Monday, September 21, 2009

Interview // Andrew Apostola - Portable Film Festival

Ever looked at youtube? Who am I kidding! You’re a tech savvy new media buff who spends at least 2 hours looking at sneezing pandas and such a day, of course you have. Well online movies don’t have the greatest amount of respect attached to them but that’s because everyone’s been looking at the wrong site.

Andrew Apostola from Portable Content helped create Portable Film Festival, an online film festival specializing in films made for small screens like your iPod or laptop! Listen up and you will see how to make the leap from uni to the real world, why an Arts Degree is a great thing to have and how to make your ideas a reality.

My Favorite Note – Hi Andrew! Portable Film Festival looks like its going well

Andrew Apostola – Yeah! Portable Film Festival is in its fourth year. Last month we did around a million views for April, which is amazing.

My Favorite Note – Is that something you would normally get?

Andrew Apostola – No. That’s just a big aggregate amount of views for the films that we have around the net. People have these misguided ideas that you put anything up on the Internet and you instantly get hundreds of thousands of views. 10% of videos on youtube get watched 100 times. We do a lot of work trying to pick the right videos.

MFN – Quality over quantity

AA – That’s the idea!

MFN – Did Portable Films come out of having your own company?

AA – Other way around. Portable Film Festival merged first. I was traveling around the states in 2005, just bumming around really and was in the apple store when the iPod was launched and saw what was available and called Simon and said “Hey this is crazy, we really need to do something”. So we came back and started PFF. We did a thing called Six Cities where we asked six film makers from around the world to create responses to the places they live.

MFN – I saw those, they were pretty rad.

AA – Yeah I’m actually quite proud of that. They were people I met in my travels as well. They were film friends because I studied film and sound in America. Portable Content came out of that as a business because people wanted us to build them stuff.

MFN – Is starting a film festival what you always wanted or did you just wake up one day and thought “Today I’m going to make a film festival”?

AA – Actually in ’04 when I was working I did have a few concepts of running some sort of festival but I didn’t know back then what it was. I just like creating ideas and Portable Film Festival is just one of them.

MFN – Do you think that starting Portable FF has led to other jobs because it certainly led to Portable Content.

AA – Absolutely. Having a successful project really takes you forward because you have taken a risk, executed it, it works. All I’ve learnt from PFF can be applied to other things I do.

MFN – You studied at a few different universities, what did you do?

AA – I studied at 4-5 different Universities. I started of at Deakin doing arts but majoring in media. Then I did media studies majoring in radio then I did film and TV and sound. I think doing arts based courses is the best thing you can ever do. You look at people doing great and interesting things in the market place or out in the world. They often have an arts degree behind them, some have arts-law degrees.

MFN – An arts degree can lead to a job then?

AA – Yeah absolutely, much more than a marketing degree and it’s more interesting. I think your blindsided if you think that an arts degree can’t get you somewhere interesting because it builds a whole range of skills like critical thinking, it teaches you how to write and teaches you theory. All those skills take you from being just an average person to being more creative and able to think through ideas.

MFN – I always think that if your going to spend 3-4 years doing a degree you may as well enjoy it.

AA – Exactly. The risk of being an arts major is that you go on to do masters and then a phd which I don’t believe in

MFN – How come?

AA – Because you need practical experience to execute those skills and ideas and being in any institution for a long period of time stops that. The best thing I learnt in uni was how to deal with burocracy which uni is full of.

MFN – Going through uni and even now, did / do you have a mentor?

AA – No. My network of friends have always been my support and inspiration. I have friends now that are doing things creatively across theatre and arts. When your at uni you don’t really know what your doing a lot of the time, your just kind of getting a feel for things.

MFN – How do you get contacts and meet people that you need to know to get a job in this industry? Do you meet them just through university?

AA – No, Call them! Whenever I see someone that’s doing interesting things we make an approach and say “Hi I like what your doing, I’d like to meet up”. A lot of people are really freaked out by that.

MFN – The people you’re contacting?

AA – Yep!

MFN – Did I freak you out!?

