Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tenacity and Talent - How to Survive and Thrive in Animation

Animated Yorkshire teamed up with Bradford Animation Festival and Imagine Animation on Friday 11th November for a networking lunch and a panel discussion.
I was so pleased by the response and the enthusiasm of everyone who came along.

Animated Yorkshire is a support organisation for animation - we provide encouragement and inspiration for animators who might otherwise be working on their own. We run events and training for animators and creative projects. We also run an agency to promote the work of 22 of our leading members.
We work with a small amount of funding from the University of Bradford, and from an annual subscription of £25 per year from our members.
Animated Yorkshire is co-ordinated by Kath Shackleton from a small office (formerly a shoe shop!) in the Pennine village of Marsden.
The Festival has provided an ideal opportunity for us to reach out to potential new members, partnerships and funding opportunities to sustain our work in the year ahead.
Find out more about us at www.animatedyorkshire.co.uk, and follow us on Twitter @AnimYorks.

So - on to survival in animation! Sticky times for some, but others are managing to do rather well. What can we learn from one another?
First to speak was Rob Millington Lead Creative from Manchester agency, The Neighbourhood. He animates using After Effects and really enjoys what he does. He showed his graduation motion graphics work from Salford and described his early days working as a freelancer in London. He had strong work and got varied experience, delivering animation projects for commercial clients.
He came to work at The Neighbourhood earlier this year and has really enjoyed being part of a creative studio - everyone bounces ideas off each other. The Neighbourhood work across design, animation, architecture, contemporary culture and science, combining technology, imagination and craft to define architecture, design imagined worlds, and to tell brand stories.
They've a great showreel, and have swooped up lots of awards - check this out

I found their work really inspiring - it's great working on your own - but wow this showed what can be achieved when a team collaborate creatively!

Rob ran out of time to tell us all about the making of one of my favourite adverts on TV at the moment - will have to get him back sometime to tell us more about this one!

Next to speak was freelancer David Bunting who described his varied career working as an effects artist in feature films, storyboarding on Shaun the Sheep, his education work with young people and working as a producer on award winning short film The Astronomers' Sun.

The Astronomer's Sun is the most successful animation yet made by Screen Yorkshire, and David showed us just how many animation festivals the film was rejected by before it went on to win multiple awards and screenings.
Resilience is key to David's success - you need to keep on going!
David's passion for animation fuels him, as does his willingness to adapt, learn and seize new opportunities.

Linda McCarthy is the creator of the idents for this year's Festival alongside her cousin cartoonist Stephen Appleby, who also joined us in the audience. She's worked in stop-motion animation to bring Stephen's Small Birds Singing comic strips to life in stop motion animation. She's a ceramicist by background, with brief spells working in puppetry and dabbling briefly in taxidermy! We were treated to her latest film Hinterland - which is excellent.

In her presentation Linda showed us photos of the garage which is her studio, with her kiln and her stop motion kit, bought cheaply from an animation studio which was closing down. Core to her work is high production values, which she has achieved by getting advice from others with complementary skills who are good at what they do, such as lighting designer Joe Dembinski.
She also gets out there and enjoys promoting her work at Festivals - although yet to win an award - it is only a matter of time before she gets deserved accolades!
Linda has a generosity and a warmth about her and her work, which I very much enjoy.

Fans of stop motion went on to enjoy the work of the lovely Mr Mole Hill. His real name is Matthew, but boy is Mole much more memorable - a good name is a starting block for him! Quite early on in his career, Mole got involved on the creative team making animated adverts, which led into him being invited onto well-known TV series.
Mole had some success with the series Yo-Ho Ahoy for CBeebies, which did really well for a short time, but suffered due to a change in management direction at the beeb. We all love the work he did as part of the team on The Ooglies - such a simple idea, why didn't we think of that?
Here's a snapshot of what he's done - some fantastic work.

A nice guy - who works hard and keeps striving to stay good at what he does!
Advice for a bad day - when you are waiting to find out if a job is going to happen, book a holiday you can't afford and you can guarantee it will come off!

Whirling up next to speak was Tim Searle from Baby Cow Animation, up from London especially to be on our panel. He works with Steve Coogan and Henry Normal and does lots of comedy based animation. They do both "gun for hire" work and also promote their own ideas. Balancing riskier projects and safer "bread and butter" work has been key.
We saw animation made for the stadium tours of comedian Lee Evans.
He showed work with comedian John Bishop where they animated to a very fast turnaround to audio, this became part of a football based comedy app. The app was not as successful as anticipated, but the animation still stands up well.

Getting to animation festivals has been pretty important for him. Last year at BAF, he met Alex Collier, and has been setting about adapting his favourite comic Viz for animation for Channel 4's Comedy Blaps.
He's also developed a pre-school TV series called Wussywat, the adventures and discoveries of a clever but clumsy cat.
Check out the studio showreel - see what you can spot that you recognise. Such amazing work!

Tim's passion and dedication to animation was apparent throughout everything he talked about. He was also saying "Never mind Talent, it's Tenacity and Tenacity" that matters (easy to say with a showreel THAT good!).
He's also had to have nerves of steel at times through the risky times, and keep calm and confident on the surface whilst panicking like mad underneath!

Last but certainly not least was the wonderful Matt Howarth from Puppetman Productions. This man has been there, seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. Former Head of Animation and Special Effects at Granada TV, there's not much this man has not done!
His showreel made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck!

Matt's been saving up over a number of years whilst he's been doing his commercial work, in order to be able to do work which satisfies his own personal creativity. He's an artist in residence at Dean Clough in Halifax. He's written and designed his own animated series. Most recently, he's teamed up with illustrator Chris Mould to design his first ever app. He tried to recruit a game developer but found everyone to be too busy to sustain interest in helping him develop his ideas. So he's learned to programme too - developing his new game with Game Salad. Check out his lovely game - it's great fun!

Matt's advice was just to keep going - stick at it and do what you love!

Thanks so much to our super panel for a really enjoyable session.
Our panel also donated some gorgeous raffle prizes which rounded off our time very nicely!
Thanks to all of the staff and volunteers at Bradford Animation Festival who made this possible, and to Imagine Animation for their support.

Really excited to announce that for our Christmas Event Alex Collier, Tim's colleague on the Viz animation is coming on Thursday 8th December at Barnsley Digital Media Centre - why not come along? All welcome. More details here

Looking forward to the next one!
Kath Shackleton
Managing Director/Producer
Animated Yorkshire