I first discovered Steve Smith at an animation screening in London. His 1-minute MTV short Leap of Faith, (which was held up as the perfect 1 minute film by Bafta) was a magnificent example of concentrated storytelling. Since then I have enjoyed following his fantastic work, including the films of his founded animation company Beakus.
I love the diversity and range of Steve’s films, which is also reflected in the brilliant, eye-popping portfolio of Beakus. His award winning creations include Fun Facts and the BAFTA winning Newsround – Semara’s Story, whilst his clients range from the BBC, Google and Nickelodeon. I asked Steve what inspires him…
When I was a kid I loved watching short animated films on TV. They were shown at weird times – mostly in the middle of the night – so I used to record them, which actually helped because I could watch the animation back frame-by-frame if I wanted and learn a lot about how animation was made. It all seemed fascinating to me, how images that are still can be made to move in so many ways, and how characters could emerge that convince you they are real. It’s still amazing to me, even now! I wasn’t so interested in Disney, but in exotic and bizarre East European films, artistic films from the UK, and anything that was different to Disney! I always thought animation was art, and pushed and pushed to try it out when I was at school. In the end I used two VHS recorders to create animation by quickly pressing record and play again and again – crazy!!
There are so many!! I love Estonian filmmaking, especially Priit Parn, but actually my favourite film is probably Flying Nansen by Igor Kovalyov. It’s the weirdest film, but beautifully designed and animated, and he’s a great director, working out of the American studio Klasky Csupo. Who, funnily enough, created my favourite series ever, Duckman. Anarchic, tongue-in-cheek, and obnoxious, it was a huge influence on me.
That’s even harder than the last question! Surely my favourite animated character should be in my favourite film or series, right? Well…. I think for all-round amazingness I’d have to say Homer Simpson is best. He’s simple, in some ways, but utterly believable, loveable, and funny. However, the main character in Duckman, called Duckman (funny that..) is very funny too, just not to everyone’s taste!
Sounds obvious, but you’ve got to know your stuff! I see so many animators who think they are great all-rounders (designers, animators, filmmakers, directors) when in fact they should be focussing on one main part of animation and excelling at that. Know your software inside out. Animate in your spare time – the more you do the better you’ll get. And don’t just watch the films everyone else watches – manga, Disney, Pixar – discover things no one else has seen. The world and industry of animation is actually huge!
It’s so easy to watch things to inspire you – search around on Vimeo; follow the coolest studios/animators on twitter; check out www.shortoftheweek.com (not just animation); track developments from Adobe (adobe.com); get hold of the British Animation Award DVDs, or similar; save up some money and visit the Annecy Animation Festival, or start ‘local’ at LIAF; and look around the subject of animation, at illustrators you like, kids series you may find boring but admire the style, product designers, and live-action filmmakers…. So much to do!!!!
Check out the Beakus website for more brilliant films!