Mike Scott

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Mike Scott, director / animator.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?Waiter, DJ, promos, runner for a film crew.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of6 Goldfish animated music videos, working with David O’Reilly on some [adultswim] idents, my ‘MooseBox’ Nickelodeon project, music videos for my brother’s band ‘The Kiffness’.

How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always been interested in animation, I’ve drawn since an early age and had tried various animation tests growing up. One of my mother’s friends gave me a book on animation as a birthday present, I guess that all helped.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, went to junior school there, high school in Natal, Fine Art in Grahamstown, business degree in Johannesburg, then moved to Plettenberg Bay and I currently commute between Plett and Cape Town. One of my friends from University was working for a comedian and she said he had a show idea. I met with him and drew some of the characters, made a 4-minute pilot (on spec), show was picked up by a local tv station (another friend had seen it on TV, nobody told me) and so I animated on that show, firstly in a studio doing smaller jobs like making lots of coffee and scanning in drawings, and sooner or later I was given whole 5 / 6 minute episode scripts with a voice track, to make in 2 weeks by myself.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’ve been working in a studio in Cape Town with other people so I’ve been discussing character and world for weeks now for a show I’m making. Mostly I work by myself in my studio in a sleepy coastal town, so I’d wake up, if it’s a nice day I may decide to go surf / beach / bike ride and then start working later. If there’s a lot to do I’ll work, sometimes throughout the night. It’s tricky to answer this because I don’t really have a typical day. I’ll try make one up: Wake up, drink some water, eat some cereal, go on Facebook and check emails, log on to Gizmodo / Gawker to see what’s happenin’. Figure out what it is I want to do that day. Decide on some character sketches and do that, speak to my buddy in the next room about character, catch up with what’s been happening with him and his project, discuss the characters’ intricacies and the world we’re creating, various rules, etc… work till lunch, get lunch at the lunch room and sit outside, meet with other buddies at the studio and chat over lunch, gaze at the mountains connected to Table Mountain (studio is on a farm). Go for a walk around the block with other animators / riggers / pre-viz people, get back to work and do a bunch more stuff, answer some emails, take pics of the whiteboards that have been done during the day and edit them in Photoshop to send by email to my client, scan whatever drawings have been done, maybe add some colour to them in Photoshop, send them in an email to my client, switch off comp and lights at 6:00pm and drive home and listen to my brother’s song come on the radio (happens fairly frequently).
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the creative part of drawing characters, doodling, drawing comics, because I think I’m fairly good at that and enjoy flexing that creative muscle. I like doing straight ahead comics because it’s like I have a direct line to my unconscious mind.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I’ve started getting more into script and sometimes spend hours and days editing text and such. I’ve gotten much better at understanding the ins and outs of what makes a good character and the structure of a decent script, but I’m still not fluent in it and I can see how some of my buddies have a gift for writing really nice things ha ha. So, I’m enjoying it more. I guess chasing up payment can be a drag.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Internet, Email, Photoshop, Wacom Intuos and Wacom Cintiq, Premiere Pro, Indesign, pencil and paper, lots of paper, blue pencil recently, scanner, whiteboards, A6 cards for storyboarding, Storyboard Pro, hopefully a good chair to sit in and a little ball to chuck around during breaks. Prestik to knead to keep hands busy. Shirt neck to bite while working. Couch to lie on when tired.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Nothing really too difficult, I guess maintaining a level of self-belief. What’s difficult about this … hmm. I guess I find the nature of this is that if I want to do well it requires investing quite a bit of myself at one point or another so I do give it a lot of myself, and that can sometimes affect other areas of my life, like relationships.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
For sure! I heard Steve Purcell, creator of Sam & Max, was exhibiting at ComiCon in San Diego back in 2006 so I flew out with the express purpose of meeting him. I did, and also had Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) sign a comic for me, I met Sergio Argones who did all those margin comics in MAD magazine, I visited Pixar and went to ‘the secret room’ and had a tour there and Carlos Baena, one of the cofounders of ‘Animation Mentor’ showed me a scene he animated for ‘Cars’ and the reference footage he took, I met Grant Orchard from Studio AKA when I visited the studio on my UK trip, I met a whole bunch of animation people at Annecy Animation Festival in France, almost too many to mention / remember, I’ve worked with David O’Reilly who is my animation hero … nice things.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
After I moved to Plettenberg Bay I decided to make my own animation show, HappyLand, and left a good paying job in Johannesburg to make it. I made a pilot and shopped it around. Nobody invested. So, I panicked a bit and started looking for other work. I got a job as an art department runner for a series about Robinson Crusoe and the American network had a local company involved that were filing some beach shots in Plett. It was a lot of driving around, doing odd jobs like shopping and taking a car in to be washed. I quit and decided that if I can animate a bit I really should use that because not everyone can do what I do. I pitched an animated music video to Goldfish for one of their songs and they went for it. I’ve done 6 animated music videos for Goldfish, most of them have clocked one or two million views and been nominated for numerous awards. So, I’m glad I bit the bullet and rustled up some gumption. Also I sold my entire HappyLand EP (including the 52 interstitial shorts I made) last year. Kiff.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I just finished this passion project called ‘Kopistilo’. I don’t know what the word means, just came up with it. I drew a bunch of stuff in a sketchbook, scanned it in and animated it. My brother did the music and sound effects. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZocWcfXDgc
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I was a professional drummer for a while. I’ve played in many bands, the last one was a band my brother and I started called ‘The Kiffness’. We started doing really well and there was quite a bit of traveling and I was trying to do animation too. So I left and The Kiffness has carried on into awesomeness, many Top 10 songs on our biggest local radio station, gigs flat out, album has recently launched and done well, so that’s great. I still mess around with music as a side hobby 🙂
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Probably the best advice is to do personal projects that you think are great because I often think those speak volumes more than a commercial advert, and it’s amazing how far being pro-active can take a person, especially starting out.


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