After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, it felt great to be back in Edinburgh for the MOVE Summit.
CONNECTING SCOTLAND, THE UNITED KINGDOM,
AND THE INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION COMMUNITY
After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, it felt great to be back in Edinburgh for the MOVE Summit. The three-day event brings together not just the Scottish animation industry but people from all over the world to give presentations and workshops. There were as many as four separate rooms full to capacity at times with workshops and presentations in the Pleasance Compound. This historic compound is also one of the main venues of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and derives its name from the Scottish word pleasance, meaning a park or garden.
Growing from a one-day event in 2017, MOVE has become a three-day symposium bringing together creatives from film, television, advertising, games, and the visual arts. One full day was devoted to programs for students and young animators. The other two days focused on industry content for professionals.
Wednesday, Emerging Talent Day, began with a brief welcome by MC Caroline Parkinson. By 9 AM we got down to business on the main stage with a discussion with Production Assistant Marion Crocker; Eilidh Brown, a rigging TD; and Dan McCance who does lighting and compositing gave the students an insight into alternative careers in the animation industry in Roles Behind the Film.
All three of the speakers work at the multi-award-winning animation and VFX studio Axis. With studios in Glasglow, Bristol, and London, Axis has earned a global reputation for creating commissioned and original work for film, television, games, and theme parks. The studio’s work has appeared in productions by Netflix, HBO, and Microsoft to name just a few of their clients.
Next up on the main stage was me. I gave a lesson on how to pitch your project. After my presentation, the students could put what they had learned into practice in the Pitching Creative Challenge. This year I was joined by Sami Young, Heather McManus, and Kyle Maxwell from Hee Haw Studio in Edinburgh in setting the challenge. Richard Scott, CEO and founder of Axis gave the students a short introduction. Then the Hee Haw trio and I introduced our two challenges. Because most of the students had never pitched before I made my topic very broad. I asked them to create a pitch for a short animated film, television series, or public service announcement and I told the group that I wanted to see a rough storyboard, character design, and a proposed budget. I also wanted visuals on the large sheets of paper that we provided.
The other pitch, from Hee Haw, was a very specific challenge. They asked the students to create a pitch about an ecological project. Then it was time for the students to break up into small groups, select one of the two challenges and get to work. They had 1 ½ hours to complete their presentations.
While they worked, Richard Scott, the Hee Haw team and I circulated among the groups ready to answer questions. We were joined by Axis co-founder and director Dana Dorian; Sueann Rochester, founder and managing director of Wild Child Animation; and Wild Child operations and training manager Suzie Brearley. The room was a beehive of activity.
When it came time to give their pitches, Richard Scott acted as master of ceremonies and timekeeper. After each presentation the Hee Haw team and I offered critiques. I was surprised to learn that all of the groups had opted for my challenge.
I have taught pitching for several years at MOVE. This year the quality of the student’s pitches was exceptionally high. There were two presentations that could realistically be produced and I was very proud of all of them.
Later in the day, there was a panel discussion on how to be a freelancer. The students could also attend workshops on Storyboarding as a Language given by storyboard artist Marco Maldonato from Berlin. Lighting and compositing expert at Axis Studio Daniel McCance gave his audience tips on how to Make Your Showreel Shine using his guidelines to effective cinematic lighting with Unreal Engine. They could also sign up for Creative Reviews which gave them 15 minutes with an industry expert to receive portfolio or project advice.
The day ended with two animation legions giving separate talks. First up was French animation director and master of the drawing board Kristof Serrand. His presentation about his career was fully illustrated with numerous slides. Kristof was an animation director at Dreamworks working on How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Penguins of Madagascar to name just a few of the well-known films that he had worked on.
In 2020 he moved back to Paris and is currently a supervising animator at Netflix. He describes this job as “. . . mainly to support Netflix projects that are created in Los Angeles and which are then manufactured by partners around the world”. Kristof is assigned to Europe but also supervises projects in Africa and the Middle East. He is a very entertaining speaker. His talks are full of useful information and peppered with lots of entertaining stories. He is also a lovely gentleman.
The final speaker of the day was Fergal Brennan, technical director on Cartoon Saloon’s My Father’s Dragon. The film, directed by Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner), is inspired by the Newberry-honored children’s book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannettkahn.
Fergal took the audience on a behind-the-scenes tour of My Father’s Dragon, explaining the process of developing an animation pipeline for a feature film. He also talked about the up and downsides of remote working during lockdown and that remote working had created a special bond between the crew.
Thursday began for me with a talk by Aardman director Matthew Walker. Any new project from Aardman Studio is exciting so I was delighted to hear Matthew, creator and director of their new comedy television series tell us about Lloyd of the Flies. The series is about Lloyd B. Fly, a housefly who is the middle child of 451 children. He lives with his parents, his little sister PB and their 225 maggot siblings inside their compost bin home. Lloyd, PB, and Lloyd’s best friend, Abacus Woodlouse go on adventures and explore the world outside their compost bin.
