With the London International Animation Festival (LIAF) kicking off at the end of the week (26 November - 6 December), we caught up with our Animation Consultant, Julian Scott, to discuss the capital's animation scene, support for those wanting to get into the industry and his top Festival picks.
Hi Julian! What is your role at Film London?
I am the animation lead here, working within the Inward Investment and Business Development department. It’s a consultancy role so as well as working as part of a regional screen agency I keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening in the sector as a producer too.
When we say ‘Animation’ what does this cover?
Primarily feature and television series animation although animated shorts and commercials come under my brief as well. London has around sixty-five animation studios ranging from small boutique operations to studios housing two hundred and fifty animators.
What makes London the place to be for Animation?
Ultimately, I believe it’s the creative talent we have. There’s good reason why major US studios use London for their service work and the creative development and series production that goes on is world beating. Our tax credit is also one of the quickest and easiest systems available and that has helped the sector grow massively since its introduction.
You’ll be attending the 18th edition of the London International Animation Festival, tell us what you’ll be doing.
Lots! As well as seeing as much animation as I can I am hosting two Film London panels on the 4th of December. One looking at disability within the sector– why we don’t have more individuals with a disability working and what studios can do to attract and retain that talent. The second is about funding, always a hot topic. Both of which came out of the research into Film London's new Animation Strategy.
Speaking of Film London's Animation Strategy, can you tell us a bit about the key areas it covers?
I interviewed over seventy people at the tail end of 2020 which led to a round table discussion with twenty key stakeholders, it was important for Film London to hear the views of the sector directly to inform us about what was of concern to the industry so we could prioritise and focus on the key areas. What came out of that process was six key pillars of concern: Our tax credits being seen as uncompetitive in broad terms, funding, infrastructure cost, skills and diversity, the true value of animation to the UK and celebrating London’s animation success. We made the strategic decision to focus on skills and diversity and celebrating London’s success and talent – one of the many reasons we are involved with LIAF – as they had a shorter ramp up time. The other areas are a longer-term challenge, and we are involved with partners like Animation UK and the BFI on them.
What are you looking forward to seeing/doing at the Festival, any top picks?
So much, eighty films from around the world, behind the scenes look at animation courses, other people’s panels and hosting ours. I really think it going to be spectacular.
Who or what excites you in Animation right now?
I should probably be more London loyal, but I love the work of Jason Carpenter. Jason is based in LA, but I might be able to convince him to move here! Jason creates stunning animation, notably He Named Me Malala and The Biggest Little Farm. I couldn’t single anyone or studio out in London itself, there’s so much talent and so much great work happening here.
What does the current landscape of the Animation industry look like to you? What’s changed and what does the future hold?
I think the biggest change is remote working since the pandemic. When lockdown first happened, the sector was almost back to capacity within a few weeks by moving everyone out of the studios and financially the studios survived well, some picking up new work when broadcast networks and advertising agencies switched from live action to animation.
It's had positive and less positive effects on the industry and I think we are now finding a balance – the hybrid working system – which has enabled us to utilise some of the non-UK talent we lost after Brexit and the pandemic and have animators back at their desks within the studio environment. The biggest challenge right now is skills which is a screen sector-wide issue. Lots do to and just not enough people to do it at the moment, in a way it’s a good problem to have but it needs addressing quickly.
On skills, what support and opportunities are out there for those wanting to get in the industry?
Speaking for Film London we have FLAMIN Animations, an initiative which has just offered funding for four black animators to create new work. I had the opportunity to meet them recently and it was very exciting to see new talent being given the opportunity to create new work.
We also have the BFI Network which offers funding for short films. We host UPstream once a year which is an opportunity for anyone with early-stage development of IP can apply to pitch their ideas to a panel of interested parties. I have been taking part as one of those interested parties for a few years and have helped usher some great ideas ion to their next stage.
There are also some opportunities like Blue Zoo’s Animation Dojo website where new entrants can try out ‘the online gym to further your animation career’. It’s not the only opportunity for newcomers and some good Googling will lead people to areas where they can learn and progress on their own and with advice and mentoring forum people already working. Networking is also very important and social media sites like Facebook’s FESTIVUS group, run by a Londoner I hasten to add, is a good place to start that journey.
What is your Favourite Animation?
I can’t claim a favourite, but Disney’s Fantasia probably had the biggest impact on me. I saw it when I was much, much younger at the cinema and the blending of music and animation really appealed to me. The experience has really stuck with me over the years.
Any final words of advice for those getting into the industry?
If you really want to do it don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask advice and talk to people. We have all had to start somewhere and I remember back in the day sending a massive number of CV’s out in the post, I even got some replies and one thing led to another and here I am!
Thank you, Julian!
The London International Animation Festival runs 26 November - 6 December. Find out more and get tickets over on the official website.