What is your name and your current occupation?
Jane Davies – Animator, Director.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Cleaning public toilets in the height of summer, it was truly grim.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Animation Director on the ‘A Productions’ animated episodes of Frankenstein’s Cat (CBBC series). Most recently I directed the song section of ‘A Liar’s Autobiography’ a film about Graham Chapman. Different animation companies made sections of that film and I was involved in the ‘A for Animation’ section. That was quite an honor. I put a lot into it and I am very proud of it. There were only 5 of us that did the majority of the work (some additional help from some animators on bits of it) and it was in Stereoscope too. I’m so pleased with the end result. I also was very proud to be trusted with the characters of Jamie Smart on a micro short we did for fun of Looshkin. I’m doing another one but it’s taking much longer as it’s a little more complicated and I do them in my spare time (1 or 2hrs a day).
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Stevenage which is north of London. I did some animation in Foundation Art which was a defining moment for me, I had previous done a 2 yr preparatory art course exploring all areas of art trying to find what I wanted to do. When I did my first scene after reading about how to do it in the library, then showed my tutor I knew then and their that animation was what I wanted to do so I took the leap and studied animation at Glamorgan Centre of Art & Design University in Wales; which was the best decision I ever made. I stayed in Wales and did bits and bobs in Cardiff after graduating but eventually got some freelance work at A for Animation in Bristol on a series called Pond Life. I then became an animators assistant, I learn’t so much from him. Phil Parker is his name. I eventually got more and more work and have been there for 17 years.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I couldn’t say really, each project is different. But at the moment I get into work about 8:15, make myself a cup of tea, check emails then work at a computer. I have two snacks before lunch time at 1pm. Depending how things are going I try not to work through lunch and eat at my desk but that is the norm really. Then work till 5:30 (6 o’clock Wednesdays and Fridays) then rush home for bedtime (my son’s not mine). It’s not glamorous.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?I love being given a project to do from the start then figure out how to do it in time and budget. We did an 11min pilot of Pedro and Frankensheep which had to be finished in 6 weeks. That was hard but great fun as the project was so fun. The Brothers McLeod did a series of 5 min eps of Pedro before so a lot of the foundation regarding the characters and story was already established. So in those 6 weeks I had to organise the storyboard, new character and prop designs, BG’s, FLA builds and animation. The animatic was so much fun to do with that project as the script was so fast paced and the dialogue record so frantic it got to the point where pretty much every breath was edited out to fit everything in. It’s also brilliant to be able to add some ad libs in from the sound record to add extra humor. I am proud of the timing on that pilot. If I make myself laugh with something timing wise after watching it 40 times then its working. Then when it all comes together and animated and composited and is working well, it gives me immense satisfaction. It was a tough 6 weeks but only made possible by a good team. I have been very lucky to work with such great animators over the years. It’s always a joy selecting the best people for each role.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Computers when they don’t work. They hate me. Well it’s probably down to my slight technophobia and lack of technical skills but when computers go on a tissy fit it can be the most frustrating thing ever. And it’s usually when you have a deadline looming.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
2003 is when things changed considerably. Up until then I had been animating with paper on a light box. Then filming it on a line tester, cleaning up the animation then those drawings would be scanned into a computer and coloured and processed. I came into animation just after painting on cells had stopped. We worked on a series called BB3B’s which used Flash and it was the first time the studio had used it, I had tried for a few years to learn Flash on my own with no success (technophobe) so I put myself in a room with some one who knew Flash and was just beginning to animate professionally. So he taught me Flash and I taught him some animation tricks, Tom was his name and he became one of my valued animators who went on to be a better animator than me. Ever since then all 2D projects at A Productions have been done in Flash and After Effects. We use Flash as a tool and approach projects from a traditional 2D angle, it’s much quicker than using paper. And a lot easier to do corrections too.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Tighter deadlines and smaller budgets. I dream of being able to refine and craft a project but in TV it’s really hard to do that due to time. You have to get it right, do it well and on schedule.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
A whole load of amazing animators and artist I have been fortunate enough to work with. Seriously.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’m a very experienced motorcycle rider but just over a year ago I had an accident and hit my head very hard, I got vestibular and brain damage. That’s been very tough. I’m still on the mend, but I’m finally almost back to normal now.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m still working on a new Looshkin Short for Jamie Smart, this one is taking ages. It’s a lot more difficult that the first one, more going on. I just wish I could spend some solid time on it, an hour now and then on it is hard as you don’t get much done. I love Jamie’s drawing style. Ive recently been invited to contribute to the ‘A Little Bit Bunny’ blog, http://alittlebitbunny.blogspot.co.uk/ its a monthly themed blog that’s fun. I’m also doing the title sequence in my spare time on a live action short film about Autism. Its a great script so the film should be amazing. I try to do a lot of bits and bobs in my spare time as it makes me happy. It also helps you to improve your skills as well as being very satisfying.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m not that exciting anymore, I’ve got old. Ill come back to this once I’ve thought about it some more. Oh I take photographs with 35mm and 120mm film, that’s a bit unusual yes? Yeah I’m a bit boring. No need to hand me my slippers, I have them on already.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?Keep at it. Contact everyone you can find, it’s a lot easier and cheaper now with sending emails and links compared to mailing in disks with your showreel. Don’t get disheartened by no reply’s. Keep your showreel short. 1min to 1min 30 secs max, no need for a long one. People are more likely to skip on or stop it entirely if its too long or slow going. I have seen thousands of reels for my job so please trust me. Plus you are more likely to just put the good stuff in if its short. When you have finished your showreel show it to someone who doesn’t know your work, see how you feel about it when they are watching it. If there is something you think should be changed then change it. Follow up emails with new work to show, always put links at the bottom of your email. I once kept getting emails from someone saying hey I have new work on my blog but he didn’t link to it. Blog often, update your website and be on Twitter. It’s quite surprising how places are advertising on Twitter first. Plus you can discover Studios you never knew about too. There are so many inspiring animators and artists on twitter. Main thing is to keep doing things. Ive hardly any free time these days after becoming a mum so all I have is about 1 or 2 hours a night to do my own things be it animation or art. Usually I end up fretting about what I’m going to fit in so end up doing nothing art or animation related. Find things to do for a goal if you have trouble doing things for just yourself. I am presently addicted to the Full Secs Vimeo rumble. Ive done about 11 now, short things that wont take weeks to do. Keeps you active plus you can find loads of inspiration and try to better yourself.