Digital media school to open in January
by Richard Burgess - Advocate Acadiana bureau
LAFAYETTE - A school for video game design, 3-D animation and visual effects is scheduled to open in January, offering training that officials say could help spur the local digital media industry. The Academy of Interactive Entertainment, a technical college of sorts for the digital workforce, will set up shop at the LITE Center in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park, officials with ULL and AIE announced Thursday. The school will offer "top-tier" training and represents a big win for the state's emerging digital media industry, said Jeff Pellegrin, director of the Louisiana Digital Gaming Initiative. Pellegrin said the difficulty for the growing industry is often a chicken-or-egg problem - jobs are needed to spur demand for the training, but a trained workforce is needed to attract the jobs. "Lafayette just landed its biggest egg, and I can't wait to see the chickens come behind," he said. AIE was founded in 1996 in Australia and has three campuses in that country and one other U.S. campus, in Seattle, Wash., said Christopher Erhardt, head of AIE's U.S. campuses. He said Lafayette was chosen as a base for the school's Southern U.S. operations in part because of the strong local interest in digital media and in part because of the potential job opportunities for graduates. Louisiana is attracting a growing number of film productions, he said, but much of the supporting production work has gone back out of state because of the lack of a trained workforce. "We are here to develop the talent that can support it," Erhardt said. Pellegrin said he expects the school to serve as an incubator for new companies when students move out into the job market, and it could help attract the attention of major digital media developers and publishers because of AIE's strong relationships in the industry. The only admission requirement for the school is a high school diploma or a GED, but acceptance will be determined through interviews, Erhardt said. Tuition will be $7,500 per semester, or $30,000 for a two-year program, he said. Erhardt said the training is not limited to recent high-school graduates and that the average age of students at AIE's Seattle campus is 25. "We can show people that there are opportunities to learn a new skill, to learn a new occupation," he said. Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said he hopes the new school could help capture some of the jobs that have been pulling the younger generation out of Louisiana. "I want our kids and our young people to have the opportunity to stay home," he said. AIE's planned move to Lafayette will bring a second digital media operation to the LITE Center, a high-tech facility that was built to nurture high-tech initiatives. California-based digital effects company Pixel Magic opened an office at LITE in 2009 after traveling to the area for the Walt Disney Pictures production "Secretariat."
For more information on AIE program, visit http://www.theaie.us/