Articles

Annecy 2014 - Le best of
Aidan picks his highlights from the famous French festival

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Annecy International Animation Festival. Personally this was a special edition of the festival as Wildernuts, a show I worked on at Kavaleer, was in competition and it was great to see it on the big screen.

Despite the great weather, beautiful scenery and abundance of cheese, I managed to get to some other screenings too - here are a few highlights...


Features


The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)
A really beautifully executed story showing (according to its studio Ghibli co-founding director) the human and emotional side of this very well known Japanese folk tale. Particularly striking are the wonderful backgrounds and hauntingly beautiful pencilly line work - a real treasure



Giovanni's Island (Mizuho Nishikubo)
A powerful moving film set during the war, this feature really impressed with a great story, strong animation and a excellent art direction.



Cheatin' (Bill Plympton)
No Annecy is complete with something from Mr Plympton. This year was a real treat with this feature that was as funny as it was well drawn. The painterly colour added extra sparkle to the piece.




The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (Mami Sunada)
Fascinating and surprising, warts-and-all documentary about the three founders of the Ghibli Studio in Japan. Highly recommended.



Phantom Boy (Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol)
Presented as a work in progress, from Folimage in a similar style as A Cat in Paris, this feature is shaping up visually and story wise to be a cracker.



Shorts


Anatole's Little Saucepan (Eric Montchaud)
A really charming short in both story and style that deservedly picked up the audience award.



Pickman's Model (Pablo Angeles)
A brilliant stop motion realisation of the H.P. Lovecraft story. Fantastic design and cinematography.



365 (The Brothers McLeod)
A great idea (director Greg McLeod animated one second of animation per day for a full year) brilliantly executed and wonderfully watchable.



Land (Masanobu Hiraoka)
Beautiful alomst abstract piece - pure animation



Dwarf Giant (Fabienne Giezendanner)
Gorgeous short based on an old Innuit tale with excellent design.



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20/20 Hindsight: An Untold Story of Work Experience

by Megan McMahon

I think some undergraduates dismiss work experience as just a transition year rite of passage and maybe feel that they are too old for that sort of thing. It is never too early in life to get this 'career business' sorted, it's true, but college is another great opportunity to make your education work for you if you only knew better what to do with it. A placement could even get you a job someday. “How does she know that?” I hear you ask – well it worked for me!

I am currently a Production Coordinator in Brown Bag Films and have been employed there full-time for the last two and a half years but it all began long ago with work experience.

On my first one week placement (3-4 years ago) I did my best to be conscientious of the fact that I was working in a big, busy company with real and scary deadlines. I made sure they knew any time I was freed up from my current task and did everything they asked me to with enthusiasm. If they needed some time with their own tasks before they got to me I busied myself with books from their library, caught up on episodes of shows that they gave me etc. If I noticed letters and packages building up I might offer to bring it down to the local post office and so on. I basically made myself as useful as possible without being too much of a nuisance.

While I was there I also got a chance to talk to their only 2D artist at the time Derek Horan who I was very inspired by among other Animators, Sound Engineers, Smoke Operators etc. I was so happy that they made time for me, it gave me some new ideas for potential career choices to mull over while back at college. My attitude and work ethic got noticed while I was there and a lovely person (who will remain nameless lest she get inundated with ‘GimmeJob‘ emails) gave me her card and asked me to keep in touch. I took the card, slightly terrified, since I had no clue what exactly I would say to keep in touch.

However, I managed to do so twice that year and about the same for the subsequent years. I kept up on what projects they were blogging about and if I saw something I was particularly interested in I might use it as an excuse to make contact and let her know how I was doing in college. By the next summer they had me back for three weeks in-house ‘Freelance' as a Storymatic Colourist on Doc McStuffins. I was really excited by the show and what it could do for kids everywhere, think I still even have the contract somewhere. These 3 weeks gave me the experience of meeting those deadlines I mentioned earlier and made me realise among other things that I really LOVED working as part of a team. That little morsel was a total shocker for me since most of my projects had been just me and I was under the impression that I had enjoyed that more. I was incorrect.

