Question Time: The UK Animation Sector – Current Issues and Future Prospects

Posted on: Monday 14 March 2016 11:10am by Kath Shackleton

Some of the supporters of the new Animation UK industry body gathered to talk about its potential role and organisational set up, and to listen to the opinions of CMC Animation Exchange delegates.

Greg Childs, Editorial Director, CMC

Oli Hyatt                             Blue Zoo Animation
Greg Lynn                          Adrenalynn
Kate O’Connor                 Senior Consultant
Tim Searle                         Tiger Aspect
Lindsay Watson              CANUK Productions
Alix Wiseman                   Aardman Animation

CMC Animation Exchange 2016 – Question Time: The UK Animation Sector – Current Issues and Future Prospects from Children’s Media Conference on Vimeo.

The participants opened the conversation with some remarks on the state of and future of the UK animation industry.

The sector needs to find ways to improve how it calculates the value it puts back into the economy, if it is to gain more support from government.

The sector needs to come together to raise its profile and help government to understand what it contributes.

Lindsay Watson discussed how the UK has become an expensive place to make animation.  But it would take so little to fill the gaps in policy which could lead to more support.

Kate O’Connor has seen in her work with Creative Skillset just how hard it is if for the sector to even get to the table in government circles.  She’s a great admirer of the animation sector and has lots that she can offer to help moving forward.

Greg Lynn  from Adrennalynn felt that Lindsay Watson’s report was most welcome if a tad depressing! The tax break helped level the playing field, but other countries have now invested more in their incentives to make more attractive packages.  The animation industry in Ireland barely existed before the government started backing it, and is now a roaring fire, bringing great benefits to the country, and has had its support increased recently.

In return for support at the international markets, UK animation producers have to give away too much of their IP in the UK to other countries. We have to show British investors that they can make a profit from animation.  We are great in the UK at creating characters that travel globally, but need to hang on to as much IP as we possibly can.

Alix Wiseman  from Aardman  feels frustrated that they directly produce too little, it takes too long and is too expensive.

Development financing is a big issue for them. They don’t have deep coffers and have to turn to Creative Europe for support and from their broadcast partners.  If there were more funds in the UK they’d be developing more shows.

This has led to a severe squeeze on risk taking – which isn’t healthy going forward.

Tim Searle from Tiger Aspect Productions  was involved from the earliest days in setting up Animation UK.  They started in a pub in Soho, came up with the Animation UK report, which  got noticed by government, put their suits on and went to the Treasury to get their tax break.

The high-end drama sector piggybacked on their success, an the animation sector wasn’t given the credit for its leading work.

We need to demonstrate that animation is a real industry that can bring home the bacon!

Tiger Aspect is the company that produced Mr Bean and has the biggest studio in the UK.  The tax break made a huge difference and supported excellent people all paying tax and doing really well.  For every pound from the tax break £12.49 is returned to the economy in various taxes.

Why are we still seen as outsiders?  There’s lots of work to be done for us to get the credit for our industry.

Kate O’Connor has offered to help set up the trade association to build the evidence that will lead to the animation industry getting the 4 “Ps” it needs – profile, presence, prominence and policy.

Floor discussion

IMG_2901There was discussion in the following areas

  • The need to build understanding and respect for our sector and its contribution to the wider economy and culture.
  • The need to set 2 – 5 clear objectives for the organisation that everyone can sign up to and to create a marketing plan around those ideas..
  • The need to attract investors towards animation and build partnerships to develop sustainable funds for animation.
  • The way that the UK is losing IP to other countries.
  • The Apprenticeship Levy will affect all of us, even small companies.  There is some work to do to help it fit our sector.  Skillset are working on standards for this and developing degree level apprenticeships as well as 18 – 19 year olds.
  • The need for the new trade organisation to be properly resourced with staff, marketing and travel budget.
  • The need to work closely with PACT to understand the points of difference between PACT and the new organisation. Tony Collingwood from the PACT children’s committee welcomed the new organisation nd said that he felt it was sufficiently differentiated.  It was clear that PACT would deal with the larger strategic issues and that Animation UK would be  in a position to address more detailed policy issues directly affecting their members.
  • Defining relationships and advocating for improvements with key players such as the BBC and the BFI.
  • With rigour and relentlessness we’ll get there!

Oli Hyatt concluded by saying he would write to his long list of animation sector professionals, and the CMC undertook to forward a mail to everyone in the room, the letter will invite everyone to get involved in developing the new organisation.

Greg Childs called for a show of hands to ascertain how many people in the room would be minded to join a new association.  Around 70% indicated they would.

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Kath Shackleton

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Kath Shackleton

Animated Yorkshire, Director

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