Cliff Parrott

What is your name and your current occupation?
Cliff Parrott and I am the founder of Magpie 6 Media located in Dublin, Ireland.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I could write an entire blog on the insane jobs I had before animation. It’s hard to believe that I was an attorney practising criminal defence, bankruptcy and other aspects of law. Technically I am still an attorney, I’m just not practising any more. I didn’t enjoy being one, it was high stress. Unlike seeing a film or finished piece of artwork in an animation project, there was nothing tangible to look back on after you’ve finished with a client’s case, just paperwork. Being an attorney did give me experience with preparing for the unexpected and negotiations.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There are a lot of great projects but the ones that I had the most enjoyment from were the projects where the crew was a blast to work with. I was fortunate enough (or misfortunate, depending on one’s point of view), to be one of the animators on Hollywood’s first Flash feature “Lil’ Pimp.” It was produced at Revolution Studios with the idea of capitalising on the success of the relatively new animated feature hit at that time “South Park.” In fact, a lot of the South Park crew migrated to Lil’ Pimp productions. There were so many talented and very funny people. It’s unfortunate that the script was rehashed so many times. The final outcome of the movie was a watered down version that didn’t pack the punch of South Park’s movie. It came out to less than unenthusiastic reviews and went straight to DVD. I am still in touch with a lot of the people I met there.

How did you become interested in animation?
It started at a very young age, maybe 4 or 5 years old. My first love was anything from Tex Avery or Bob Clampett. The energy and timing on their films wasn’t lost on my young impressionable noggin, I could see their genius even then.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Boston, Massachusetts. Born at St. Margarets Hospital in Dorchester. I wanted to get into animation from a young age but had no concept as to how one would go about it, especially in Boston. I was clueless about what to do for a career. While in high school someone told me about Cal Arts, so I applied. I had no idea about creating a portfolio. At that time I was making my first animated short (using my grandfather’s super 8 camera). So I stuffed a pile of my finished animation drawings in the application. I had no container to keep the animation drawings together. So, being the young genius I was, I put them in an old plastic bread bag (still had crumbs in it). Like I said, clueless. I bet they’re still laughing about that application.  Many, many years later, after I tried my hand at more sensible career choices that my family picked out for me, I took courses at various film schools in Boston. One of the instructors invited me to visit an animation studio he worked at, Olive Jar Animation. During the visit I went into the back room where all the artists were. It was like the clouds parted, beams of sunshine came down from heaven and angels trumpeted (a mini epiphany). Right then and there I swore off the law biz and made plans to get myself back to where I wanted to go in the first place.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Because Magpie 6 Media is small, I’ve got many things to do. I have to balance doing production for clients’ project against creating Magpie 6 projects. My day can range from writing scripts, storyboarding and editing animatics to filling out funding applications, doing the company’s accounting and paying taxes.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the creative stuff much better than the business stuff. The reason is simple, I have a creator’s mindset.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The left brained stuff.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Like most businesses, it’s always a cash flow issue. The feast or famine cycle is tough to predict and both can be stressful (though the feast part is more interesting).

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
It can range from pencil and paper to working with editing software, Flash, After Effects, InDesign for pitches, Dragon Stop Motion, script writing software, budgets/schedules and data base software.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
While working in Los Angeles I co-authored a book with Sandro Corsaro – the creator of Disney’s “Kick Buttowski.” While writing the book with Sandro I got to meet and interview Iwao Takamoto and Richard Sherman.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Tough situation is a relative thing. What might be tough to me, could be considered a minor inconvenience to someone else. I have no complaints (if I did, nobody would want to listen to them anyway).

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
My problem is that I have too many side projects. I have to prioritise them, get a few done and move on down the list.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I am currently enrolled in an adult education course on “How To Tie a Cherry Stem Into A Knot With Your Tongue” and I am an utter failure. The Heimlich manoeuvre has been administered to me on several of my attempts. I will look into the Metallurgy course and let you know how it goes.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Love what you’re doing. If someone has chosen to work in the animation industry, chances are they’ve already got that covered. There’s nothing worse than discovering after years of study and student loans that you hate the job you’re in. The great thing about the animation industry is that there’s something for everyone: writers, producers, technical geeks, concept artists, painters, music, voice talent and even legal. My last bit of advice to those of you who are looking to get their first job but are having trouble getting one because they have no studio experience is to make your own short film, a game, an app, etc. Find others like yourself in the same position and create something together. With outlets like the web and iTunes, etc., there’s a golden opportunity to shine.

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