The following year I was still unsure of what I wanted to do and was looking at and applying to all companies in Ireland but I still really loved Brown Bag and the work they did so I kept a particular eye on their job vacancies. They were taking on a huge number of staff shortly after I graduated but I had no 3D skills to speak of since I had continued learning through 2D animation for my final year film. I thought it would make me a better animator to this - which it did - but did nothing for my Maya skills whatsoever. As you can imagine I wasn’t going to be right for any of the more artistic jobs right then but I knew I needed to get experience and my foot in the door fast before I lost my nerve.

I was successful in my interview for Production Assistant on The Henry Hugglemonster Show and haven’t looked back since. A production job definitely wouldn’t be the right path for everyone but because I have the unfortunate tendency to enjoy scheduling and helping to manage and be part of a team under pressure (don’t tell anyone about the scheduling part), it has been the best job for me. I have been able to gain experience in television animation, introduced to terms like 'Pipeline' and 'Shipment' which I now know have little to do with Ocean Cruisers in the context of animation. I have also seen first hand how the team works together, the challenges so far and their solutions, how to stay motivated and upbeat in the face of looming deadlines, and the glory of chocolate on a shipment night to name but a few. I have also made HUGE progress in deciding what I want to do next in my career from about seventy different options to roughly four which I am working hard at to make a reality for offshoots in my future career.

My story is what it is. Going back to the same company repeated times has worked out really well for me and I would recommend it. It meant that my future employees knew me and remembered I was a hard worker and an animation enthusiast. I was also quite familiar with how things were run so I would take a little less time to get used to the system there. I would definitely suggest to anyone reading this that you look into getting placements for more companies as well, don't just stick with your top one or two. Look into your top five at least. For starters you can never have too many friends in the industry. I just wonder if I had worked harder at securing job placements for more companies, would it have helped me to decide my career path quicker? I think the ideal that everyone should aim for is to narrow down what you want to do to your top five job types in your second last year in college and your top three or fewer if possible for your final year. That way your portfolio/resume reflects best where you want to be and you are in the position surrounded by tutors and classmates that can help you.

I always found the whole idea of work experience very daunting as a student so about a year ago I reached out with a survey to find out what people thought of as 'Dos and Don'ts' and what people found useful about giving work experience (listed below) in the hopes it might be a little less daunting for someone else. Special thanks to Catherine, Alison and everyone who answered the survey. I seriously appreciate it.

I really hope that this article might help some of you out there who are maybe unsure whether Work Experience is a good idea or not and maybe I've at least given you some food for thought and some opportunities to learn from my mistakes as well as the successes I've had along the way so far.


The Good the Bad and the Uglies: Dos and Don'ts

The Good

  • Do check in advance of when you are planning your placement as there might be long waiting lists and you don't want to get caught out.
  • When applying first find out by phone if they want to see your Portfolio/Resume and in what format – this is your first opportunity to make a good impression.
  • Do call 3-5 working days after sending in your application just to follow up as it will let them know you are particularly interested and give them another opportunity to remember your name.

When you're there...

  • Be conscious that the company you are working for is busy but do let them know that you are free from your current task to help them out when they need you.
  • Nerd up on any company you are working with. It shows you are genuinely interested in what they do. It may even lead to an opportunity for you to use your skills e.g. If you particularly love modelling and you've maybe practiced the company/show style it's not entirely unlikely you could get a chance to do some simple work for them. It just can't hurt to prepare anyway.
  • Have a positive attitude – companies will love to help out their next generation of talented employees especially if they are excited to be part of the team and show a good work ethic.

The Bad

  • Don't let your Mom call especially if you are a college student it may call your initiative and drive into question – companies will want to take on students who 'want' to be there not those who are forced to. 
  • Don't think that because a company doesn't have work experience advertised that they don't do it – it might just mean that they are booked in advance but could take you at a later time.
  • Don't hide away in a corner at lunch time you never know when you might get a chance to chat to someone about what they do in the company.

The Uglies

  • Unfortunately over the years I have seen a little ugly in this area. More than one young work experience candidate has stormed off and/or shouted at staff members because they are not getting to write scripts/direct/animate etc. It's wonderful if you feel confident in your abilities and ideas but remember you are there to gain experience and learn as much as you can. Helping the company out with odd jobs is part of it. You might even free someone up to chat to you later on in the day/week.
  • Working in an animation company is a team effort. Your future employers will be looking for someone who above all is pleasant to work with (as you will be spending lots of time together in the future if they employ you) and someone who can work well as part of the team apart from specific requirements of any given job.


