating an animatic.


The value of a rough storyboard is that it allows you to quickly focus on your audio and put together an animatic. 

The animatic is so important becuase it helps you determine the overall timing of your scenes. This can also help show the flaws in your film and if you need to re-think any of your shots.

Design & Artwork

The next stage of development is to create the look of the film. Each students film is different but we block out several weeks for this process. This is often the most difficult part of the process for many students, but Houcem really put in the time to develop a strong style for the film. He worked on the background designs as well as characters. 

This is also a moment in the production when mentors can provide detailed feedback to help push the artwork to be more compelling and appealing.

Animation & Compositing

Houcem did a great job on the production of his ideas and artwork but the animation still provided a fresh challenge to bring his vision to life. He decided to use frame by frame animation to help make his animation more dynamic. For several shots he needed to block out the animation in a hand drawn style to achieve the shot he wanted. 

Student Reflections

I asked Houcem if he was OK with us sharing his film and process on our blog and he gave us the green light. I also asked him for a few quotes about this process and film. Here is a small thread of our discussion. 

Why did you choose this project?

“I’ve been a passionate MMA fan since the early 2000s so i had to make a video about it sooner or later, i’m glad i got to do it during this course because i would have never made it at a satisfying quality on my own .”

What you did you learn through this process?

“I found a wealth of knowledge in the included courses and prerecorded sessions. Then the whole mentorship program experience felt like taking an actual professional mograph project from pitch to final video with great pointers from the mentor every week.”

How did a mentor help make this better?

“Having a mentor dedicating time to help you personally is just an amazing opportunity, getting feedback from a pro helping you understand what to work on each step to grow as an artist and to get to the next level while making a video you can be proud of in the process.”


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