Question and Answer round with Johnny Schumann. Johnny is an animation director for the company Flickerpix, which is based in Holywood, Co Down. He reveals how his choices brought him to his current career.
Q: How did your career bring you to work in Flickerpix?
At the time I had just finished my degree and Flickerpix had contacted the college I studied at (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, or IADT) to ask the animation course co-ordinator if he could recommend anyone to work on series 1 of On The Air, a stop-motion animation series based on the Gerry Anderson radio show (which coincidentally is being screened every evening this week on BBC 1 NI). I was originally taken in on a short-term basis to make models for the first series and I've up spending about six years there on and off, directing the animation for the 3rd series of On The Air as well as working on many other animated productions for TV and film.
Q: Was it hard to convince the people around you that you could make a good career in animation, when you started out?
It's always going to be a challenge when it comes to making a career in animation, considering there are so many other talented individuals out there all vying for the same limited numbers of roles. The Northern Ireland animation industry has improved leaps and bounds since I first started out though so things are looking really good for the future. When I was in college there were only two or three active animation companies based in Northern Ireland and I was almost on the verge of moving elsewhere to find work.
Q: Who are the three people to whom you owe your present success?
Walt Disney, Nick Park (of Aardman Studios) and my mum for paying a good chunk of my rent when I was studying in Dublin.
Q: What animation houses have most inspired your own style?
I would definitely say Aardman Animations. When I start out animating I used to analyse (and still do) the various principles they used to animate their stop-motion puppets. All the little subtle mannerisms that brought their characters to life. I've always been an enormous fan of Pixar's films and they are right at the top of the game in terms of animated feature films. I was still in school when Toy Story first came out and that was what made me want to pursue a career in animation. Luckily at Flickerpix we do stop-motion animation, 2D animation and 3D animation so we get to cover a broad variety of techniques and styles.
Q: What has prompted your move into game and app development?
At Flickerpix, we made our first game a couple of years back which was a phonetic alphabet game for young children. It was made using stop-motion animation and was based on our short film Macropolis. Nowadays, as the mobile gaming and app industry is so large and almost everyone has a smart phone, it's almost a natural progression to dive head first into this sector. We also noticed there is a growing demand for apps associated with the animated content we are producing, such as the 2D animated series we completed last year called Five Fables.
Q: What can you tell us about the game, Boogie Woogie?
Although I'm an animator, I also play the drums and I'm quite passionate about music and so the idea came about when I was trying to combine the two. The game is a rhythm, memory and dance game all rolled into one. You are a yeti whose fiancee has been kidnapped by the evil dance-obsessed Dracula and your mission is to defeat his army of monsters in dance-offs and reach Dracula's castle where you will then have a final dance-off against Dracula himself and rescue your fiancee. It sound crazy. Maybe that's what happens to your mind when you work as an animator for so many years.
Q: You've won funding from the Arts Council's creative industries innovation fund (CIIF). How has that helped you?
Without the CIIF I would've had no way of financing the project unless I did it in my spare time (and being an animator with two young children, spare time isn't exactly of the essence) Thankfully Flickerpix liked the idea and we applied for the fund and I was able to make the game in-house, along with some programming help from Billy Goat Entertainment.
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