What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Friedl Jooste and I am currently a lead animator at Sunrise Productions.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was a cashier at a toy shop for a day and then did data capturing for a power company, not the most fun I have ever had.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?I’ve worked on a couple films, especially the ones I got to work on in Canada was a great experience, but the projects I’m most proud of are the smaller ones where I got to have more of a creative roll, for instance Hooked, a short film I wrote and directed for Character Matters animation studios. I’m also very proud to be animating on the third season of Jungle beat for Sunrise Productions. It is the first Jungle Beat season to be fully created in South Africa and they have managed to put together a very talented group of people. I cant wait for season three to be released it is looking beautiful and the stories are great!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Cape Town South Africa. I have wanted to be in the animation industry since I was about 10, so I guess I just stuck to it. I learned a bit by my self and after school I went to study at UCAA (now known as the animation school) here in Cape Town. There was not allot of jobs available in Cape Town back then, but there was allot of students finishing their studies, so allot of competition. It took a couple months before I could get a job and I did have to spend many sleepless nights trying to improve my 3D skills. Eventually a guy called Brad Stillwell, back in 2005, gave me a chance to work at a company he started up and that was the beginning of my animation career.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Mostly it is just to get as much animation done as possible whilst drinking as much coffee as you can before the coffee machine breaks again! We do have our animation dailies where work gets discussed and some times brain storming sessions for pitching ideas to clients. I also try to, mainly after work, develop some of my own projects whether it is to write a story, or build and rig up a character to animate.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Working with amazing people and getting to share the joy when we see the results of our hard work.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
It takes allot of time to do anything and time is something there is never enough of.
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?
As an 3D animator I’ve spent my career mostly working in Packages like Maya, Softimage XSI and a few others. The tools have of course been getting much better over the years to streamline your work flow, and faster computers are always a plus for faster results. I try not to get to attached to specific software packages, case and point Softimage which will no longer be developed, a bit of a touchy subject…
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Clients don’s always understand how much work goes into creating a 3D animation, or any animation, so minds get changed allot and things get difficult, especially when companies work on fixed bids and deadlines.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would
you do it?
Well, not much point for me to beat a dead horse on this one. We have seen allot of big studios close down or down scale recently due to big losses on big projects. And then everyone had an idea on how the studios should and should not negotiate their contracts. Personally I believe that all we can do as creative is to find time to create content we want to see our selves because chances are allot of people out there will also want to see it. Especially now that the internet is providing us with more and more opportunity to engage audiences. If we build it they will come…
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have had the privilege to work with many amazing artists and I will mention two.
I got to work with a guy called Tom Roth who had been animating longer than I have been alive. He worked on a bunch of films like All dogs go to heaven, Hercules, Shrek, etc. Was a great honor to learn from him and to hear some of the stories he had to tell. I also worked for a time with an animator called Eric Lessard who had worked on allot of my favorite animation films and was a very good mentor to me. I have not yet had a coffee with Glen Keane or John Lasseter or any one like that, but one day!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
There has been allot of excitement about big projects coming through, and then they don’t and people have to find other jobs. A specific one was when a SA studio I worked for went from over thirty people to about five or six in one day. I wont lie, that sucked.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Mr. Wrinkles! I have just uploaded the first episode and am busy working on the next one. It’s a little web cartoon about a pug who comes up with elaborate plans to fix simple solutions. It’s not on a visual level with Avatar, I know this, but it was just meant to be fun and something I can do by my self for now, and so far the response has been great. As someone who has spent the past few years mostly animating and coming up with stories I find my self having to re learn the other aspects of 3D like proper lighting, texturing, sound, etc, but I’m getting there and I believe each episode will look much better than the previous. Currently Mr. Wrinkles is getting a big upgrade and I am very excite about the next story!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Uh nothing to interesting to say here, I’m a pretty average Joe, but Metallurgy sounds awesome, I’ll look into that!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Get into it as soon as possible, even if you are still in school. There are amazing open source packages like Blender to use and the internet is littered with animation training videos to learn from and then just keep practicing! Also it might be a good idea to not decide immediately what you want to specialize in. Give your self some time to learn as much about the industry as you can and then you will naturally start seeing what you excel in, but most of all, have fun creating cool stuff!