Manimation 2014 – Making It
Manimation Fusion – 20 November 2014 – The Morecambe and Wise Room, BBC Bridge House, Media City Salford.
Making It – Why, What and How we do it…
Paul Newman Director of Communications – The Peel Group
Jackie Edwards Executive Producer, Animation and Acquisitions – CBeebies
Jean Flynn Producer/Director – Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick
Cathal Gaffney CEO – Brown Bag Films
Damien Lynch Head of Post Production – 422.tv
Tony Prosser MD – RealtimeUK
Paul Newman outlined from his perspective at Peel Holdings – owners of Media City – how important animation was to the concept. Although Media City had an impressive array of larger concerns such as ITV, the BBC and Salford University, it was prominently a facility full of smaller media companies – the idea of clustering was working well.
Jean Flynn outlined the history of Cosgrove Hall and news of the new company CHF with series in production now.
Damien Lynch opened by saying 422 thought of themselves as a post-production company but much of their work was associated with animation. When asked to do the session he considered how much animation has come on in Manchester with an estimated 60 companies engaged in various forms. Mark Hall – one of the founders of Cosgrove Hall – started in the basement of the building 422 are now working in. 45 years later it feels like an industry that has thoroughly put down its roots, and broadened its scope into effects, corporate, gaming and Manchester is now Britain’s second city for advertising.
Jackie Edwards explained her role at CBeebies including assessing pre-school and younger projects in development which are sent to the BBC – 1200 last year – which they have to whittle down to a manageable list for consideration for acquisition or pre-buy. She revealed that they will look at everything from a one-sheet idea, or a simple picture book, to highly developed projects from major companies. In the end it will always be about what resonates for the audience – and what makes a project stand out as intriguing.
Tony Prosser showed an impressive reel of Realtime‘s work in high-end, sometimes highly photorealistic animated sequences and explained Realtime’s main work was in creating video games trailers. But this was now extending out into lifelike character animation for some TV series.
Paul Newman opened the business oriented questioning by asking Cathal Gaffney where he thought the staff for his new studio were going to come from. Cathal said that they would probably come from all over Europe – animators seemed particularly migratory people – but Manchester by preference.
Jean Flynn talked about historic difficulties in getting hold of trained staff in the past. In recent history there had been a gap because without the tax breaks that Ireland had, the staff ewer just not needed in the UK and therefore not being trained. This was starting to be resolved. Jean had a feeling that more recently people with drawing skills who were encouraged to develop those skills during their courses were now starting to come through the colleges.
Damien said that the entrance into post-production was almost inevitably training on the job. Recruiting remains a tricky business for them.
Jackie Edwards described the apprenticeship scheme that the BBC had run when BBC Children’s came to Manchester and that some of those people were now star players in the in-house team. On animation, there has been a huge increase in the number of courses across the country so in theory this should produce more talented people over the next few years.
Tony Prosser said that at Realtime they take both seasoned experts in but also recent graduates and they use a buddy system to help them along, but it had taken a good six month after set up before they started to see really interesting CV’s – it’s difficult to get the information about opportunities out to the right people.
Undergraduates in the audience were quizzed as to how their courses were stacking up to prepare them for the industry. Jean Flynn reminded them that being a storyboard artists or animator in the end was about being a storyteller – “submerge yourself in really good storytelling”.
But can storytelling be taught – or is it innate in the person, asked ones delegate? Cathal Gaffney aid that it was about the quality of inspiration in the teaching – not the elements in the courses. Jackie Edwards believed it was a combination of nature and nurture, but inspiration was vital. Cathal felt that cooperation between universities and the industry was also vital.
Takeaway: More communication with colleges would be of help.
Tony Prosser was asked about process and timeline when making a trailer for a video game. The game itself has a hugely intricate timetable of work – how did the animated previews fit in with that? Tony said simply that constant communication was the key to success.
Tony Prosser agreed with an audience member that collaboration between companies and between regions was vey important to develop strengths in the industry. Working in the face of massive competition from outside the UK, the speakers felt that while regional support was very useful and regional partnerships important to develop strengths in depth, it’s also important to seek out broader partnerships across the UK to achieve the sacel and range of skills and expertise needed to make some of the larger projects.
There was a tendency in the early stage development of companies to avoid this – but it was vital for good business development. Jackie Edwards supported this from the perspective of “spreading the BBC love” and following through on the BBC’s commitment to expand business outside the M25.
Takeaway: Look for partnerships to achieve scale and range.
A discussion on new ways of considering funding followed. Is it a reality that the traditional build up of a co-production portfolio of funding – broadcasters, distributor, licences – is being superceded by new ideas? Jean Flynn revealed that at CHF they are using EIS funding and of course the tax break as the backbone of their projects. Cathall talked about disruption in the TV business. “The next 5 years are going to see more change than the previous 50”. Some stability is brought by tax credits in different European counties. They are very important to achieve the funding needed and are producing more content than previously. But producers need to be very entrepreneurial about how they finance programmes from now on.
Takeaway: Producers need to be aware of the various new forms of funding,the new platforms and the ways in which they commission and still keep the connections with the traditional broadcasters. Deal making becomes more complex, but can potentially create more flexible scenarios so that things get made.