Approximately two-thirds of their work is acceptable first time round. Whatever one might think of their method, the result would cost very much more to produce on mainland America, Britain or Europe. Small wonder these companies are presently thriving even though, if you look closely, you can clearly see their shortcomings.
“While Ken Lidster was with us he worked on Bee-Movie in 1986, followed by The Haploid Affair in ‘87, but the film which caused a stir at the NFTS Graduate Screenings was his graduation piece entitled Balloon. This was aired on TV over the Christmas period and demonstrated its ability to stand comparison with the best of British.
“His part-time engagements were not unique. All of our students are encouraged to go out into the field to work on professional productions for maybe three or four weeks a year. Joan Ashworth made her Royal Bank of Scotland commercial at Gerry Anderson’s Studio, while Alison Pook worked for seven or eight weeks animating electricity pylons for National Power commercials. By the time our students leave us they will have built up a list of worthwhile contacts.
“Nick Park joined the NFTS with the intention of making one film, A Grand Day Out. By the end of his three years he still had some way to go to completion, due primarily to being pestered by people who wanted him to do work for them. There was an agreement with Aardman that he should work three days a week for them and spend two days on his film. It did not quite work out that way, however, the studio finally put a great deal of effort into helping him finish the film. Completed in 1989, A Grand Day Out was beaten to the Oscar by C’reature Comforts which he made at Aardman. However, A Grand Day Out picked up three asvards the following year: the Public Jury Award (Angers. France), S4C animation Award (BP Expo., London), and the Animation Award (BAFTA. London), among many others.
We have high hopes too, for Alison Pock who is in her final year. She completed a foundation course at Bristol Polytechnic before going on to study graphic design for three years at Middlesex Poly, the final two years spent concentrating on making Johnny and the Devil, a 6-minute model film on 16mm colour for her degree.
“In addition to her 10-week stint on the National Power animated pylon series, Alison has acted as animator or assistant animator on various pop promos. including Fish Monkey Man singing I’ve Told You Once.
“Her underwater model animated film which has the working title Crystal Rushes, stars a fully articulated human, a crab, and several underwater creatures. The film features a wide range of underwater effects – lighting, bubbles. etc. She creates all her own work from story through to rushes, but she has followed normal NETS practice of working with a student editor and sound recordist/composer. A final year camera student has been involved in all initial research into lighting what has been a very complex set-up.
‘We have nine other 1st. 2nd and 3rd year animators at work here, they are: Inga Burrows ex Maidstone College of Art & Royal College of Art – 2D Animator: Nick Herbert cx West Surrey College of Art – 3D; Karen Watson ex West Surrey College of Art – 3D: Gillian Wood ex Leeds Polytechnic; Chris Mendham ex Watford College of Art: Steve Palmer ex Liverpool Polytechnic Rowe; Caroline Rowe ex Leeds Polytechnic; Sue Loughlin ex Liverpool Polytechnic; Ange Palethorpe ex Sheffield Polytechnic.
“Colin Rose of Bristol BBC West has been very encouraging to the School’s new graduates, taking on one animator and two live-action personnel on his 10 x 10-minute series. Along with Claire Kitson, Channel 4, and a handful of enlightened programme buyers, he is well aware of the many difficulties facing young animators.
“As discerning purchasers they do not buy animation by the mile or merely for children. They have an adult approach to animators work.
“There is a great need of adventurous investors from inside and out of the industry. The Bank of Scotland showed remarkable initiative when it took on Joan Ashworth while she was still waiting for her graduation from the school. Even braver of the bank to take a chance on her revolutionary concept for their TV commercial. You may well have seen it. It was the story of the Giacometti-style stick man, who hits on the idea of providing shoes for the populace with the help, of course, of the bank. A far cry from the conventional bank advertisements consisting of sombre men in white shirts, neat ties and pocket handkerchiefs, and freshly pressed dark grey suits talking patronisingly to well-dressed women. Such faith is refreshing.
With so few job opportunities about these days. it is not surprising there are some people trying to employ others on recession rates’. They are perfectly willing to offer you a little something, but it will have to be at 20% below standard rate because of the recession!
‘Even in the face of such sharp practices I take the broader view and I am encouraged by what I see about me: not the ‘Saturday morning garbage’ but the generally improved state of British animation.
“The industry has to be able to rely on us turning out a fully competent animator, one who has proved himself or herself before graduation. When they leave us to face the hard knocks ahead on equal terms with the best of them, they reinforce the integrity and reputation of the School and we will have achieved our objective.
“The animators graduating from NFTS more often than not go into the industry not just as creators of works of art, but as employers – creating work for other artists. We can’t ask for more then that!”
Printed in Animator Issue 30 (Spring 1993)