Pop goes Hierographics trace and paint service

David Jefferson talks to Steve Flack about the exciting new projects his company are getting involved in.

Hierographics is a trace and paint service that is situated in a Wardour Street basement. You enter through a small shop front office, down a flight of stairs to be confronted with a maze of rooms set out with work tables and light boxes. A dozen young men and women are working away in a happy m od and we find the boss, Steve Flack, in an alcove office with a large dog laying under his desk. The dog, Jason, is something of a mascot and his paw print appears on all Hierographics stationary.

Steve Flack started off by renting a couple of desks in a studio in Wardour Mews. There was just enough work to keep Steve and two friends going. Their main aim was to keep a good standard of work. Steve Flack explains, “A lot of people working as freelancers were only employed when they were needed. A lot of people actually worked at home because the studios didn’t have enough space. When the art work came back it was layed out and quite often there would be mistakes of some kind because you weren’t in contact with the people who run the studio. You could have a problem that you would fix in your own way and then you have got a continuity problem because someone else didn’t do it the same way as you did. Often work had to be replaced entirely.”

Studios would call Steve in to fix other peoples work when they had a tight deadline to meet because he was in the West End. This gave Steve the idea of setting up as someone who does more than just solve problems. He went to the studios with the proposition that they could give him a piece of artwork that they wanted done on time and he would guarantee that it would bc ready for camera with no problems. Not many people picked up on this to start with because they had their own freelancers. It took a long time to build up but after a while someone came along with a commercial that had to be done in two weeks. To get that job done the staff was increased.

The business soon outgrew its space and in late 1983 they took over the whole ground floor of the Wardour Mews building. Steve continues, ‘The day I opened it up we got one of our biggest fobs in. That established that we were going to carry on. I sent out a newsletter to everyone explaining that we charged a little bit over the union rate per hour just to cover our overheads and we would guarantee to produce the goods. By then we were building a reputation as a no re-shoot company. As long as your drawings were O.K. and as long as your cameraman was O.K. you would get it done on time. So we were beginning to save money for people.”

Small new animation companies were setting up and turning out work that needed very skilled trace and paint. Says Steve, “One company liked dip penning, which is tracing with the colour you want to paint with so you get a nice soft finish to it. It does take a bit of skill and at the time there weren’t many people who were good at it. To get five or six people in one place that were good at it was not easy and so they came to us whenever they had this type of job. They could be confident to take on jobs that had to be done by a certain time, with just a phone call to me initially to see if I was free.”

Hierographics trace and paint studio.

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