What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Nikolay Moustakov. I am a freelance Story Artist and Animation Director. I’m also developing animation projects through my company Earthly Delights Films.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I was mainly studying with the odd freelance job, but can’t remember anything particularly crazy. Living in Bulgaria in the late 80s / early 90s was a bit crazy anyway – there was a big political and social change happening. Thinking about it, one year when I was 16 o17 year old I worked for a couple of months as a labourer unloading trucks in a massive egg wearhouse to earn some money for a summer holiday. The rest of the labourers there were a semi-criminal bunch stealing the thousands of the best eggs and selling them privately. They were looking at me with a great mistrust because they couldn’t work out why I was there (an educated boy) and suspected I was an informant of some sort. They used to start the day with some sausages and a bottle of strong home made grape brandy (at 6 AM!). Finally they warmed up to me after I drank half a bottle with them and managed not to fall off the truck or drop any eggs…
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Storyboarding on the feature Fantastic Mr. Fox, directing the TV series Sergeant Stripes for CBBC and my own short films.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. One of my first memories is struggling to work out how to draw a car and give the impression that it’s ‘moving’. I studied photography and printmaking and wanted to study Illustration but found out that the National Theatre and Film Academy in Sofia had an animation course, so I did that (5 years) and I loved it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1970. After completing my studies, my student short film ‘Flight’ went to several festivals. That’s how I came to London and after a few months of struggle and knocking on the door of any studio I knew of, I was fortunate to get my first animation job. Luckily, there was no receptionist, the assistant producer was out for lunch and I got to speak straight to the boss…
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Coffee, check emails, a bit of work, try not to waste too much time on facebook, a bit more work, lunch, a bit more work, coffee, chat, work, back home. It depends on the studio and the set up. Ten years ago the atmosphere in animation studios was very different than it’s now. Lately I’ve been working a lot remotely from home, which is nice but could be challenging – it requires a lot of self-discipline.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Working with the story – writing, storyboarding, directing, creating characters. Directing probably the most because I get to oversee every stage of the project, involves problem-solving and it’s rewarding to see the work of many people come together. In general I love any part of the project that still involves drawing.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I can’t really pinpoint any particular bit, it depends on the job and production set-up. Delivering things I’m not 100% happy with because of time or production constraints can be very annoying.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Cintiq, various drawing, storyboarding and animation software, pen and paper.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Negotiating money. Sometimes the political maneuverings.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well, I love meting people that try and create work that shows animation in all it’s creative complexity, not just a ‘cartoon’. I have worked with many brilliant animation people over the years. I had the pleasure to meet the great British animation producer John Coates who recently passed away. I also fondly remember meeting one of my favourite animation filmmakers Michael Dudok de Wit.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Working on a building site for a couple of weeks after first moving to London.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am developing a children’s cross-media project that will involve mobile apps, online and TV series. Not ready for more details yet.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can move my ears and twitch my nose.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Make sure you are fluent in the basics of the craft but try to find your own voice and be original.