AA – haha ((Andrew avoids the question)). It’s a very American thing to be able to just talk and have conversations. People get worried and wonder why this person’s getting in contact with me.

When we started the festival I went around and engaged with a lot of the major festivals around Australia, without telling them the idea, to get advice on how it works and used them as a guide on how to start. Now when I start a project no matter what it’s about I will always go out and try to build a strong network of peers or colleges around the idea and the project. They become my support network who I use to sound ideas.

We are starting a new project at the moment and over the past year I have dealt with a whole range of new, I would say friends, who are passionate and relevant to the idea.

MFN – So you found those people by looking online and just called them up?

AA – Introductions! I go to people and say “Hey we are doing this thing do you know anyone / who should I speak to?” and they will tell you a few names then I ask those people if there is anyone I should speak to and through that the network gets broader and suddenly you walk into a room and you know everyone, you’re the connection point.

MFN – A lot of creative people are quite solitary or don’t like networking. Is it something you need to be good at to get work? Do you need to put yourself out there?

AA – I think you do. There is still this genius myth that people are found but it never really happens. You need to have a good practice and work really, really well but you also need to push your work and take what you want.

I see people in meetings where they are showing their art or films to a distributor and completely miss an opportunity because they think it’s wrong to ask or be bold. The biggest mistake is that people don’t clearly state what they want. At the middle or end of a meeting you should clearly articulate exactly what you want and how they can help because then they have to respond. You have to be clear about what you want.

MFN – Do you get a lot of creativity and freedom in what work you do?

AA – That’s what we work towards. Portible’s half start-up, half service company. So we work on work for other clients. Really what happens is we build innovations like PFF, we own 100% of them, their ours and do whatever the hell we want with them. We create our own partnerships, people see what we are doing with them and say they really like it and want one for themselves. We then put all our expertise into our projects for clients. A lot of agency’s just build stuff for clients, so they are always restricted and creatively frustrated.

MFN – Because they never make their own things

AA – Yeah, so we find money to fund our own projects.

MFN – Do you think it’s important to make your own thing while still working for clients?

AA – You may as well put yourself in a coffin and bury yourself if your not doing something creative, as a business or an individual, to move forward. You will become bored and it’s stifling. You start becoming part of a process and a system and that’s not great.

MFN – Don’t let the man get you down. You are a film maker as well? What do you think about the mentality of the Australian film industry that you have to work your way up from the bottom?

AA – I think its ridiculous! I have never subscribed to that, I think its unnecessary. I’m not a big fan of hierarchy’s. Creation and innovation come out of people trying to exploring new things instead of going into a system of going to university to study then I will assist someone for five years then I’ll be a director.

If you ask most people at the top of the notch if they went down that root, they often went down other paths. So I think that you should get the skills that you need but create interesting projects and collaborate with interesting people because collaboration creates experience. Lots of people have no idea what they want to do and go to work at Rove or Chanel 7. Sure there is some experience there but if you actually want to create something noticeable your simply not going to do it that way. The best way to do it is to find someone in your network who’s a writer, someone who’s a producer and people in your network that have the skills you need to put together a project that way.

MFN – How do you go from uni to getting a job?

AA - Looking how the economy is changing I think the days of walking straight out of uni and into an A grade job are over. Simon and I have spent countless amounts of hours doing things for free, volunteering. I think that’s a necessary part because you have to learn to work for yourself first then other people will notice that.

MFN – You can work for free until you starve to death, but everybody knows how important it is to volunteer for experience and networking. It’s a no win situation. When’s the point that you should start asking for money and get paid for your work?

AA – There are some simple steps: You should always document you hours in any project that you do and give your self a rate for those hours. Whatever job it is let them understand that what your doing it for love and for free but that your going to document your hours and when it’s finished I’m going to show you, so that there is a commercial outcome to that. It can be a bit awkward but it lets people know the value of your work. That way when people refer you, you will be able to say that this role would have cost this amount but you did it for free, so this is what I charge this time.

MFN – How should you know what to charge?

AA – Ask other people in the industry what they charge, pretty easy.

MFN – What’s your advice to anybody that wants to start their own festival or business or just make what they want by being creative?

