David Debacker (3rd Quarter, 2008)

by Josh Barsch on August 20, 2010

3rd Quarter, 2008
Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship
David Debacker

“I was born in British Columbia and grew up in Manitoba. I have always enjoyed art, games, creative endeavors, nature and lately have acquired a passion for learning. After moving to Vancouver and attending school I hope I can enjoy my life and passions with my girlfriend while helping to move society forward with the use of my artistic and technical talents.”

A Portion of David’s Winning Essay:

As one of the main purpose of my education is to allow me to spread messages I believe are important, this scholarship raising my awareness of Mesothelioma brings one more important subject I can promote and make people aware of. It is unlikely I would focus solely on Mesothelioma in any of my work, however, the problems and ideas the tragedy of Mesothelioma brings up create a strong basis for a visual art production such as I would create. The cause of the disease being primarily the preventable exposure to asbestos, as well as the ability for asbestos to travel easily and harm those who are not even directly involved in occupations that involve the substance. In addition, the negligence of companies and organizations who, since the early 1900’s have ignored the potential for serious harm to their employees, families and communities by choosing to use asbestos.

David Debacker

Of course, I will also love creating 3D models and illustrations for a living. I believe the creative freedom provided by creating my own work will mix nicely with the constant increase in skill that working in the CG industry will promote.

In short, a career in 3D modeling and illustration along with the artistic abilities to create messages that matter to me are the goals I am aiming for. These are what the Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship’s award money would help me achieve.

I hope you are looking for more information than the fact that I need the money to pay for my educational costs, as this is likely the case for every other applicant to this scholarship, so I will continue by detailing the recent decisions, and the reasons for those decisions I have made, before giving you the picture of my current financial situation and budget in regards to my education, hopefully without going into so much detail as to make my essay look like an expense report.

Just under a year ago I came back from a trip around Taiwan with my girlfriend. I had decided to take my savings and travel, choosing Taiwan as it was the home country of my girlfriend and offered a different experience and perspective from home. This was my first journey outside of North America and outside of our North American culture and it has had a maturing and also an inspiring and focusing effect on me.


After returning from my travels I decided I was ready to dive into my chosen career path and began looking for work as an Illustrator, with plans to eventually branch out into 3D modeling as well. Previous to my trip through Taiwan I had worked as an Illustrator and had loved the job more than any other I had ever had. I loved going into work and illustrating and enjoyed the process of working creatively with other people.

After returning home from Taiwan I was confident I could once again obtain similar work as an Illustrator. With growing disappointment I soon found the job opportunities for Illustrators in my home city of Winnipeg were not what I had hoped. Even more disappointing, that my talents in the illustration field were not at a level the industry in Winnipeg found acceptable, and upon reflection neither was I happy with my illustration skills.

I considered that if I moved to a city with a larger job market for Illustrators I would more likely be able to obtain work, but I was not satisfied to remain at a skill level that did not satisfy myself, regardless of the location. As well, I was unsure of the ease with which I would be able to move into 3D modeling from an illustration career. My short, happy experience as an Illustrator reinforced my belief that I would be happiest doing creative work and I should choose the career and educational path that best suits my interests and strengths.

I soon discovered that positions in the video game industry offer the responsibility of not only creating 3D models but can offer responsibilities in concept art and illustration as well. In addition, even in 3D modeling positions that do not carry illustration responsibilities officially, the work still generally requires the 3D artist to sketch and illustrate on his own as part of the process of creating quality 3D art.

Having decided on a career path in an industry that I had often considered in various forms since I played my first Nintendo game at the age of nine, as well as a start to that career path, I then had to decide on what education, if any, I should obtain in the pursuit of my goals. If I wanted to continue following my career path as I had it planned I would need to increase my skills, either with further self study or with a formal education.

I heavily researched this, as I have made mistakes on my education in the past and I did not want to repeat my missteps again. My research into careers as a 3D Modeler soon led me to the conclusion that people have been successful entering into 3D modeling careers both with and without formal educations.

The common truth espoused by everyone I spoke with, and everything I read was that companies offering the kind of position I will be seeking, that of a 3D Modeler, are only concerned with the quality of your work and your ability to create that work, that is to say, they are only concerned with the quality of your demo reel. This isn’t to say that diplomas, degrees and certificates are not welcomed by studios as icing on the cake. However, the point that I nearly as often came across in my research was that self education is not for everyone, and some people do better with, or even require a formal educational structure of some sort to achieve the same goals that another person might simply push themselves to reach on their own with self study.