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Le Best of Annecy 2012*

With Annecy 2013 only a month away - Aidan looks back at last year's festival...
2012 was particularlly special as Ireland was the spotlight country for the festival. Animation Ireland, The Irish Film Board and SDGI did a great job of promoting and putting together Irish events, retrospectives, exhibitions and of course parties!

On a personal level, this was lovely for me as I've only been back in Dublin working for a year and it finally gave me the opportunity to meet some of the wonderful folks from other studios around town.

Features

I got to see a few screenings and thought I post a couple of best stuff that I saw. Of the features, I saw and enjoyed The Lorax, Le Tableau, Zarafa and (having gone in to the screening, wanting to not like it) Madagascar 3.

The stand out film for me was the Spanish feature 'Wrinkles'

Shorts

I got to 3 out of the 5 shorts in competition screenings and saw and enjoyed this year's worthy winner 'Tram'

Below are a selction of other shorts that I really liked too...

The People Who Never Stop *teaser* from florian piento on Vimeo.

Second Hand from Isaac King on Vimeo.

Extracto de Lagrima from Carlo Vogele on Vimeo.

How to eat your Apple (teaser) from Erick Oh on Vimeo.

and finally the wonderful 'A Different Perpective' by Chris O'Hara

"A Different Perspective" Trailer from Chris O'Hara on Vimeo.

Other Bits n Bobs

There was as always lots of other stuff going on in the festival. With the Ireland focus going on, I nipped along to various Irish networking and special events - the one on Thursday featuring a moving speech from Tomm Moore. The culmination was a great night 'painting the town green' at Finn Kellys on Friday night - it was the party of the festival.

Most of the 'making ofs' were booked out by the time I got meself organised, but I did get along to an impressive presentation by Brown Bag about their new feature project 'Deep'.

I was also helping out on the (2D Animation software) CelAction stand in the MIFA and saw a great case study presentation from Celaction, Adobe and Jamie from Karrot Animation about their heart warming series 'Sarah and Duck'.

I also managaed to fit in one of the TV series in competiton screenings with some great stuff like 'Circus Show', 'Regular Show' and 'Save Your Planet'. This was the first time I had seen the fantastically mnetal, wow-I-can't-believe-they-actaully-made-this 'Secret Mountain Fort Awesome'.

So that's it for Annecy 2012 and that's enough text I reckon - the next post will have drawings in - I promise. Merci Annecy - à la prochaine!
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#001 - Interview with Derek Horan 2D Designer

I have had the pleasure of working with Derek for over a year now. Not only is he extremely talented and hardworking but he is also very generous with his time, knowledge and a very inspiring person to be around. If you’re ever having a moment’s doubt about working in the Animation industry, five minutes of talking with Derek will remind you of exactly why you really love Animation. Hope you guys enjoy.

Megan

What are the most useful skills for your area of work? Persistence, Self Discipline and Child-Like Curiosity about everything .

Was there anything in particular in College that particularly influenced your decision to become a 2D artist/designer etc. and has it been an organic process to this point in your career?

I would say it was a organic process i was lucky to work for small studios and so got to do a little of everything. Whatever was needed, I was the go-to-guy, be it clean up, storyboards, lip sync sound breakdown etc..college gave me the overview and something of an understanding of the many and varied areas of the industry.

How did you start in the industry?

It was that weird thing you get so focused on college then suddenly your out there in the “Real World” and you’re …not sure what to do..so the porfolios are sent out. I could not tell you the number of rejection letters i got and it does make it hard to keep going. You’re applying for any job, anywere, looking for that one chance to prove yourself when out of the blue someone I knew from college contacted me to ask if I would be intrested in doing some sound breakdown for her studio based in New York …So i jump on it not even thinking about whether I could do it. Just a big “Hell Yes!” ..next thing i know I am read up and trying to recall everything I can on sound breakdown …siting in a rented apartment with headphones ,stop watch, X Sheets  and a audio tape. I was so apprehensive sending off the finished X Sheets, convinced it was all going to go horribly wrong …next thing i know a cheque was in the post. That lead on to some more sound breakdown ..then some concept work and a trip out to New York…so a big Thank You to the person who give me that chance ..( a girl by the name of  Debbie).

