10/12/20 • Animation Insights

How to be an animator: part two

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When it comes to animation, there really is no one-size-fits-all career path. In the second of our three-part series, we are hearing from some more crew members on how they started working in the industry. Find the first part here.

The baptism of fire

This next story from Rufus Dexter has all the qualities of becoming its own film! The converted candy factory, the eccentric director, the alcohol fuelled script-reading, it’s almost like Withnail does animation. Rufus tells it best.

“An enterprising young director called me out for coffee in Brick Lane after seeing my grad film. I then spent the next 8 months storyboarding a 20-minute cartoon with him in his top-floor flat in a converted candy factory.

“To add some context, my grad film ended up falling back on rigged animation, rather than the usual hand-drawn purist approach that university students aim for – something that this director noticed, since he was broke and couldn’t afford to produce an episode of hand-drawn animation to TV quality. This was an eccentric guy. He’d been living in a studio space meant for artist workshops and had snuck a bed into the corner which could be folded away if a building inspector came around.

Rufus Dexter, Animator

“He threw parties that spilled out of the flat and out of the window to the rooftop, our table reading of the episode script was done half-drunk and with young bohemian stand-up comedians standing in for roles. The whole thing was trial-by-fire. I think it taught me everything I needed over the course of a year to board, animate, comp, and produce an entire cartoon.” – Rufus Dexter, Animator.

The forever nerd

Of course, there are always those that have been drawn to animation (excuse the pun) their entire lives. One such artist is Fanny Martin.

“I always was a nerd” she says “and loved video games and cartoons and drawing comics. My first love was with Monsters Inc. where the CG fascinated me!” When Fanny watched the bonus DVD of The Corpse Bride, which included a behind the scenes look at how the movie and the puppets were made, she began to see her career goal take shape.

Fanny Martin, Animator

Around the age of 7 or 8, Fanny began creating a monthly magazine for her sister and her mother. A few years later, she started playing around with stop motion. “At 12, I did a couple of raw stop motions using my mom’s laptop’s camera with a wooden model we had. After that, I kept doing small edits over music on window movie makers, learned photoshop and very basic video making over the years. Also stared a bit much at people’s ways of moving. In high school, I joined a club of short film making (live action) to keep the passion alive but the second I learned there was an animation school in town, it locked my fate.” – Fanny Martin, Animator

The EU Fund Officer

Oftentimes, those who move into the animation industry do so from another creative career. It doesn’t always follow though.

Christine Tong, Lead Scene Prep Artist, worked as an EU Fund Officer in Malta for three years before she “side-stepped into the industry”. Unlike Fanny Martin, Christine did not have the benefit of being raised in the vicinity of an animation school. “I got interested in making animation when I was a teenager,” she says “but it didn’t cross my mind that I could make a career out of it until much later, as there aren’t any proper animation schools where I come from, and I didn’t really know anyone else interested around me”.

When Christine finished her contract in Malta, she took the plunge and moved to the UK, where she studied Animation Production in Bournemouth. After graduation, Christine went on to secure a role at the SPA Studios in Madrid, before joining us here in Lighthouse. The rest is a history yet to be written.

The mentee

Sometimes, studying an official programme opens up doors to opportunity in the form of internships and mentoring. Kate Hughes, a graduate of IADT, has this to say about her experience:

“In my final year of IADT I was part of a group that helped organise internships for our year group – really it was lucky timing, as many companies were interested in expanding that year. We sent emails around to the studios to see who would be interested in mentoring some people who had just graduated and received more replies than we expected! With the help of the college staff, representatives from several companies in Ireland came in. We organised a few days where they could have meetings with each person in the year who wanted to meet with them, and look at portfolios etc.

Kate Hughes, Background Artist

“In the end, a lot of people ended up with paid internships before the year was over – some short and some longer-term, and we got some great mentoring with a foot in the door at least. A lot of people find it really hard to get that first step in, and we were extremely fortunate that the year we graduated was one where Irish animation companies had just begun thinking about larger scale internships.” – Kate Hughes, Background Artist

Unlike some other careers, the entry into animation doesn’t always follow a traditional path. But what advice would our crew offer to those just starting out? Find out in part three of our blog series on how to be an animator here!

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