AA – Take risks, be comfortable with failure. I fail every day and projects fail. Lots of things never go to life because people are too precious. We just put something out there and see how it goes, some people spend a lot of time making something really polished and it never really happens. Look at bands, look at U2. I hate U2 as a band.

MFN – True that.

AA – But they have ((MAYBE))) 25 albums. There is maybe 4-5 albums that are absolutely huge but today when they release a album and it absolutely bombs most people would have given up after 4 albums that bomb but they keep going.

MFN – And look where they are.

AA – We think that risk is detrimental to us. But in most cases taking the risk and fucking up creates so much energy. Collaborating with people as well. So many people want to do everything, they want to write, shoot, direct, edit.

MFN – What’s better? Specializing or multi-tasking?

AA – I think you should be very specific with what you do. Don’t try to do everything in a project, collaborate with people. You get so much energy and so much creative input working in a team. If you have written a great script don’t direct it. Get someone else to direct and edit it and see how they interpret it. Get different sets of eyes on your project. Suddenly you have a project that people have an emotional and professional investment with and that’s how you build success.

MFN – What are the times when you sit back and go I can’t believe I’m paid to do this!

AA – It’s when you get funding for your own ideas and get to make them its pretty good. Or when you go to another agency, company or meet people and see their work and how hamstrung they are and realise it could be so much worst, I could be working here in this shitty advertising agency doing crappy work for some bad brand. That’s when I’m really glad I work here.

Words: T

Image: Neon Sunset

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Interview // Adam Wheeler - Dancer & Choreographer

If you dream of working in a cramped office where the most exciting thing to happen all day is running out of staples, don’t become a dancer. If you want to travel the world dancing for one of Australia’s premiere troupes, go crazy on amazing music video’s for Architecture in Helsinki and work with interesting and creative people then jot down some of these notes. Adam Wheeler has done all of the above minus the boring stapler part. We had a chat in his office/studio, an ex-night club!

My Favorite Note – Hi Adam, What have you been up to today?

Adam Wheeler – I had a production meeting for a new project that I can’t actually tell you about. It’s a secret.

My Favorite Note – A secret project!

Adam Wheeler – I’m under embargo.

MFN – Is the dance industry so cutthroat you can’t spill the beans?

AW – Ha ha no one can know what I’m doing! No. We are being commissioned by the Launceston City Council and they’ve instructed us to keep it quite. It’s my first work as Artistic Associate with Stompin.

MFN – Artistic Associate! Cool title but what do you do?

AW – I’ll be choreographing lots of the work, if we get a guest choreographer I’ll look after them. I manage dancers and run the programs and weekly classes. There are two of us here, myself and the amazing Becky Hilton. She’s our artistic curator.

MFN – Did you want to be Billy Elliot when you were young?

AW – I didn’t start dancing until I was 18. I wanted to be an actor first of all. I really enjoyed doing comedy, taking the piss. When it came to any sensible emotion, it never felt real for me. Which is funny because then when I’m making dance or performing something very sensitive, deep or angry I can really dive into that and feel comfortable. I never felt awkward with the dancing so I thought this was probably a better place for me to go.

MFN – After realizing that dance was the way to go what did you do next?

AW – I took a year off, started training in ballet and then auditioned for VCA and didn’t get in. So I took another year off and formed my own dance troop and put some work on. Then I moved to Melbourne. I had no choice if I wanted to continue as a dancer but to leave.

MFN – Why didn’t you have a choice?

AW – There’s no training here.

MFN – How important is training for a professional dancer?

AW – It’s essential really. If you want to dance with the worlds best you need formulised training. You need to understand how the body works and have that strength and co-ordination. It’s possible to start later on and a little bit easier for boys than girls.

Whenever I get a young dancer who says this is what they want to do I will try to get them into ballet classes as fast as I can. Not because I want them to become ballet dancers, but that initial body strength training is vital.

MFN – What would you have done differently looking back on how you started?

AW – Taking University seriously. My first year of VCA was exciting and hard and I went every day. My second year I kind of got caught up in meeting people in Melbourne and going to parties and working in cool bars.

