Interview with Joe Kinch

What part of your study did you find most useful in exploring your creative practice and how has that helped you in your role as a director and designer at Blue Zoo?

Learning After Effects and Photoshop which are essential to everything I do today. You can do pretty much everything in either. Concentrating on them gave me a lot of confidence when graduating and I use them every day. Either Storyboarding, motion graphics, character designing and animating or just a quick animatic. Both are very handy to get to know how to use properly. Though I must admit, on the course we did learn about Stop Motion with Dragon frame, funny enough we had a stop motion project come in and all the tricks came flooding back. So you never know what will come in handy. 

What are the differences in University study and working in a studio?

Blue Zoo's 'Commuter Glitch directed by NUA graduate Joe Kinch

Blue Zoo's 'Commuter Glitch directed by NUA graduate Joe Kinch

Whilst at University I only relied on the Media Resources so everyday I would pretty much be there on a Mac animating away until I felt like it. Its not too much different working in a studio. You do have more responsibilities in the industry, like tighter deadlines and sticking to a schedule. But honestly you have to plan ahead anyway for the amount of projects you get handed so hopefully it shouldn't be too hard to get a grip with. Overall I say its just the speed, it's a lot quicker. Some companies are very time oriented, some are more relaxed and trust you'll get the work done. Id just be confidant in your abilities and the time management will come.

What resources do you use as a character designer? Where do you go for inspiration?

Photoshop and AfterEffects are my two babies. Also can't live without my Cintiq.  I use them everyday and you just naturally get better the longer you stick at it. In terms of inspiration it really depends on what the task is at hand. I get quick character designs inspiration from Pinterest.  Inspiration mainly for me comes from the TV shows and films I watch. Even the really, really, really bad ones like "The Room". You may laugh at some B grade films but its good to analyse the bad one so you can see what they could of done better. The same goes for the really good stuff. Just watch everything. Spot the traits directors use to define their own style, like Wes Anderson and Edgar Wrights. Take inspiration for shots from you favourite films and develop your own style from there. 

What achievement have you been most proud of?

I think going to Berlin for Pictoplasma and seeing the short I directed play at the Cinema in front of 200+ creatives. Getting the laughs that I intended there to laughs and just being really proud of what I had accomplished. Also a tiny bit of anxiety since it was a room full of 200+ creatives.

What would you advise students or prospective students about their time on a University course?

Get all your partying out of you in first year. I did. Not by force it just happened. Your work loads gets bigger and you really need knuckle down and take stuff seriously. You should still have a laugh and go out, but your work is the reason your at University. Use the Media Labs and tutors to your advantage. When your out of University you don't have any of that anymore. Spend time doing research and document your process. Showing the decisions you did not only exapnds your knwoledge but it really does make your vision clearer.

What would you advise students about graduating and entering into the animation industry?

You could have the best show reel in the world, get 98% as your final grade and your Uncle is the Director at Dream works, but if you're not able to communicate your creative talent as part of a team you're not going to get very far. Being humble is the best weapon to have in your arsenal when going into a new company. Be confident yes, be engaging absolutely but don't be big headed. The people who last long are kind hearted and hard working. Too many times I have seen a great animator or compositor stick their foot in it and its rare you'll see them back again. Use the precious time you have at a new studio is to pretty much play it cool, follow direction well, be a bit chummy with who is around. Any new place is weird, much like starting University. First say is horrendous, having to force yourself onto people. But at work it comes easier. You talk to people on the project and things just blossom from there. 

Blue Zoo's 'More Stuff' co directed by NUA Animation graduate Joe Kinch

Blue Zoo's 'More Stuff' co directed by NUA Animation graduate Joe Kinch

What ambitions or challenges do you still have to fulfil?

On my hit list Id love to develop my own TV Show. I would love to get a few more shorts under my belt with friends at the Zoo and just carry on being creative. When you're on a string of projects its hard to keep motivation to do your own stuff and do what you like to do, rather than Jane the Client from America wants 1000 changes by Friday. Staying true myself is what I want to do more. To not loose the spark that I had at University and to constantly improve and improve until I am the Uncle who is the Director at DreamWorks.

Daniel Greaves

Daniel Greaves is an award winning animation director and friend of the course. We asked him about his career and process. His latest film Big Bag has been a great success on the festival circuit. You can see Daniel's work on his website here.

Big Bag by Daniel Greaves

Big Bag by Daniel Greaves

What do you think the most important quality or qualities an animator should have?
Drawing abilities, originality, timing, compositional skills, and an understanding of design.

What’s the most difficult animated scene or action you’ve had to tackle?
In 'Manipulation’ - holding both hands in place for several hours over a rostrum camera table, and only moving them incrementally while an assistant changed the drawings each time : back breaking and cramp in the fingers.

What’s the best part of the creative process?
Conceptualising the basic idea, and then putting it to the test.

What is the most difficult part of the creative process?
Getting all the various aspects of the film making process to compliment and balance each other, so the film works effortlessly.

Do you choose the animation medium (CG, stop mo or 2D) based on the concept or a desire to challenge yourself?
Both, although now I don’t feel the urge to try new techniques so much, as I’m enjoying drawing and animating full time again.

What animation challenge do you still have to conquer?
Every unique idea is a challenge in itself. Also, directing a feature film (just the one!) is a temptation, but only if it is a great and inspiring story with originality. Having said that, I have so many ideas for short films, and if I committed to a feature, I would greatly miss the experience of short film making, which I often equate to the freshness and energy of a sketchbook, whereas the feature is like a meticulously crafted oil painting, and can lose it’s way in terms of it’s original purpose and individuality. Sketchbooks are often more exciting, personal and thought provoking than beautifully executed paintings.