Published on 7 September 2012
What first inspired you to get into animation?
I always drew and was going to do illustration in university but was very interested in animation so chose a uni that did both – Hull School of Art and Design. Once I got things moving I couldn’t stop.
How did you first break into the industry?
I graduated in 1998 with a film I am still very proud of. I applied to 2D animation companies; getting their addresses from a book called Animation UK (AWN (the Animation World Network) now has a database online). I wanted to get out of the city so applied to rural companies, researching and looking at their work to see if I would fit in. My first job was at West Highland Animation in the Trossachs; I was there for over three years. I loved it and gained invaluable experience making gaelic films on 35mm film, track laying, model making, editing, doing character design and concepts, making interactive comics and CD Roms.
Were there any people who supported/mentored/championed you early on? How important are these kinds of relationships?
When I moved to Bristol in 2007, after working in London for many years as a freelancer, I found work at ArthurCox – started by Sally Arthur and Sarah Cox in 2005. They made a home for many talented people and nurtured and fed us (taking it in turns to cook, we ate together every day, which made us into more of a family). I got a job as a designer and stayed on, animating, designing and starting to direct. They encouraged me when I had my idea for Mother Of Many to apply for digital short funding and gave me a huge amount of support. This wasn’t early on in my career but is what boosted me, to be excited and in love with my career again and take it to a new level.
If you hadn’t managed to break into animation, what was your plan B?
I still have two plan Bs that I’m very keen to do one day. One is to own a pie shop at the seaside, the other is to be a midwife. I planned to retrain after I finished Mother Of Many but found a bigger love of my career as an animation director. I realised how much good I can do. Since MOM I made a film about Radiotherapy that’s used in hospitals to help children understand the process, and a short for a Marie Stopes on how to find the Fallopian Tubes. I intend to keep making medical animation. I also recently studied to be a Doula (birth partner), as this way I can do both. I attended my first birth a few days ago, it was amazing.
Which professional figure in animation do you find the most inspiring?
I have always been a big fan of Mark Baker. I love his early work The Village and Hill Farm. I love the subtlety and lack of dialogue and strong narrative. The character design and choice of colour and sound in these films is perfect. He is who inspired me when I was a student and always has. Along with Neville Astley (the company is now Astley Baker Davies) they were a big part in the creation of Cel-Action, a traditional cut-out animation programme used for many series. They’re the creators of Peppa Pig which is very funny.
Which film/TV programme do you wish you could have worked on and why?
The Big Knights by Astley Baker, because it’s hilarious and beautiful.
What single piece of advice would you give to an aspiring animator trying to stand out from the crowd?
Make a film about something you are passionate about and have a clear goal written down to keep pulling you back on track.
How do you think animation will change in the next few years?
With CG constantly moving forward and getting more realistic and complex, I’m happy to see a move back into more traditional handmade animation. I hope this never disappears.