- Job title:
- Creative Director
Jamie has been a fan of TV animation since he was a child. He attended Cardiff Animation Festival at 16, where he picked up his first copies of Kidscreen and Animation Magazine; keen to know how the shows he loved were made and who they were made by.
In 2002 he graduated with a 1st class BA Film and Animation from Arts University Bournemouth, having learnt to produce hand drawn animation using cels and lightboxes. Graduating he realised there were few hand drawn animation studios and he needed to consider which direction to go in. The careers advice he had received whilst at University had been to take a job that will get you into the industry by whatever means possible.
Jamie did some hand drawn inbetweening at King Rollo Films for a few months, and then discovered they were crewing for a new CG feature for Walt Disney Pictures called Valiant. Jamie applied for several roles and eventually was taken on as the film’s first production assistant. Through this role he gained a broad overview of the production process on a project with a crew of over 140 people. He also saw how decisions about the schedule were made, and how the budget was affected by the creative vision and vice versa.
As a production assistant he was responsible for tasks such as establishing crew from overseas in the UK. As he had a creative background Jamie was able to jump in and help storyboard a scene, design some sets, create drawn maps, and do some animation fixing on the film. Being able to move between the production team and the creative team Jamie could see how the production was run, where frustrations arose, and the delicate balancing act that was needed to keep a calm environment for the artists.
He then moved on to work on an independent start up project that enabled Jamie to learn how to lead a team and also allowed Jamie to work with University friend Tim O’Sullivan (who is one of his partners at Karrot Entertainment). Through the pitching process, Jamie met Chris White at Bluw Creative who invited him to design the characters on another project, which became a book Jamie illustrated and co-wrote called Hairy and Ponies and Friends. The self published book sold 3,000 copies in the first three months.
Given his background Jamie was keen to turn the property into an animated series and continued developing the project voluntarily, whilst at the same time teaching animation history and animation skills at Arts University Bournemouth.
At this point Jamie could have gone back into the job market, but instead decided to take a risk and with Chris White and Tim O’Sullivan started to develop animated TV series for children using design agency Bluw Creative as a vehicle to find jobs that would enable them to build an animation studio.
Having some production experience and an awareness of the industry Jamie naturally fell into the producer role. Jamie attended trade markets such as MIPCOM with Chris to enthuse people about Karrot projects in development, which was easy for him to do, as he was genuinely passionate about the work of the people he represented.
As Jamie and Chris wanted to produce their first show in house so that they could learn the ropes as they went, they knew they needed something that would be simple enough to produce and Sarah & Duck was the most naturally charming on their development slate. It also proved to be popular with broadcasters that they pitched to.
They received valuable advice from executives from Channel 5 and CBeebies that helped to shape the show. Jamie would go back to the creative team with the feedback, and with them decide on how they could make the project succeed based on the feedback. This early research helped to inform the project they took to Cartoon Forum, which was well received and eventually picked up by CBeebies.
As creative director Jamie has to make decisions about what projects Karrot takes on, to ensure that they are distinctive enough to stand out in the marketplace, and has perspective on how the projects meet the artistic and narrative ambitions of the company. In his day-to-day responsibilities Jamie has an overview of all the creative projects being produced by Karrot, including the recent pilot for Amazon Studios and the five or six new projects in development.
Having the long term commitment of pre-school series Sarah & Duck over the next couple of years, Jamie has time to work up what the next project will be and how it can be funded. Jamie has to be considerate about the projects they take on in order to keep the studio an attractive place for the team to work in.
His main role as producer on Sarah & Duck is to make sure that Karrot spends the money available on the right things, and the best artists. Coming from an artistic background Jamie has a good level of understanding of the process, and sensitivity to what makes the end product the best that it can be.
“You have to make sure that the artists can actually achieve the tasks set in a comfortable environment where they can produce their best work.”
Although Chris White, as Business Director oversees the budgets, with Sarah & Duck Jamie gets to decide with the creative team what the pay scales are, where to put them within the team and how long they should be working on the project.
Jamie works with the line producer, who works closely with the animation director and the director. If there are problems that hinder the director’s vision then Jamie needs to be informed and to help solve them. Having the overview of the project, Jamie helps to shape the schedule with the line producer and ensures that it is manageable. The junior producer oversees file transfer and preparing assets for edits and stills for print. Jamie works with this small production team to ensure that they keep making the right decisions about the show.
With Sarah & Duck the in house team is around 25 people, contracted per series. As some people will choose to move on at the end of a series, there can be fresh challenges within each new run to ensure the team always functions at its strongest. Jamie is involved with helping the team to choose which stories go into production, that they are feasible, and that there aren’t several complex episodes in a row.
To make the widest range of stories possible, it can be quite challenging for the finances and the pipeline. There have to be some simpler episodes to balance he complex ones. For instance, bringing in particularly extensive new locations means you need to have more time in production, so Jamie is involved in the decision to increase the allowance for each episode’s art direction, whilst reducing the time on a couple of other episodes. It is easy to forget when you are writing how the new ideas you are bringing in will bring new challenges and effects, but finding a way to support those ideas is an important part of the job.
Within the creative team Jamie wants to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard as much as it can be in a fast moving pipeline. He and the director ultimately have to make the final decision on what happens and what is changed.
Consistency is key in creating a singular voiced show and that is part of Jamie’s role. During the first two series Karrot have largely kept the writing team as three people, including the director, and co-creator Sarah Gomes Harris and writer Ben Cook.