Feature: Q&A with... Tilley Bancroft

Sam has a natter with Tilley Bancroft, the Studio Director of Red Door Studios.

HM: Hi Tilley, what are the Red Door Studios?

T: We are a specialist animation and media studio, undertaking commercial work for broadcast, web and educational or awareness campaigns, as well as acting as an educational hub for animation and film. We also are very proud of our community animation projects, which we run across the midlands.

HM: How did you set up the Studios?

T: In 2007 I was a part of a team of media specialists working as freelancers for East Staffordshire Borough Council. I had just finished a film called "The Animal Book' which I co-wrote and directed alongside Chris Randal of Second Home Studios in Digbeth. The film was extraordinarily well received on the film festival circuit, winning awards, nominations and even making it to the Cannes International Film Festival.

My reputation as an animator was spreading and I was taking on more and more wide ranging media projects. I took over a very small room in the local Arts Centre, Burton on Trent's Brewhouse, where I was able to rent equipment and have access to the great creative energy and people there. Red Door Studios grew in reputation as a commercial and educational studio, and I was getting a better reputation myself as an animator. In 2010 I really needed a larger studio to accommodate the work, and the freelancers I was hiring in to produce the work with.

I started looking round for an appropriate space and finally discovered a converted dairy in Tutbury with nice high ceilings to accommodate the lighting equipment downstairs, and a separate space for meeting room and digital studio. I bought in a rather swanky coffee machine and the studio was set! Perfect! We moved in, in October 2011, in the heart of the recession, but with a lot of hard work and continuing to deliver quality, quirky animation and film for a wide variety of clients, we're still going strong!!

HM: What's the best and worst thing about setting up your own business?

T: The best thing is that I can run the studio how I think it should be run, with creativity, narrative and innovation at the heart of each project.

The worst thing is that running a studio how a studio should be run is very challenging! I soon found out that you cannot sustain a studio on short film funding alone, and that bread and butter projects are only boring if you don't make them interesting! A good accountant, financial advisors and the right creative team to work with are essential. I discovered the hard way that you CAN'T do everything on your own. Know your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and get people in who can plug your gaps!

HM: What's the best bit of advice you can give to someone wanting to do something similar?

T: Getting the right team together is essential, but setting up an animation studio is tough no matter who you have to help you. Seek advice, don't struggle on your own, and whatever you do, don't lose the passion and energy for animating. It’s very easy to get bogged down with day to day running. 

Lastly, it used to be enough just to have a website, but now you have to have a good social media presence online too.

 If you don't want to set up a studio, but want to become an animator, you more than likely will have to become a freelancer. To get work, you not only have to be good, but you have to really work at your craft. Stay up to date with latest techniques, equipment and software if you use it, and don't be afraid of becoming a shameless self-promoter! It’s not enough to be good at your job, you have to make sure we (the studios) know that you're good! Business acumen is important, don't panic, there are places that can help teach you the business skills that you'll need.

HM: Any big inspirations animation wise? Who and why?

T: My biggest animation inspiration in a director called Michael Dudok De Wit. He is, without doubt, the most lyrical and expressive animator on the planet with such an impressive range of films to his name. Look for 'The Monk and the Fish' or 'Father and Daughter' online and you'll see what I mean! He seamlessly marries humour with poignancy in his work with a flair that I wish I could master. 

HM: What's your favourite type of animation and why?

T: To make or to watch? I like watching any type of animation, as long as the narrative captures me. Stop motion, cut out, pixelation, computer generated, hand draw, sand, I love them all. Animation is just a form of storytelling, whether it has dialogue or not. A story that engages you, inspires you, and convinces you that these characters are real and worth spending time with, is a story worth watching. 

When I'm making an animation, I'm a traditionalist at heart, so hand drawn or stop motion are my favourites. When you produce something by hand, in real life, 'happy accidents' occur. A mark made in the wrong place that just adds a special something so you keep it in, or a light that flickers in a model without you realising until you watch it back, but it looks exactly like candle light. Perfect. A finger mark in a plastercine model that adds much needed texture in an otherwise bland shot. All these 'accidents' add character to a piece, character that I believe CG sometimes falls short on. Sometimes. Don't shout at me if you're a CG-ite! 

HM: What are your future plans?

T: We have a very exciting project working with a local illustrator, turning her charming illustrated books into an animation. The creative team we've put together is quite phenomenal, we're spending the next year getting together partners and funding and are looking to release it 2013. Other than that, we're also working on animated projects for other studios in the UK, delivering some fantastic workshops this year including giant puppetry workshops, making some digitally animated educational films and getting involved in promotional videos for businesses. It’s a pretty varied bag!

HM: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

T: Animation is an instantly engaging tool for businesses large or small, it isn't just about adverts or children's series! We produce a range of animated projects including web games, interactive animated learning programmes, animated logos, educational and awareness material, music videos, viral stings, community projects, animation workshops, short films, 'how to' tutorials as well as adverts and children's series!

If you would like to see the studio, whether or not you have a project in mind, get in touch and I'd love to give you a tour!

If you know anyone interested in animation, we run an animation school on Tuesdays or Saturdays where students of any age and ability are given one to one, or group tuition on a weekly basis with our experienced animators. They cost £26 an hour and we work towards a termly showcase for all students. Get in touch for more details!

For more information head to the website www.reddoorstudios.co.uk

Tags:  red door studios tutbury Studio Animation Tilley Bancroft Creative Creatives burton on trent

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