RMIT students become artists, storytellers, and collaborators in the name of HIV education

In January 2022 animation students at RMIT began a course project examining the themes of HIV/ PreP/ Undetectable = Untransmittable, with the support and guidance of  health promotion and communications staff at LPV.  The students were tasked with producing a suite of short animated videos that told a contemporary story of HIV treatment and care.

According to course coordinator, Laura Eldar, and co-teacher Juan Chacon Olier,  RMIT animation prides itself on providing its student cohort with opportunities to engage with the outside world. In this particular second year class the aim is to create an industry-like environment, and we wanted to encourage a focus of learning and understanding the role animation can play as a vehicle for public messaging in response to a client based brief. Our aim in this class was to help students develop these skillsets, while continuing to expand their expertise as artists, storytellers, and collaborators.

Having Living Positive Victoria as a client was an invaluable opportunity for students to practise and apply their learnings in pitching, verbal and written communication, and applying feedback to best meet client needs.

Living Positive’s brief has been particularly joyful to work with as it provided our students with key learning opportunities in how to decipher and untangle a dense scientific brief and recontextualise it as an animated short made with the greater public in mind. Regardless of the age group they were targeting, the students all approached their stories with a deep sense of care and consideration for the importance of the message being communicated whilst maintaining a sense of engaging playfulness to capture audience’s attention.

The purpose of these classes is to provide students with a studio-like environment where they can be, often for the first time, responsible in small groups for the development of their own work from start to finish. This project encompassed all stages of a typical animated production including pitching, concept art, script writing, storyboarding, backgrounds and layout, directing, producing, animating, and compositing. It allows students to try on different hats and see where their interests truly lie in the many and varied roles of the animation industry, as well a learning skills in collaborating and communicating with their peers.

What do the students think?

I was happy to have HIV and U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) as the theme for our project. It was refreshing to talk so openly about some of the harsh realities of living with HIV and I felt I was in a safe environment to ask questions freely. I learnt about PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis)  which I had no knowledge of. It was nice to have some insight into the daily routine of those living with HIV.  Showing the virus as a personified animation, was also an enjoyable process as I like the idea of showing something that can at first be a scary subject, portraying them as humorous and cute can make the overall topic easier to discuss.

– Bex Furnani

The project was a huge learning experience, involving working with a group of peers, getting feedback on a weekly basis and responding to the client’s needs. Throughout the project we were given a space to learn professional skills in an encouraging environment.

– Catherine Ta

Watch the animations below

Living Positive Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where we work and live. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We celebrate the stories, culture and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of all communities who also work and live on this land.