MFN – That’s part of Uni though.

AW – At VCA where your there from 8:30 till 6 ever day, having a big party life is quite hard. That part of my life influences a lot of the choices I make as an artist now and what I’m interested in. I see a lot of amazing dancers who dedicate their complete life to dancing but have no social skills or person skills to be able to get to work or function properly.

MFN – Did you get a job straight out of University?

AW – I was super lucky. Gideon Orbanic, the director of Chunky Move, was making a new piece about men and men dancing. He wanted an all male cast. He had just seen me perform, liked what he saw and said, “I want to give you a contract”. So in the 3rd year of uni I would do morning class at school, rehearse with the company during the day then go back to uni at night to catch up on everything. It was full on at times but totally awesome as well. Even though the training had been essential I still wanted that piece of paper.

MFN – You started off as a dancer for Chunky Move.

AW – We made this new work called “I want to dance better at parties” and that’s the only new work I’ve made with them but we toured that work for five years.

MFN – Where did you tour it?

AW – We premiered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide , Sydney (at the opera house). New York, Chicago, San Diego, Santa Barbara , Santa Cruz, Jacobs Pillow (A dance festival in Massachusetts) Vancouver, Christchurch, Vermont and Boston.

MFN – Roadtrip! What’s it like touring with a dance company?

AW – Touring is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Your get paid to dance and your flights and accommodation and daily spending allowance is paid for. The places you go to treat you like gods because you’re this big dance company from the other side of the world. So they throw you parties and people want to meet you. Touring with Chunky Move are some of the best moments I’ve ever had. I teach a lot when I go on tour. Generally part of the deal is for the company to teach workshops along the way.

MFN – How important is networking for a dancer?

AW – It’s all about networking. I’ve seen a lot of people who have burned their careers because they try to network too hard and I’ve seen a lot of people never get of the ground because they can’t talk or meet people. Its like any performing art, If your going to spend 9-6 with somebody every day you want to not only have a close professional working environment, you want to be able to get along with his person and feel comfortable so you can start sharing and growing and building.

MFN – How do you network as a dancer? Go to parties and talking to the right people?

AW – Yeah and just being friendly. Introduce yourself but don’t get into people’s faces. If there’s somebody you want to meet say hello to them. The funny thing about going from VCA to Chunky Move is that I was suddenly dancing with these people that I saw as gods and suddenly I’m in a studio working with them. You realise that they are still gods, they are still amazing performers and people but they are just like you and I. They like trashy television and eat food.

The dance industry is really a beautiful community. Everyone is supportive; it’s a very critical community about the work you present. People are very quick not to like something instead of like something.

MFN – Is that something you need to consider when you put out a new piece? To be careful with what you present about yourself?

AW – If you spent too much time concerned about how you look instead of the work you personally want to make then your on the wrong course. I don’t think you can get enough advice from anyone.

MFN – How do you get a mentor? Did you go up to them and be like “Hey be my mentor!”

A – No! Don’t try to force those things. You will meet someone you really connect with. Invite them to come to your show or look at your work, let it build from there. If you get too forceful people can get scared back. I watch a lot of young people go OMG your amazing! Will you look after me, will you go see my show! People just can’t handle being around that.

I have a couple of mentors. Becky Hilton who I now run the company with. Its great because we still have that relationship. Even though I’m in a position of running the company and teaching young dancers I still get taught and get feedback from Becky. In terms of my professional development I’m in a really healthy place at the moment.

I had a lecturer called Brett Daffy who’s a very talented dancer and teacher who I used to speak to a lot. It would literally be a catch up over a beer together. Talking about how I’m feeling and how he got through hard times at uni or work.

MFN – Why is a mentor important?

A – When your involved in something its hard to pull yourself away and really examine it. For example Luke will be here in a couple of hours to look at my rehearsal. I’ll say “these are the best ideas ever” and he will say “nah their shit” and by the end of it we will come out with this amazing piece. There is nothing worse than someone saying “Yeah that’s good”. My mum says that and that’s lovely because she’s my mum but that’s not going to make me grow as an artist.

