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While travelling through Europe recently on a scouting tour for interesting opportunities, among other adventures, I was introduced to the exceptional UK animator Phil Mulloy at a film festival. The studious animator introducing us took the time to point out that Phil is one of the rare creative souls in the industry who has made a decent living from his work. A prolific animator, Phil has produced over 100 films in his career and is highly regarded as an auteur in his field. If this is the par to reach in the UK, then it made me think about our own industry and what opportunities are available here.
Header images: Born Into; Optical Itzak 2; Estonian Jewellery; John Lewis/The Boy who Wanted to Touch the Moon; John Power/VJ Mix
Original publication: Desktop Magazine 2007
Republished with permission

Australians DO win at the Oscars

Adam Elliott is certainly a name that first springs to mind. In true Aussie style, Adam slogged it out in a tin shed working tirelessly on his character Harvey long before his name was known outside of the Melbourne animation scene and Oscar (2003) came into his life. Adam is a great ambassador for the craft, and indeed an inspiring public speaker for the battling kid from the suburbs. His new venture, an $8.5M feature will be made here using local talent and he has retained his Melbourne production company, Melodrama Pictures, for the gig.

Sarah Watt is another incredible envoy, taking her animation style into her recent feature “Look Both Ways”, also made here in Australia. We boast another Oscar (1977) awarded for the cartoon style of Bruce Petty, and several Oscar nominated filmmakers in recent years in Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory (Birthday Boy, 2004) and Anthony Lucas (The Mysterious Adventures of Jasper Morello, 2005).

Production Companies

Australia is also the home of several highly acclaimed animation production companies. Iloura, encompassed within Digital Pictures here in Melbourne, the powerhouse behind films such as Charlottes Web (2006) are currently home for a series in production based on the acclaimed “Animalia” by Graeme Base. And, until recently, Sydney was headquarters for the Disneytoon Studios Australia, which produced several animated features and employed over 250 animators.

One of our big success stories of 2006 is the Warner Bros/Village Roadshow film “Happy Feet”, which was produced by Kennedy Miller in association with Animal Logic in Sydney. Directed by George Miller, “Happy Feet” is the first digitally animated feature produced in Australia, and George is the most recent addition to our Oscar (2006) nominees.

Australians are well known for the versatility of their work and the creativity with which they employ their techniques. Traditional hand-drawn animation is still painstakingly undertaken while model, or stop frame animation is becoming one of our trademarks. Although computer animation or CGI - using highly sophisticated software for both 2D and 3D animations is becoming the most abundant format for short and feature film, we still have many short films made each year employing sand, paint on glass, crayons, and cut-outs.

Do you want to Animate ?

So what skills do you need to join these ranks? Apart from the specific technical techniques our clients ask for, we are always briefed specifically on uncovering talent that show a creative flair, a good visual eye, an aptitude for drawing and storytelling and a good sense of timing and composition. Combinations of both creative and technical skills are important - ideally within individuals, but certainly within teams, where creative specialists must know how to communicate with technical specialists and vice versa.

Most animators start their careers in other fields of TV and film production, discovering a flair for storytelling through animation after developing their skills across a range of mediums. Animators must be able to balance the creation and direction of every element of their films, which lends itself neatly to learning the trade within a team of specialists or by slowing building a suitcase of skills by experimental ploys.

Animation Schools

We are fortunate to have a number of excellent film and animation schools throughout Australia. Adam Elliott started his career at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) after a number of years as a fine artist (well - painting t-shirts at the St Kilda market), while Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory had only recently graduated from the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) before completing “Birthday Boy”. The Centre for Animation and Interactive Media (AIM) at RMIT University is highly recognised for its creativity, while the Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga is making quite a name for itself with several graduates included in the international line ups in recent years.

Film Festivals

A great way to discover if animation is the career for you is to attend as many animation festivals as you can. Australian animated shorts can be found in almost every international film festival and our own fests are never lost for a program or two of original and enterprising exploits. We have an array of film festivals on offer in Australia, from the major film fests held in each capital city to the specialised Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) and its travelling cousin the Australian International Animation Festival (AIAF). And, of course, the more specialised fests, which target specific techniques or focus such as human rights, women, and films made for children.

Along with the education and entertainment of the film sessions, as a budding animator I highly recommend arriving early for your session, or hanging around late after the noise has died down, and you will find yourself surrounded by other filmmakers networking, joking and generally discussing the films together. From the most acclaimed to the beginners, you will find the one subject that brings everyone together in this field is the promise of a good discussion on the latest set of offerings, and a few beers.

Australians punch well above their weight on the world circuit of animation. We have a creative soul and collectively pull together to dream and create in the animation artform. Although not as well known as our film and TV industry, our animation production companies and our notable Directors are out there making dynamic shorts, powerful dramatic features, and an array of technological wizardry in the special effects field.

Terri Dentry is managing director of Sage Creative Placements Melbourne, a member company of the Sage Creative Placements group. Sage Creative Placements is a creative industries recruitment agency group with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. The Sage talent selection model values the skills and career direction of the candidate and matches them with clients and projects of the highest calibre. For more information visit: www.sagerecruit.com.au

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