For the love of all good things, please tell us the story of how you got hired at Brown Bag Films.

I had hit all the studios in Dublin at that time including Brown Bag, dropped off porfolios and everything and was having no luck. So there I was standing in line in the GPO with yet another porfolio under my arm, getting ready to post away to England ..and i hear a voice behind me it was DOC (Darragh O’ Connell – Co-Founder/Creative Director of Brown Bag Films). He asked if anyone had gotten back to me and the next thing I knew I was following him down a alley to Crows Lane. That night I handed in my notice to Dunnes Stores and I have never looked back since.

Throughout the years you have had many jobs even within Brown Bag tell me about them?

I really did little bits of everything; inbetweener …layout clean up …all real come under assisstant tittle but they were all such good ways of learn from the ground up I also animated some parts of Crap Rap in Flash – I had to learn flash pretty quickly.

How has the industry changed as you have been working in it? Is there anything you miss, is there anything that particularly gets you excited about the animation being done today, particularly in Ireland?

You do have does rose tinted glass look back for the classic animation but then you recall the sheer man hours that had to go in to it …but 2d Animation still has that special little place in my heart …and yet now you see just how fast Photoshop and 3DSMax have really come on over the years.

When going from Project to Project you are obviously dealing with very different styles regarding Art Direction, how do you get in the mindset to be able to draw in so many different styles?

It’s something i never really think about you just jump in feet First you take in everything you can on the Project ..with Meomi (Octonauts Creators) or NiamhSharkey (Creator of the Henry Hugglemonsters Show) you look up everything they have done or work on studying their style trying to get a insight in to how they see the world around them, their sense of humor and the worlds they create. It can be a little hit and miss at first and you see what they like and don’t like. The great thing with drawings is that when you work with people like Meomi or Niamh they can just scribble or doodle on my work  giving me clear guides to work on and from …and it’s great when you get to a stage were people no longer are sure what I have drawn and what they have drawn. That’s when you know your doing some thing Right

How do you keep yourself motivated,  and inspired during the week with the pressure of looming deadlines and the challenge of coming up with so many different choices for the designs?

It comes down to that self discipline, a level of professionalism and not wanting to let  the people you work with down. It really helps when the show you are working on are so much fun. Sure, every episode of the octonauts I really did learn something new about all sorts of different sea creatures. Working on The Henry Hugglemonster show it was just so good zip back and forth ideas and thoughts with Niamh bounce things back and forth you just can not fail to be inspired by working with such talented peole as Niamh, Bronagh O’ Hanlan (Art Director of Hugglemonsters and Doc McStuffins) or Norton (Series Director of Hugglemonsters and Doc McStuffins) and Meomi (to name a few).

Would you have any other tips for anyone trying to get in to the animation industry in Ireland especially students or anyone who wants to become an artist in this industry?

I think the best tip i can give is Never give up ..i know it sounds corney but just to have that bull head persistence to keep going ..and to all ways have that sense of  wonder and curiosity.

Just to finish off, here’s a link to a wonderful ‘Day in the Life of….’ interview Derek did for Brown Bag Films http://www.brownbagfilms.com/blog/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-2d-designer

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John Lasseter Notes

In 2011 John Lasseter visited Dublin to present Cars 2.  Aidan was there and gleaned the following pearls of wisdom from Mr. Pixar...

John Lasseter Q & A Notes

On Storytelling

3 things for a great film 1) A compelling & unpredictable story 2) with memorable characters 3) in their own believable world

Trust the original idea & trust the process - when boarding a sequence again and again – think of it like live action “coverage” (shooting different angles) - it's the only way to find out what works

Everything we do at Pixar serves the story

What is the 'emotion core' of the story

In sequels, never just tell the same story – always make it different

“Every Pixar film, at one point, looked like the worst movie ever made”

On the Business of Animation

Quality is the best business plan

A studio/company makes withdrawals and deposits with your audience – good movies are deposits; bad movies are withdrawals – always have money in the bank

On Animation

What is the character thinking? - 'Aiming' – character always anticipates by looking first then doing

In computer animation, you must respect the integrity of the material – you can get away with more squash and stretch in 2D animation.

Photo copyright IFTA 2011