Tim Searle


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What is your name and your current occupation?
Tim Searle; Creative Director for Kids & Animation at Tiger Aspect

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? 
Some of the temporary jobs I had while I was a student certainly helped remind me to focus on my college work: I was a dog’s body clearing up in a freezer warehouse. It was SO cold it froze the snot up my nose and the water in the edges of my eyes. My time in a supermarket meat room should’ve been enough to turn me vegetarian, but the worst one was in an toolmaking workshop where I had to make flat round discs into domed round discs, 1000’s of them, using a thing called a fly press. It wasn’t even a step up from Charlie Bucket’s dad’s job in the toothpaste factory, was SO boring! I know that I’m lucky I don’t do those jobs anymore. I love the job I do!

 What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of? 
I’ve been lucky to have worked in comedy animation all my working life,  I’ve working with some great artists and comedians, but I’ve REALLY loved working on Mr Bean. Making 52 films, with Rowan, a brilliant team of animators and artists, Howard Goodall with the music,  all in London, using a new digital approach has been a huge challenge, but great fun.

 Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from East Ham in London, grew up in Milton Keynes and now live nearby. Art was always ‘my thing’ when I was a kid, (I’ve always loved a laugh too). I was SO lucky that the art college I went to had an animation course. I’d gone there to do photography, but began to find that frustrating. The folks in the animation department down the corridor seemed to have much more fun. I managed to talk the course leader into letting me do my final year in animation. I knuckled down and not long after that I started a little animation studio; we did a wide range of stuff, mainly comedy.

 What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? 
This job is SO varied, that it’s hard to say what a typical day is. I think the best way to describe being a Series Director is like a circus ringmaster, or the captain of a ship. We’re making 52 films, with each at different states of production at any given time, so each day you’re working on different stages of different episodes. It’s hard not to get them muddled up in your head sometimes!

 What part of your job do you like best? Why? 
I love each stage of the production. Taking the scripts through to animatic (where we combine the storyboard panels to the voice recording) is where we the real sense of the episode, the timing, the story telling. That’s a great fun. Seeing the animation come together is very satisfying, particularly.when the action comes out like you hoped, or as often the case – BETTER than you imagined! But I particularly love the voice recording sessions. We’ve got a brilliant cast, they’re all top comedy performers, it’s great working with them, bringing the scripts to life.

 What part of your job do you like least? Why? 
All productions have a schedule. Sometimes there’s just not enough time, it’s a constant balance trying to what you want to do, within the time that’s available, or not.

 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?
When I started in animation it was pre-digital, we made ALL sorts of animation, with models, with collage, drawings, live action, cel, all sorts. But hand-making stuff limits what you can do in terms of output. I wanted to do narrative animation, so we really grasped the new technologies when they came along. We were early users of the Celaction software and that’s the animation tool we’re using on Bean.

 What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult thing is getting new shows off the ground. Mr Bean is one of those shows that works for all ages, children love it – but so do adults – of ALL ages. I love the idea of animation that works for everyone, not JUST the kids audience. I’d love to do more animation that works for a wide audience, I wish it was easier to sell.

 If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
There’s nothing I can do to change the way the business works! It’s changing all the time, we hold on tight, try to do the right thing and deal with the changes as they happen, and things are changing all the time!

 In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I never worked with him, but was a huge admirer of Bob Godfrey. I was knocked out when Bob phoned me up wanting to visit our studio. He came along and was really interested in what we were doing (was early days of a topical comedy sketch show called ‘2DTV’). He was very complimentary. I’ll never forget that day.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I made a conscious decision to move from doing well-paid short animation, to doing longer, more risky narrative work. It was a tricky time, but I’m glad I made that step.

 Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m now Creative Director for Kids & Animation at Tiger Aspect, so I’m working with Tom Beattie and the rest of the team on a range of new exciting developments when I finish on Bean, I can’t wait.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I love cycling. My son races and that’s recently got me back into racing myself. I used to race as a kid, so the suffer-fest you can only feel in a race is strangely nostalgic. It’s a great antidote to the otherwise sedentary life of an animation director.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?Keep a visual diary/journal. Collect bits you like, stick them in. Draw lots, every day. If you think you ‘can’t draw’ if you do it every day after about six weeks, you’ll be better. Obviously we all use digital tools today, but it’s still important to be able to draw. Look around you, soak it up, try to find your own path. Make it your passion,  but most of all – enjoy it.


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