MFN – Should young dancers take every job offered? Or should they be selective?

A – That’s a hard one. I recon early on take anything you can get. Be safe and make sure your not going to be hurt, emotionally or physically. Ask lots of questions; don’t ever be afraid to ask lots of questions about a new project. If a jobs not paid but you think it’s really beneficial for you, do it.

MFN – How important is working for free?

A – I think we have all done it and you do need to do it sometimes. If somebody you admire rang you up and asked you to work on their new project but couldn’t pay you, you would still do it. The personal development would be amazing. Probably after the 3rd of 4th time when they still want you to work for free you should consider it more carefully.

MFN – What’s the point when you should expect to be paid?

A – If your doing something that’s grossly underpaid but benefits you as an artist you should do it. If that’s successful then the next time that person approaches you you’ve proven yourself and you’re in a position to tell them what your worth and what you expect to get paid. Talking money is the hardest thing you have to do as an artist.

MFN – How do you know how much your worth?

A – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your mentor or ask your friend if you should do it and they will know.

MFN – You choreographed some crazy moves for an Architecture in Helsinki clip. How did you get involved in that?

A – I worked with the production company a few years ago when they sent out an email to Chunky Move, looking for some dancers for a Van-She film clip.

MFN – This is Krozm right?

A – Yeah. They wanted contemporary dancers to be painted complete black in a white room. They spent 2 hours painting me, I was the only paid performer on the project and not paid very much. It was a very low budget clip but I had never done a film clip before, I didn’t mind the band and I was interested in working with the people so I thought I would do it. I did jack shit because I was painted black so I couldn’t touch the ground.

A year later the same production group called me up and said they needed some steps. I said “play me the song and tell me what your ideas are and I’ll get back to you the next day”. Listened to the idea, thought it was completely whacked and gave it a shot. Even thought the pay wasn’t amazing word of mouth is pretty quick and people get to know who you are and that’s good. The directors were really cool guys, Architecture in Helsinki are really nice people so they were fun to hang out with and I got to work with two very close friends and we got paid to be painted and dance around like idiots in stupid costumes. If you can get a film clip do it.

MFN – What’s your advice to up and coming dancers?

A – Train hard and party hard, make sure it’s balanced. Meet people but don’t get in people’s faces. Experience as much as you can, go see everything. Even things you were told were terrible go see and then understand why you think it’s terrible. If you don’t understand why you like something you won’t understand how to make something you like. So see as much as you can and meet as many people as you can.

MFN – And you will be living the dream! What’s the best part of your job?

A – I really enjoy the opening night bow. Particularly working with young people and seeing how happy they are and what they have achieved. When you spend all that time working towards something and its successful that moment for me is really magical. The people you get to meet and work with are really amazing as well. Plus you’re never stuck in little offices.

Words: T

Image: Neon Sunset

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Interview // Megan Jo - Animator

Megan is one of those awesome people you just want to high-five, but you don’t want to seem lame, though I’m sure Megan would understand. What’s not lame are the animations she makes. We particularly like this one about those jars that just don’t open. Megan has worked as a freelance illustrator and animator at all sorts of rad places: XYZ Studios, Viskatoons, ABC, Roar Educate and now Square I. If your want to get paid for drawing robots, animating juggling pigs and making crazy characters come to life listen up to our chat about the world of animation outside a cafĂ© on a freezing Melbourne day.


My Favorite Note – Hi Megan! Are you cold?

Megan Jo – No I’m all right. At work I’ve got a heater and its right under my desk and I just came outside and was like “jeez its cold.”

My Favorite Note – Where are you working now days?

Megan Jo – I just recently started a gig with a studio called Square I. They’re a traditional animation studio and this is my third week there. I’ve always been a free lancer and I freelanced, animated and illustrated part time and a bit of teaching in between but these guys offered me a full time contract for a year long production on a TV show called Dogstar Season 2.

MFN – Cool. What’s Dogstar about? And why haven’t I heard of it?

