Don’t we all remember those fabulous school trips back in the day? Last April we, master animation students, had the privilege to go on a field trip to London to see and get in touch with the professional animation industry. A short report on the impressions and revelations experienced on the trip.
Students: Jeroen Bijl, Anya Shapira, Leevi Lethinen, Idris van Heffen & Simon Buijs
Studio AKA | http://www.studioaka.co.uk/
Is an animation studio with focus on narrative stories through character animation. They believe that the way to success is found in creativity, authenticity and believability. They are more traditional narrative animators. Being small enables them to produce original works without being bound by rules or regulation. By staying small they can assure the quality of work and assure work for all the directors. Even though they are always looking for new talent they tend to work with a core team of creatives.
Nexus Productions | http://www.nexusproductions.com/
A production house which specializes in interactive projects and innovative ways of reaching an audience. They balance them between art and commercial work. They are known to create work opportunities by showcasing their latest developments and through this process they positioned themselves as leaders in the interactive branch.
The shift towards more interactive projects seems to have a big priority for them (at least for Cedric Gairard), so they can directly reach their audience as those of their clients. What sets Nexus apart is their knowledge and research into interactive and experience design across the whole multimedia landscape and so offering clients new ways of reaching their audience.
UVA | http://www.uva.co.uk/
United Visual Artist is a company which purely focuses on interactive installations and software development. When we visited they were working on a commissioned project for National Maritime Museum (http://www.uva.co.uk/news/high-arctic-opening-14-july). UVA was unique in the group of visited studio’s, as it was more directed towards live performances than to animation. Animation is a part of their work, but not as great part as with the others. Interesting though, for discussing the boundaries of animation.
Onedotzero | http://www.onedotzero.com/
Not all of the animation business in London is based on commercial work. Onedotzero is the platform that showcases the future and the uncharted boundaries of the animation spectrum. The organization was purely created from the love for animation and the urge to help new and upcoming artists. Through the past decade they have established themselves as a leading platform for animation and have build a vast network, festivals and screenings that promotes animation and related media all over the world. The story they told about the history of the company was very interesting to hear. About making the right moves and right decisions at the right time, which simultaneously gave a nice overview of the recent history of the development and broadening of the digital animation field, into mobile, interactive, generative forms. They seem to know and monitor well the course animation is heading to.
Picasso Pictures | http://www.picassopictures.com/
Picasso Pictures had the most versatile style out of the studios we visited and the directors seemed to have the most artistic freedom. They represent a total of 20 directors with their very own and unique style. They see them selves somewhere between a production house and an agency. They provide their London based directors with assignments, offices and technical support. They also work with directors outside UK, for example from Spain, Germany, and in the Netherlands. Due to do rapid growth of the internet and technology it is not longer mandatory to be based in the UK.
IMPRESSIONS FROM THE TRIP
According to Leevi Lehtinen it was surprising that they all were very approachable both as individuals and as professionals. You don’t have to be super talented to work in the studios in London, but you must be ready to work extremely hard. And the starting salary for an animator in London can be extremely low. Due the economic crisis, the budgets are getting smaller but studios still maintain money flow by branching their animation services out. For example internet banners, games and merchandise.
Jeroen Bijl has similar thoughts to Leevi. “It was surprising in a way how nice, open and approachable the people we met were. They were willing to listen and answer our questions, and very willing in general to talk and discuss about all animation related subjects. Besides that, I got the impression that they really ‘live the animation life’. What I mean by this is that they work long hours, and even after working hours, they are still in one way or another involved with their work, or with the animation field. If you want to work in the London animation field you must be willing to give all your time for it.”
What Philip Hunt of studio AKA made very clear was, that the field can be very competitive, which he illustrated with his experiences with pitches. Often, the material shown during pitches are already worked out to an extent that it is almost finished in animations and designs. These pitches have become time consuming and costly when lost.
“What surprised me was how straight forward the business is. I found out that the path of success is paved with only one thing, hard work!” concludes Idris van Heffen. “Especially when we visited Nexus production I noticed that these people don’t really use any extraordinary means to create their work, they just work. “They’re looking not necessarily for superb technical animators, but more for uniqueness. Create your own work and stick with it they say. Eventually you will be noticed as long as you stay true to yourself. In regards to uniqueness you don’t even have to show a big animation reel, illustration work is also usable. Be yourself. Be Epic!”
“Another thing I found interesting was the fact creating context is really important. Context creates depth. Depth which can be used to promote your work though social media like Facebook and Twitter. Crowd funding is becoming more common. Success nowadays is found though the variability of your work.”
Anya Shapira continues: “Cedric Gairard mentioned the importance of making a publication about your work. By publishing a text you might reach more people than only via exhibiting. People can learn more about your concept and motivations.”
“Also Claire Tredgett from Picasso Pictures suggested to be constantly busy with even small animation tryouts and to make sure people can easily see them. This might help to get noticed for certain projects that match ideas or style.”
JUST DO IT!
“What I personally learned from our trip”, says Simon Buijs, “were the inspiring quotes of wisdom by Studio AKA’s Philip Hunt: “… Make sure you have more interests than animation.” , “ …. just keep making drawings and animations…” , “ …let your work be seen on the internet! ” . But above all, the lesson learned by this trip is that it is not impossible to get to a level where they are. We just have to work a bit harder.”
Leevi Lethinen continues: “If I decide to go for commercial side, I feel easier to contact the studios I’ve visited. I choose to work differently, because at the moment it’s possible for me. I mean that it’s possible for me to aim to the artistic side, instead of commercial side. London after all, is a center for commercial animation, not animation art.”
Idris elaborates on what he learned. “I mentioned a few things earlier, but I’ll say them again: Go all the way, be honest, be fucked up, make friends and work together. Be yourself. Be Epic! As Simon said it’s not impossible at all the work on the level of London as long as you believe in yourself and follow up with the right amount of work. It might be a gamble, but if feels better being good in what you like to do rather than what you think is expected. One question Leon asked repeatedly was: How do you become successful? They all had the same answer, do what you think is right. Which is easier said that done. Another thing was that was mentioned was that experience is required to work in London. Normally Londoner animators have worked 5 to 10 years in the business before they start working in London. That combined with the fact a lot of them don’t even earn that much money, makes me question if I actually would want to work there.”
And Jeroen Bijl concludes: “For me it was like a combination of it being very inspirational and a reality-check. All the stories, and work we’ve seen, they worked inspirational in a way that I also just want to go and make cool, good-looking stuff, and at the same time as a reality-check, that if you want to make it in this field, that is exactly what I should be doing, just making a lot of good stuff!”
TO SUM UP..
Meeting the people behind the London animation industry was inspiring and motivational for all the students. It gave a good insight into the inner workings and functioning of the companies, the way they do pitches and the cultural climate of London. We can conclude that we get to their level of work if we keep on making inspiring work and get seen. We can get there as well.