I forced myself to honestly answer the question of whether I believed I could maintain the rigorous self study required to achieve the skills and create a quality Demo Reel. In the past, I may have said yes or no, but I have greater focus and determination now, so I knew that given time I could reach my educational and career goals. I also considered that based on my estimations, barring the unforeseen delays and obstructions that are nearly a certainty in life, it would take me a minimum of approximately three years to achieve the same education and skills using self study and part time classes in Vancouver as I would achieve in one year attending an appropriate formal program. Even succeeding in achieving the same level of skills and education on my own that an appropriate program would provide, I would be missing the benefit of an official diploma. More importantly, I would not gain the invaluable networking opportunities and relationships provided by working with my fellow students and the instructors who are and will be working at the same companies I would be seeking work with.

In addition, these same classmates and instructors would likely be excellent partners in future projects outside of my work I conduct and participate in, helping me create and wield those “weapons of mass dissent”.

Based on this it became clear to me that the most sensible course was to attend a school that would best suit my goals. As I’ve mentioned, I have made mistakes in my education previously, and the primary mistake I regret is not fully researching the school and program I was considering attending. I was fully determined not to make the same mistake this time around.

I spent months narrowing down a list composed of every school in Canada that dealt with 3D in any way. I restricted my options to Canada as my educational and living costs would have likely been unattainable in any other country. After researching all the schools and comparing them in every way I could think of, I finally made my decision and chose The Vancouver Institute of Media Arts, commonly known as VanArts. While there existed three other schools with very solid programs I would likely have been very satisfied with attending, all based in or around Vancouver, VanArts’ program of Game Art and Design offers exactly the balance of 3D modeling education with a solid foundation in illustration and art fundamentals that I am looking for. These skills will give me the best foundation for finding a job as a 3D Modeler as well as for developing my career as both a 3D modeler and as an Illustrator.

Luckily, I also found while researching my educational options that Vancouver is one of the largest video game industry hubs in North America, has a healthy media industry in general, and a high quality of life to boot, often being ranked as one of the top three most livable cities in the world, though featuring a fairly high cost of living due to high property rent costs.

In regards to my costs, and directly relating to how the Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship award money will help me, the following describes my estimated costs and funds. As I was narrowing down my list of schools, I noticed that the programs worth attending all tended to be 1 year intensive courses, featuring curriculums so busy as to allow no room for even part time jobs. As well, all carried a tuition of around $25000, or in the Game Art and Design program at VanArts’ case, $26750. While I knew this was a large amount, especially for a program only a year in length, the quality and suitability of the program in furthering my goals led me to believe the program is worth the price.

After overcoming the sticker shock, I began to seriously look at my funding options. Government student loans are providing roughly $16000 of my funds, a huge help to be certain. After estimating my budget for living and studying for a year in Vancouver, I found I would need at the least $30000 more on top of the government student loans. While I knew I could save a few thousand dollars working before I moved out to Vancouver, I found the only realistic reliable option to obtain the remaining funds was through student lines of credit offered by banks. This brings me around to the original topic of the essay.

The question asked of me in this essay, “How will the Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship help you achieve your educational goals?”, is one that can, in part, be answered very simply. In short, my educational costs are well beyond my means, and the $500 award for the Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship would be a help in reducing my future debt load. The loans and lines of credit I have secured should allow me to be able to afford my education at this point, and this gives me some piece of mind, but my thoughts can not help but return to the huge debts I will incur and have to pay off after I graduate.

I have chosen this career based on my passions and because I believe happiness in life comes more from what you do in your career and your life, rather then from how large your salary is and how much you own, though I won’t completely deny the pleasures of either.

The general starting salary for a 3D Modeler at a game studio is generally in the $40000 range. While not the highest starting salary, that amount seems to be to be sufficient in my opinion to the task of paying off my educational debts. However, as far as paying off what will almost surely be a debt of at least $40000, scholarships and bursaries such as the Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship will be of great help in reducing that debt and my future task of paying it off. Every $500 of debt I avoid is $500 plus interest I won’t have to pay back later, a piece of logic I would be foolish to ignore.

Should my funding fall through, should I not be able to afford the program at VanArts, I plan on moving to Vancouver regardless. Vancouver is one of the world’s largest video game industry hubs, at the same time offering the best educational and job opportunities for this industry. I will study on my own by using free learning sources such as the Internet and joining in volunteer projects such as the development of open source (free software) games as well as joining part time classes when my finances permit. Through this avenues I can continuously increase my illustration and 3D modeling skills.

Copyright 2009, StraightforwardMedia.com, a StraightForward Media property.

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