BA (Hons) Animation Production alumnus Kayvon Darabi-Fard graduated in 2010. He tells us about his work since graduating.

My current home is Belfast, where I work freelance, but there are a lot of networking opportunities in London so it’s good to visit and also see family too.

I drew a lot as a kid, from flip books to drawing cartoons on TV, drawing from extras at the end of videos and using three sheets of paper to try and make the images move.  From that I drew for many years and went on to study media in Manchester but specialised in animation.  One of my lecturers there was an AUB alumnus and advised me to go there. So I headed down and met Peter Parr and he was really inspiring.

Peter really encouraged us to always keep a sketch book with you and to draw and observe and get those things down on paper.  Nowhere else quite had that spark.  It was contagious, when he showed us his sketch books and started telling the stories of what he had seen it really made all of us appreciate the importance of observation and recording it to use and show later.  He referred to it as clocking up drawing miles.

Unfortunately I wasn’t straight into a job from uni. I was so adamant that I wanted to do storyboarding and I turned down opportunities to animate. In the meantime I was working in bars and restaurants and then began in the retail arm of an international media company. I thought I could use this opportunity to work my way up to the role I wanted to be in.  After two years of persistence, meeting people in the company trying to get a way in to the things I wanted to do I came to a point where I realised that this approach wasn’t working.

Luckily I had a call from a friend in Belfast who asked me if I wanted a job as an Animation Fixer so even thought it meant I would be giving up all of the time I’d invested in pursuing a role in this other company I said yes, left my job and started working in Belfast. I was starting all over again but I was going in the right direction. I wasn’t doing storyboarding and I was using software I hadn’t used before; it was a tough first month. I was living in a hotel, eating noodles from a kettle, but it was worth it to get back on track.

For the first time since uni, I was surrounded by people who were great at their jobs and who knew what it is they loved to do. I knew I loved to storyboard and that I could do it even though I hadn’t gotten industry experience. The moment people asked me what I do I said “well I am doing animation fixing here but really I am a storyboard artist – that’s what I do”. I told the director, my supervisor, the producer, everybody. At the end of the project there wasn’t one person working there who didn’t associate me with storyboarding.

Jam Media put out a call for storyboard artists and I applied. A few months later they called me back and I got to work on Zig and Zag. I was a little bit star struck. It was so cool to hear the audio track and recall those voices, a trip down memory lane. It was great to be working on something you’d seen on TV as a kid. A great job! I also worked for BBC on a series called Messy Goes to OKIDO.  That was my first freelance work as a story boarder. I had a lot of creative freedom; they gave me the characters and the scripts and just said to go for it! So I got to pick out the best bits and make it visually really rich. This show was great to work on because it was educational too, so I felt like what I was doing was having a positive impact on kids.

When I was still at uni I was setting up life drawing for the animators. I have always loved acting and the theatre, animation is acting with pencils. I put a call out through the uni to get people involved.  I brought actors in to the life drawing and had them dressed in costumes and that really got people engaged. When I left uni I went to my local theatre and asked them if I could do some drawings of the show, they agreed and I did about 13 sessions of the Three Musketeers and from there they asked me to do some designs of flyers so I did that to build my portfolio and keep clocking up the drawing miles. Then fast forward to three years down the line still very much enjoying the theatre and drawing in this situation.

I approached the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and they said come on down. So I sat there in the darkness with my drawing board and desk light and made drawings in ink and chalk.  When I had finished I gave the drawings to the theatre and they really liked them. They used some as promotional material especially on social media. Two months down the line I got a call saying the director of the new show wants you in – how much to you charge? So I became a Theatre Sketch Artist. I really feel like this work. I feel it could only have developed out of my skills in drawing for animation. I’d love to continue doing this between storyboarding jobs or even all the time.

What is your One Piece of Advice?

It’s an obvious thing, but stick at it. Remember what makes you smile, makes you want to sit down and draw. Consider those opportunities that may not be exactly what you imagined doing.  Be kind to people, it’s a small world.  Be kind to your fellow students also, the years below you will be your colleagues when they graduate.