MJ – A lot of people have heard of it but haven’t actually seen it. It’s a kid’s show that’s pretty much all Australian made which is a big deal for us because there is not a lot of animation that actually gets made in Australia. So lots of people want to get on board. I’m pretty lucky to have a full time job there because what usually happens is you get a job on a production like this and you do part of it, so you do a few months in design or art. But I’ve got a job there for the whole production from start to end. It’s just a cute kids show about polluting the Earth so bad that we all need to go in space ships and go to a new earth. We put all the Dogs on a space ship but it gets lost so a family of kids has to go find the Dogstar.

MFN – So it’s like Red Dwarf?

MJ – Yeah but with dogs and kids. Much cuter.

MFN – Is Cat there?

MJ – There is a cat called Boombah who’s voiced by Shaun Micallef. Yeah the cat does speak, which is great. Boombah is an advanced cat that can smell dogs so they use Boombah the cat and a spaceship to go sniff out the dogs.

MFN – So what are you doing on it at the moment?

MJ – I’m the story board assistant, so I’m not actually doing full boards. It’s quite intense because they are 20 minute episodes. Something like 370 drawings to go into an episode. It’s a lot of drawing and takes a long time. I’ve never done anything like this before so I’m just learning the ropes and doing a bit of organizing, putting the story boards together and learning how the process works and fixing up sequences. So the Director looks through the story boards and says this doesn’t work and we re-do it. That’s what I’ve been doing today. Drawing space dogs!

MFN – yay!

MFN – What’s it like going from freelancing to a full time job?

MJ – It’s a bit of a change. This is my third week so a long way still to go yet. When I was freelancing I still did a lot of in-studio work. A long gig would be maybe 2 months. So I’m used to working in different studios and working in studio. It was very hard to give up freelance because I would work my arse off to get all the contacts to live off it and now I have to keep turning them down because I have to concentrate on this job but I took it because I’m learning lots of new skills to progress my career.

MFN – Do you think that’s a good idea? Focusing on one big project instead of maintaining your contacts through smaller gigs?

MJ – The choice was for two reasons. Where I am now is full of really talented guys and I’m learning from them and I know they will encourage me to improve my illustration work. The other reason I took this job was really just about learning something new and I think it's really important to always be excited about learning new things. I was doing great at freelancing. I had lots of cool jobs; I got to draw robots and all sorts of things. People would hire me based on my style of work so I was drawing what I wanted to draw and it was a dream come true but I did it for a while and had my fun. Its kind of time to move on now and learn something new and not get stuck in that. Although it was hard to give up it was the right choice.

MFN – So it’s hard to get a full year job?

MJ – It depends on what work your doing. Certainly I find most studios’ these days prefer to hire young people on a freelance basis because they don’t have to pay someone when they don’t have a job on. A lot of people prefer it because they get to pick and choose what jobs they want and you get to work with a lot of different studios, which is a lot of fun. But of course there’s not a lot of security in being a freelancer. There are certainly heaps of people with full time jobs out there in studios. It’s really just a life style choice. A lot of creative people prefer not to work part time.

MFN – What type of people are good at freelancing?

MJ – You have to be really disciplined. A lot of people kind of think oh what a life! You swan about. You work when you want! You can work at 3 in the morning if you want! You must have it good. But in reality it’s not like that.

Sure it is glamorous because you travel a lot and you can make your own hours but you will realise pretty quick you have to stick to routine if you actually want to make it work. When I was freelancing I would get up at 9 and start work, even if I was at home, and work all day. I would work 7 days a week all the time. The pay off was that I would get to do great work and then take a couple of months off! I went over seas it was great. So you work really hard but its not really a problem because you do what you love doing. It doesn’t feel like a drain. You’re young enough to have the energy to do it.

MFN – How do you go with the rush of work! Work! Work! Then struggling to find jobs when you’re freelancing?

MJ – I was really lucky because I had the teaching job offered to me so even if there was a lull in work I would have teaching to concentrate on. It did help having a part time job there. Melbourne is a pretty small design community so once you get in the door and been on the scene for a while you don’t have to worry as much because work will come your way and you wont have to actively look for it as much. I’ve had maybe two or three big clients who would consistently give me work so I would alternate between studios. You just have to get over the first hole of establishing yourself.