Even though the show is aimed at 7 to 10-year-olds I know that I will love it. I am a big Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time fan and those shows are certainly aimed at my demographic. Aardman continues to create wonderful offbeat characters that can’t help but make you smile.
Nik and I presented Toons and Tunes, our trip through the history of animation through music. Many of the films that we showed such as the Fleischer Brothers Sing You Sinners! (1930) had never been seen by most of our audience. We had a full house and a lot of excellent questions were asked about the films.
I was looking forward to hearing director Iain Gardner and his team talk about their latest project, A Bear Named Wojtek on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, we had to leave on Friday morning, but Iain was kind enough to give me a private interview on Thursday.
Based on a fascinating true story, Wojtek, a Syrian brown bear, was orphaned after his mother was killed by hunters. In 1942 the bear cub was discovered in a market in the Iranian Mountains by a group of Polish soldiers who were trekking across the Middle East to Alexandria, Egypt to join the British forces. The young bear was adopted by the Polish soldiers, becoming more than just a mascot to the regiment.
Wojtek grew to over 1.8 meters (5 foot 9n inches) weighing nearly 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). He learned to march alongside the troops and he enjoyed a cigarette and beer just like any other soldier. He also learned to salute. During the heat of battle, he carried heavy mortar shells to the soldiers during the heat of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Wojtek was officially enlisted into the army as a private. He was given a ration book and ate the same meals his fellow soldiers ate. He was eventually promoted to the rank of corporal. After the war, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish ll Corps, including Wojtek, was transported to Glasglow and stationed in Winfield Park. After their demobilization, the bear went to live in Edinburgh Zoo. His zoo keeper said that the bear would get very excited when a visitor spoke in Polish to him. Wojtek died in 1963 at the age of 21.
The script is by Polish writer Wojciech Lepianka and directed by Gardner, the project is a Polish-British co-production financed by the Polish Film Institute, Screen Scotland, and the UK government-supported Young Audience Content Fund. Gardner stressed that the hand-drawn film will not be a “cartoon”, rather it is an animated historically accurate account of Wojtek’s life.
A noted British actor Bill Paterson will voice the role of the zoo keeper and multi-Oscar-winning composer Normand Roger will compose the music. The film is being shot in English and then the Polish team will revoice it in Polish.
Wojtek is not only a hero in Scotland. There are many statues of him in both countries honoring this remarkable bear. If all goes as planned, the 28-minute film will premier this Autumn. I am intrigued by the story and looking forward to seeing the film.
Along with all of the talks and presentations, there was also an exhibition area. It was an opportunity for studios to show off their work and talk about what they are looking for in potential new employees. I was particularly to learn about the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive. With over 3,000 clips and full-length films ranging from home movies, documentaries, and industry to entertainment films, the National Library preserves and promotes access to films capturing Scotland and her people from the early days of filmmaking to the present. Some of their collection is available online.
The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation is located in Edinburgh. Set up by Ray in 1986, it houses more than 5,000 items from his films including original armature models, hard rubber stand-in models, armatures, original molds, artwork and miniatures. The Foundation’s display in the Exhibition Hall included a few of Ray’s original models.
During our two days at MOVE, there were opportunities to socialize and catch up with old friends. At the end of Student Day, there was a delicious speaker’s dinner at an Indian Restaurant. On Thursday the evening began with a networking reception with food and drink at the Pleasance Café. Then we moved on to OX184, a bar and restaurant in Old Town, for the Drink and Draw party hosted by Animade, a London-based animation company.
A big thank you for inviting me to be part of the MOVE Summit again to Tom Bryant, co-founder of MOVE. He is its guiding light and operations and finance manager. He also is the founder and managing director of the Edinburgh-based animation and visual effects studio Interference Pattern.
Another thank you goes to Caroline Parkinson. She is a MOVE co-organizer and the energetic mistress of ceremonies on the main stage for all three days.
Last, but far from least, a very big thank you goes to Lucy Teire who takes care of the nuts and bolts that hold MOVE together. Along with putting together the Industry Day’s programs, she took great care of all of the guests and made sure that we knew when and where we had to be.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city that I have grown to love. It is full of history and is very walkable. This year I discovered a new (and for me) very important fact about the city. Not only does Edinburgh have more Mexican restaurants than I have seen in any other European city, the one Nik and I ate at, Mariachi Restaurant, came as a great surprise. It serves the best, most authentic, Mexican food we have eaten in Europe outside of my kitchen. I don’t quite understand Edinburgh’s love of Mexican food but I am glad that it does.
I am already looking forward to the 2024 edition of MOVE Summit. The dates have not been set yet but I imagine that it will be in February. You can find out more about MOVE at: