“I have been working at Factory Create for over a year now, my role there is prop-maker and I have been working on a children’s TV series which is just airing now on CBeebies called Scream Street. It’s aired on Wednesdays at 5pm and it’s based on a series of books by Tommy Donbavand, who also writes the adventures for The Bash Street Kids in The Beano. We started putting together the sets in 2014 for the town where the families of vampires, werewolves and mummies live. I was working with the art director to come up with ideas for these, like what a vampire’s kitchen would look like.
They also shoot it on site so I see it from the initial drawing stage all the way to the finished film. We’ve got the characters already designed, but the way that sets and props will look is up to our Art Director. They come up with the ideas and then we get assigned to make these. It’s usually quite a quick turnaround, there’s a tight timescale, about a week or two between getting the script and making the set and props. There will usually be new sets to make and props that move, according to what the script says. So there might be an oven that needs to open so we need to make a prop that complies with the script. It’s very much to do with making things functional and efficient.
I did a four week trial, and then there was a bit of a break where I was working at a gallery building exhibition installations. Then Factory Create called me back and it’s been over a year now of uninterrupted work. When I first moved to Manchester, I worked for six months with Mackinnon and Saunders who make the puppets or characters for the shows. I moved away from the animation side of things for a few years and it was someone at Mackinnon and Saunders who recommended me to Factory Create when this project came along.
I would say the social aspect is almost as important as the work you make because you doing short contract and you need to get along with people in your team and get the work done. I rely more on contacts and recommendations from people I have met rather than a website to get work. It may seem a bit old fashioned but this approach works for me.
I was brought up in Leighton Buzzard with is north of London. So when I left AUB I spend about six months looking for work in London. There were a lot of companies who offered me a week or two weeks of work experience. When you’re starting off your looking for an opportunity to get your foot in the door. I thought it would lead to paid work but after a while, when I was still getting unpaid jobs, I started to look beyond London and that’s when the job came up at Mackinnon and Saunders. I’d met them at the New Blades show and kept in touch with Sarah, a producer there who liked my work. I think it’s important not to be disheartened if you don’t get your perfect job straight out of uni. You have to realise that there are a lot of graduates out there who are coming onto the scene at the same time as you, but you have to persist and maintain those contacts and let people know you are there and eventually it will come through.
I have worked on other things for TV and film, but this is the first time my work has been credited. It makes a big difference, you can really take pride in your work when you literally have your name on it. I guess it’s because I have been working on it for an extended period of time. A credit isn’t everything but it nice to see your name up there on the screen.
It looks like I will be there until the end of the year at least, which is a long time for a freelance job. I’ve built up a good range of skills and experience with different companies now, so I feel confident about getting more work. I’ve not always being doing animation based work. I spent a lot of time building exhibits where I earned a lot about joinery; that’s a skill I have been able to use when building sets. I would like to continue working with animation, but I’m open to do other relevant work that will build up my experience and skill-set.
If I spend my working time making I need to have a break from it at some point, so what I like to do is find other creative outlets. Recently I have started guitar lessons. It’s not something I am naturally good at, but it’s a great way to be doing something creative without the pressure of having to make money out of it.”
What is your One Piece of Advice?
“Well there are a lot of opportunities for graduates, the likelihood is, if you graduate from AUB, you will end up in a job you love. But don’t be scared of making slow progress, you can take your skills in a lot of different directions. I didn’t think I would be in animation, but I love it. You might surprise yourself as to what you’re going to enjoy doing until you give it a go.”