MFN – Tell us how to get over the hole! The cracks of the situation!

MJ – Don’t give up! It can be easy to get discouraged. You just have to continually work at it. Don’t be afraid to work really hard instead of going out on the weekends. Sometimes I’ll sit at home and draw all weekend.

MFN – How do you go from University and get known?

MJ – Its scary. You finish uni and your all like “what do I do now?” It makes it easier if you do IP (Industry Placement) because a lot of people continue their placements. So if your lucky enough to get an IP there is likelihood you will continue on and get experience. If you don’t get an IP and you finish uni you just have to put yourself out there and folios speak for themselves. Don’t be afraid to go and chat to people in studios. Even if your not going to get the job just ask to come in and say hi and have a chat so people know who you are.

MFN – Is that what you did?

MJ – Yeah. When I had a lull in work I would just look who was out there at what studios had popped up and say Hey I’m an animator. Ill just pop by the studio some time and see what you do and you can see what I do. People are happy to do that usually. And if you have just finished uni you should be doing your own projects. Always do your own stuff! Don’t get too ambitious and say, “I’m going to make this a feature film and it’s going to be awesome blah blah blah!” Set yourself little tiny projects that are achievable, experiments to teach yourself stuff and when you finish work show people, show studios. If you have made something your happy with send it to a studio and say “Hey can I get some feedback?” Because then they know who you are.

MFN – What else should you be doing?

MJ – Having an online presence is really important. Get a website. Studios do not want physical stuff; they just want a link to your work online.

MFN – If you email someone your websites link will they actually follow it up?

MJ – Yeah they usually will. Maybe not straight a way, maybe two weeks later or even a month later they might click on it.

MFN – If they don’t reply to your email after two weeks should you send them more emails? Pester them a bit?

MJ – No way!

MFN – Is it raining? I think I’m imaging things. I often do.

MJ – It’s ever so slightly spitting.

MFN – Lets go inside before it starts pouring.

MFN – Its warmer on in here. So harassing people with your work. Not a good idea?

MJ – No! Do not hassle people. Just let them know who you are. Firstly you have to have the talent and a good folio, showing off your work is important but personality is the second most important thing to studios and people that hire you. They want someone they like to work with so part of the game is networking and choosing in a big way. Go to gallery openings, go to designer events and talk to people. That’s the other way of letting them know who you are and that you’re interested in the industry, not just emailing them all the time. Show up to the things they show up to and be part of the community.

MFN – What are those things you should show up to? Especially for you as an animator?

MJ – I go to all the festivals. All the film festivals, all the animation festivals. Fortunately we live in Melbourne and there is always something happening. There are animation clubs that set challenges; there is a lot of online stuff I’m a part of. Illustrators Australia has events and you go along and meet other illustrators and you help each other. If a job comes your way and you can’t take it or it’s not right for you, you recommend your mate and they will do the same for you. It’s about supporting each other. Designers love parties.

MFN – For people who aren’t in the industry yet how would you find out about these events?

MJ – Australian in Front will tell you what’s going on. They have job forums as well, which is interesting to check. One of the great things about going to uni is you meet people in other disciplines and they will tell you what’s going on and you can check it out.

MFN – You went to Swinburne Uni. Do you think university and training is necessary in getting a job?

MJ – Definitely. You will not be looked at or considered if you don’t have your uni degree. If someone applies for a job and they don’t have a degree and you do they just won’t get the job. That’s how it works. It is competitive and gives you that extra something you can offer people.

MFN – What course did you do at Uni?

MJ – I studied multimedia design. That’s really broad. Design in general crosses over. People don’t want just a print or TV campaign. They want a full bundle with a viral Internet campaign that goes with it.

MFN – Is that something to push about yourself? That you are multi-talented?

MJ – No. You will always be working in a team. It’s good to have various skills because people like that because they can throw you different odd jobs. It’s important to specialize at something. Try to find something that’s unique about you and your work because people will seek that. When your doing your own stuff or you show studio work, make sure it’s something you want to be doing because that’s how people will remember you and that’s what they will hire you for. So be careful what you show people. Don’t just show them everything, show them what you want to do and what you want to pursue in your career.

