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Piers Godden

Job title:
Animation Producer

What does your job involve?

Just like producing in television or film, an animation producer’s job involves bringing together a variety of different people with specific talents to make an animated programme or film.

The key to the job is to make sure that the right people are on board and that they can work together to achieve a common goal. A producer on his own is pretty useless. You require so many people to make a project work – such as the director to realise the vision and the concept creator to come up with the ideas.

The other most important aspect of a producer’s job is to raise the finance. Once you get the money, you can get the right people together. But if you don’t get the money, nobody works.

Financing animation is a very complicated business. It’s almost impossible to get a full commission for a film or a series. If you are lucky you will get 30-40% from a main source and then have to go out and raise the rest. Typically, I’ll approach commissioning editors, co-producers, banks or investment houses that have different pots of money to spread across the media industry.

Animation is a global business. You will rarely work with just one company in one country. To help raise the money and spread the risk, you have to produce animation for the global market using the global market – making use of international co-production deals, government incentives and tax credits. The UK is actually one of the most difficult places to find investment for animation.

But the great thing about the UK is the large amount of talent here. There are around 50 animation courses running in the country. That’s an awful lot of people coming into the industry. But the difficult thing is that there are few jobs because there are no incentives to produce animation in the UK, unlike Canada or France.

What kind of skills do you need to be an animation producer?

You need to be very organised and have the ability to put together all the pieces that it takes to make your film, like a jigsaw puzzle.

You’ve also got to be very understanding and flexible. So often things will come at you from around the corner that you were not expecting. You’ve got to be able to adapt and understand the requirements of the industry.

You’ve also got to be liked. A lot of the industry is based on personal relationships, so you’ve got to be able to talk to people, communicate with them and understand what they are looking for. It is about making compromises without watering down your projects. You need to strike the right balance to make sure the project progresses. You’ve also got to make sure you can deliver what you promise.

The animation business is very different from live action. My experience of live action is that it is a lot more competitive. Generally I have found that the people involved in the animation industry are more down to earth and friendly. It is a very close knit industry and everyone tries to help each other succeed including the competition.

How did you get into the business?

I studied broadcasting at Ravensbourne. In the first year, I produced a live action short film called 'A Dog’s Life' for the Fujifilm Scholarship Award Scheme. It won seven awards and toured the world picking up a variety of other awards along the way.

When making this film, a rostrum camera company in Soho helped us out and we returned the favour by going in for a few days to help them on an animated film called 'Tuesday' for Sir Paul McCartney. It involved doing post production work including ink & paint and compositing on computers. While developing and putting together other live action films I ended up working for them on a freelance basis for a couple of years.

After five more years and a variety of jobs in the animation industry I formed my own company, 'The Great British Animation Company'. As a small team we have been developing our own properties and have established a digital animation service facility for other animation projects. We’re using new technology that allows us to animate directly in the machines so that you don’t have to do everything from scratch.

We currently have a series in development that we are taking to Cartoon Forum (a leading international project and financing market for EU animation) in September in Denmark. We’re putting together a trailer at the moment and are looking to put the finance together to get the series into production. It’s a pre-teen animated series for 8-10 year olds incorporating magic, time travel, adventure and most of all, fun. It's like a cross between 'Buffy' and 'Scooby Do' in the style of the 'Gorillazs'.

What training have you had recently?

I went on a seminar run by Cartoon called Cartoon Finance which was sponsored by Creative Skillset. It’s a two day event in which expert speakers from all over Europe talk about finance and ways of making money, such as ways of exploiting production, music rights, merchandising and licensing deals. We looked at the different revenue streams you can achieve from animation and the best way to exploit them. It was a very informative couple of days and a great opportunity to meet different people involved in the industry.


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