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Getting back on the Trojan Horse

The first time I went to Trojan Horse was a Unicorn, we built sandcastles. The second time, there was bubble soccer. Who knows what’s in store for my third time?

I’ll find out on 18 September, when the fifth edition of this highly unique event – known as THU – gets underway in the resort town of Troia, Portugal.

There’s only one big problem with THU.

It’s sold out. It sells out every year. Extremely fast. In fact, the event has a cult-like following and people ‘troll’ the website and social media to get their hands on a ticket.

Why?

Well, here’s one of the interesting things about THU. I think everyone who goes has a different experience. From my own perspective, I’m there to catch up mostly with VFX and animation pros – and when I say catch up with, I don’t just mean hear them speak in an auditorium. At THU, you literally get to rub shoulders with these people, for a whole week. They’re available for questions, chats, reviews of your work, bubble soccer etc.

This seriously was a THU activity one year, and it was awesome.

Many of the other presenters are super-stars in the art, design and illustration worlds – and attendees clamour to hear from and meet them. I’ve also always been inspired by their career stories. That’s because, when you think about, successful artists have to start somewhere – just like many of the attendees.

This year, the list of speakers at THU (they’re called Knights) is again out of this world. I’m just going to list some of them: Neville Page, Eric Goldberg, Jorge Gutiérrez, Iain McCaig, Kyle Odermatt, Ruairi Robinson, Victor Hugo, Nicolas ‘Sparth’ Bouvier and Scott Ross. That is literally only a small slice of the Knights who are coming – go here for the full listing.

Doug Chiang talked Star Wars at THU in 2016.

Guess where you can also connect with design, animation and VFX studios – yes, at THU. This year companies such as Creative Assembly, Luma Pictures, Riot Games, OPM, CD Projekt Red, ILM, Axis, Trixter, Nordeus and Ilion are going to be there for recruitment.

So, the week in Troia is pretty amazing in itself, just from the talks and access to speakers and opportunities to get your portfolio looked out. But THU has also become something much bigger.

Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams, a Knight in 2016, took out time to draw in attendee’s sketch book.

Firstly, it’s not just in Troia. You may have even been to a THU ‘satellite’ event, in places like London or Helsinki. The vibe at these THU Gatherings is just as exciting as THU.

And if you can’t make it to one of these events, or to Troia itself, there’s THU TV. It’s basically what it sounds like – a way of watching THU videos made with the very people who attend the event. But it’s definitely not ‘camera on a tripod with bad sound’ stuff. THU TV is professionally recorded and edited, and made up of a mix of talks, masterclasses and exclusively made shows. Seriously, it’s like the Netflix version of THU.

Get used to this view, if you’re at THU.

There’s another thing that makes THU even more memorable, and that’s the way the conference organisers – led by the tireless Andre Luis – do something different each year. Andre calls it a side-project, and last year it was the Co-labs, where attendees and pros literally worked on projects for the whole week (it’s back this year too). The new thing in 2017 is going to be the ‘B-sides’.

B-what?

This is all about the business side of the industry. Especially for entrepreneurs looking to work in entertainment. The idea is that a number of entertainment professionals – people like animated feature producer Brad Lewis (Antz, Cars 2, Storks, The LEGO Batman Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 3) – will be talking about business management and that side of the job. It’s a side a lot of artists don’t always get exposure to.

THU is never what you think it is. Until you meet a bunch of like-minded yet diverse speakers and attendees. There’s not too many other events like that around.

All of this sounds like A LOT to absorb. And it is. But THU is also a lot of fun, and I’ve made some incredible friends at the event each year. One of them, Chaos Group’s Christopher Nichols, is even a Knight this year.

Come to THU and you’ll soon feel part of a unique crowd – it’s called the Tribe and I didn’t really get that until I’d been.

But now I do.

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