MFN – What do you think about working for free and doing internships? Lots of people are so desperate for work and think that’s the only way to get in that they sell themselves short or work for a lot less than is accepted by people in the industry.

MJ – Internships are great, but you shouldn’t work for free. If your doing work experience for sure that’s free. If you go into a studio or on a film set for a day to see how it’s all done yeah that’s done for free because you’re observing. As soon as your doing something that people are getting paid for people should be paying you and don’t ever think otherwise. Lots of students fall into that trap and a lot of people are taking advantage of it. If your constantly working for free you’re never going to really expand on that. You need to start getting cash straight away. There’s a balance: how much you think your worth and how much its worth to you to do something.

It’s difficult if instead of going for a full time studio position you decide to freelance, quoting and how much you should ask for a job. It’s difficult and a lot of it comes with experience. You will find a lot of people don’t do this for the money; I certainly don’t do it for the money. I’m an animator for god’s sake! None of us are doing it for the money. I’m just happy to be able to make a living off it. People are usually quite fair, only a few people out there will try to take advantage of you. Most people are lovely and nice and really helpful because it is hard and it is competitive and you have to work your ass off so once you get some work you want to help other people. Don’t be suspicious of people wanting to help you they are probably genuine, but keep your smarts about you.

MFN – Is that a big part? Helping other people?

MJ – OH… I think so. I have a lot of people who help me out.

MFN – Like a mentor? How do you get one? You can’t just say ‘I want you to be my mentor”.

MJ – I don’t think you can just find yourself a mentor. They don’t sell them at the supermarket. You will find that if you start working a full time job at a studio someone will automatically become your mentor. At the moment I’ve taken this new job and I had to certainly have a certain amount of industry experience to get that job. But I’m working with somebody at the moment and you could say he’s my mentor. There is kind of a balance there at the moment. He’s teaching me a lot of new stuff and will take time out of the day and just sit down and explain to me how he’s done something or what he’s thinking about something and in the other hand I have to do something less glamorous in the studio like organizing scripts and stuff.

MFN – Did you ask him to be your mentor? How did you approach that?

MJ – No. I don’t think anyone would rock up and say, “Hey can you be my mentor?” because that sounds pretty lame!

MFN – And you don’t want to be lame.

MJ – No you got to be cool…because we are designers

MFN – You’ll get kicked out of the club if you’re lame

MJ – Ha, yeah the cool kids club. Just be full of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask people questions. I know that’s a problem I have sometimes, especially when you haven’t worked in a while you don’t want to admit you don’t know how to do something or your struggling. But you have to get over that and just ask. Don’t be afraid to look at what people are doing and learn new skills.

MFN – When you start out should you try freelancing? Or search for a cheaper job that’s studio based?

MJ – For me I chose to freelance because it’s the kind of lifestyle I wanted and also it’s really hard to find a full time traditional animation job. When I first started they didn’t have any traditional animation jobs, they were all illustration jobs but it was a really good experience. I personally love freelancing and a lot of studios prefer it now a days.

MFN – What are the moments when you are all like “This is awesome! I love being an animator!”

MJ – When you get a brief and your creative director calls you up and tell you they need some robots, like 12 of them. And you’re like OK, any more direction? And they just say to see what you come up with. They pay you to draw robots for two weeks. It’s ridiculous! I have these moments every day because I get paid to draw. When someone asks you what you do and you explain your job and feel bad at how awesome your life is compared to their accounting job.

MFN – It’s worth it, doing a creative job?

MJ – It’s my life. My work is my life. I’m really glad I stuck with it even though there have been some hard times. I’m always excited by what I’m going to learn next. Don’t be scared to take risks and just go for it. Do what you love and it will pay off in the end.


Megan's notes:

Australia in Front

FFFFound Blog

Cartoon Brew


UNIT 16 Forums

And stalk people you like!


Words: T, E

Image: Neon Sunset