How to get into animation with Oscar & BAFTA nominee Peter Peake

Animation is an extremely creative, meticulous, and imaginative part of the film industry. Making an animated feature film can take years to finish. Even making a TV-commercial will average out at around 3-seconds a day. It’s safe to say you need incredible patience and skill to work in this industry. But, anyone who works in animation will tell you it’s all totally worth it.

So, for those who are interested in animation but aren’t sure where to begin, we spoke to animation director, Peter Peake. If anyone knows how to navigate the animation industry, it’s Peter.

Peter’s short ‘Humdrum’ was nominated for ‘Best Animated Short’ at the BAFTAs and for an Oscar. It heart-warmingly depicts two very bored shadows trying to entertain themselves. Since then, Peter has worked on numerous animation projects such as Pythagasurus (2011) Creature Comforts (2003) and Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002). After taking a year out to make his own short film – he’s just finished it. It’s now making its way around numerous festivals.

How did it all start for you?

“I went to college in Bath, they offered animation in the second year so I took that up. By the time of my degree show, all my stuff was animation.”

Peter went on to explain that although going to university isn’t essential, especially for budding animators, it gives you the space to get creative. University allows you to really think about your skills and what you’re good at, as well as providing you with the resources like studio space and software.

“It gives you the time to work with like-minded people.”

After going to university, Peter took his work to Aardman Animations. It was early days so Peter got to sit down with the boss himself and show him his projects that he completed at university. Before long Peter found himself working on a stop-motion commercial with Aardman and “they’ve kept me busy ever since” remarked Peter.

What is Aardman looking for when hiring young people?

After discussing how he got his foot in the door, it seemed logical to ask how others can do the same – especially now that Aardman has grown so much!

“When people come to Aardman we’re looking at their work, not their grades. It is purely the quality of their showreel.”

Aardman are looking for execptional talent. It doesn’t matter if you did badly at university (or you didn’t go) as long as you have a showreel that will blow their socks off. The same can be said for a lot of roles in the film industry! So, make sure you’re always creating.

What kind of animation have you specialised in?

“I do both. I was trained as a stop-motion animator. I do a lot of work in 3d CG and little bits of live action. We have a studio at Aardman where we can bring in actors. I mix it up, and I really enjoy doing that.”

It seemed to be that Peter wasn’t successful due to a particular animation niche, instead he’s played the feild and kept his options open – dabbling in all forms of animation. But, does he recommend other people to get a niche?

“I don’t think its absolutely necessary. I think if you know you want to work with plasticine, for example, then you should completely go for it. The first film I made at college was making a one minute advert from Jazz FM and I basically did a montage of all different types of animation and that really helped me figure what I liked doing.”

Is animation a collaborative process?

Essentially it depends on the project. However, Peter explains that even working on a short commercial you will work with designers, storyboarders, model-makers, editors, sound engineers and more.

“I’ve just got back from making an advert in Austrailia for a big department store over there – and it uses lots of different animation techniques (which I love) and is around 90 seconds… If I added up everyone involved in the project it would probably be more than 50 people.”

How would you describe your role?

“I’m the director. What that means to me, basically, is that I make sure that everything fits together and is cohesive. I need to make sure everyone is working towards the same thing. The director is the only person that gets to talk to everyone.”

What is it you love about animation?

“In terms of directing, I would have to say working with different people who all have different skills – musicians, artists, editors. I really like the vartiety!”

What advice would you give budding animators?

Similar to an earlier question, Peter clarified that you don’t need a polished CV. If you’ve worked on a great project – then that’s great. But a lot of young people won’t have stuff like that under their belt yet.

“Having a showreel, just a few clips showing what you can do is really important. If the model or puppet isn’t perfect and you’re going for animator job – it’s the quality of the movement that they’re looking for. Whereas, if you’re going for a model-making job then it will much more important to get that puppet looking perfect and you probably don’t really need to move it much. So, be specific on what part of animation you want to get into and than really show people that you’re good at that particular thing.”

 

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