I am so glad that I have managed to visit the Manchester Animation Festival again this year after being unable to go last year. This is a fantastic festival showcasing and celebrating all things animation with panels, Q&A’s and screenings over the three days that can certainly get your creative juices flowing. Over the next few weeks I shall be going over the highlights of each of the events I got the chance to see in November, so don’t forget to come back for more!
Animated Answers: Little or Large, Which Studio is Best for You?
This is a great new series of panels come together to answer any questions we have relating to the subject, in this case the subject of studio work and which sort of studio, whether little or large, would be best for us. The panel included Tom Box [co-founder of Blue Zoo], Cliodhna Lyons [animator and illustrator working on various roles and projects over the years] and Bill Gordon [animator and director with 20 years experience in the industry].
They started with a little about themselves, Box had a university start, studying Computer Visualization and Animation in Bournemouth University. And decided to start Blue Zoo with a few friends and colleagues from the University as they saw there was a gap in the market as it was more of the start of Computer Animated work in the UK. Lyons studied Animation at Ballyfermot College of Further Education in Dublin before studying Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City where she ended up in a collective independent group for anarchy and politics while studying. After which she has worked in various different studios and projects across the world. Gordon started his career as an accountant with a degree in business but when a friend asked him for help in post-production and sound work the film he was working on he thought it would be a fun project to do and ended up being something he enjoyed more than accounting and so lead to working his way up in the industry. He was given the opportunity to direct in Hallifax, Canada, where he worked for about 12 years before moving to Manchester for Brown Bag Films that he currently works at.
Next is the big question of which studio environment is best for you. And here were some of the points they discussed: If good at tackling problems then start in small studios. As there is more of a chance to figure out what it is you want to do specifically in such an environment as you do a little of everything with less staff working there.
Big studios are much more likely to be working on just one thing as there would be teams working on each part throughout a production. Use interviews to find if a studio is the right place for you. But don’t necessarily feel the need to focus now. As with social media nowadays it is difficult not to feel the need to have a ‘niche’ already and be the best and showcase that and only that already. But variety of skills can sometimes be your ally. Don’t be afraid to learn more and do more too cause you’re readiness to help on all aspects of a job can sometimes work in your favour. You should also try to do things outside of work too if you can as this gives you the chance to try out and build on your portfolio.
Production Managers are important to keeping a team on focus and therefore on time. At the end of the day it just has to get done. You need to be able to give and receive feedback to get something done. Communication and respect between colleagues with the goal in mind is key. So make sure not to be too protective of your own work as it will be critiqued and things will likely change with it. “He who has the gold makes the goals.” Therefore don’t be too precious of things and know your thoughts on others work.
These were just a few of the key points made in this panel with Tom Box, Cliodhna Lyons and Bill Gordon on the first day of Manchester Animation Festival this year within the new ‘Animated Answers’ segment.
Animated Women UK
Jo Chalkley, Animation Director of Factory; Nicola Paglia, Writer, Director and Development Consultant; Angela Salt, Writer and Founder of Salt Content; Sarah Legg-Barratt, Producer at CBeebies; Beth Parker, Animation Chair at Animation Women UK
The Animated Women UK Team came in to tell their stories, journeys and work in the industry. Giving tips and answering questions to help those in the audience. The group was founded to celebrate the Women in animation and to try help make the industry more of an equal standing between men and women. I actually had the chance to hear from this company at the last Manchester Animation Festival I attended back in 2016 so it was really great to get the chance again this year. Especially with the #metoo campaign since has opened up that such issues still exist for so many women.
“Diversity is about being invited to the party
Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
There seems to be a level playing field on the outside and not on the inside but getting better all the time. This group of inspirational women are a support network if needed when working in the industry. It’s found that women are celebrated in the media much more, but at markets (such as kid screen) you don’t meet many women creatives there. However production is more female orientated, is this the stereotype of women being more organised?
“You can’t be what you can’t see”
If we saw more women directors doing great jobs and getting recognition for this then this would possibly help make the world of directors much more even a field. But remember directing isn’t just creative, you need as many rounded skills as possible to be successful in such a role as you overlook the whole of a production.
Animated Women UK are also trying to show more of a cultural shift in their shows too. We get a lot of one voice so important to get more of a change to avoid the repetition. And if there isn’t a mix of people within a studio how can you have a mix of people in a show. All the writers would be speaking more in 3rd person as they cannot capture something they are not, as well as someone who has actually been through it. Sarah Legg-Barratt spoke about this BBC show she has been working on about autistic people, the first draft with the initial writers was never going to be as strong as the ones that came from autistic people they decided to work with.
One of the tips that most stood out to me was their suggestion to make something yourself when outside of work. But make sure to think commercial too as the work could become part of your portfolio you give out for job applications. And so they suggested having it fit the tone of what you want to work on. It’s also a great idea to look to the future and write on that – an anniversary, an event so prepared for it and have time to create something great in time [something I probably haven’t given myself enough of with my own Animated Advent Calendar Personal Project]. A few other tips that Animated Women UK gave was to be nice to those you meet and work with in the industry and keep in contact as you never know what the future may hold. Don’t just stay in your bubble – you need to look at the market and see what is happening outside, go to markets and networking events.
And so I shall leave you with this Body Language tip: pretend to be wonder woman over a doll and you will feel more confident, you will still be nervous but act confident.