Studio NX, a funky lil production studio in Toronto, has built a solid reputation for their ability to turn their unique style into a client's message --by injecting their own brand of quirky humor. Studio NX, led by their unconventional leader Adam Jeffcoat, has created a wide-range of animations spanning TV, film and the web. Adam and the studio's true passion lies in 2D animation, as evident by some of their most-notable projects:
Since 2003 Studio NX has built a successful portfolio by creating long-lasting relationships with high-profile clients like Nickelodeon, Shell, Barclays and CBC. We recentley caught up with Adam, who happily volunteered to be part of our interview series. Adam very succinctly turned his (and his studio's) successes and failures into tangible advice for aspiring animators and animation entrepreneurs:
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus?
Our focus is to do something different within an industry that seems to just reproduce itself over and over. We are passionate about storytelling and using concept and design to support that, rather than overshadow it. We will always aim to remain independent so we don't become led by business.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is _________.
I would say online, it seems like more and more people are watching the internet rather than TV and of course the smartphone and iPad market is huge right now.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation field?
The best aspect is that we get to draw and be creative every single day. The worst is when you have clients who don't let you do your job.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
I think just simply surviving - as a small 2d studio throughout the recession, budget cuts and continuing to produce our own work for series pitches and promotional pieces.
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
Number one has to be a high level of drawing and design, too many students don't appreciate the importance of life-drawing. We also look for a strong story-sense and a sense of humour in their work.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
We tend to look at Sheridan college grads as its a great school and fairly local to us. We also love the students coming out of the French schools like Gobelins - their stuff is always amazing!
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Draw, draw, draw and draw some more. Use the computer as a tool rather than a means and plan your stuff properly before animating and designing. Try drawing personality rather than just a pose and think about what story you are trying to convey in your work. Everything must have a purpose.
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
I think all of our pitches for series work have been the most challenging as we have done them all off our own back. Trying to self motivate as you work evenings and weekends to work on a project that has no guarantee of selling is always tough but something always drives us through, that and a strong cup of coffee to stop the madness from setting in.
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
A childhood spent copying Warner Brothers cartoons, a College degree in art and a degree in animation at Sheridan College. Lots of hard work and endless drawing but it pays off as it really prepares you for the industry. A lot of learning is also done on our own by studying films, cartoons and books.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use?
Which one would you recommend to beginners?
I would usually recommend Flash as you can draw straight into the program simulating traditional 2d. I have heard Toonboom is good but I haven't tried it yet.
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
All I can think of is a story about the importance of inspiration. When i was in second year of animation college I was at an all time low, the huge workload, the endless all-nighters and the struggle to compete with other artists was proving too much and I considered dropping out. One evening a friend asked if I wanted to go to the cinema to see a new movie called The Iron Giant, I had never heard of it but I thought why not. I literally sat there for an hour and half with my jaw firmly dropped, I was blown away by this brilliant and emotional story and it completely reminded me--like a slap in the face--why I was in the industry in the first place. Ever since then inspiration has been hugely important for me and I cover my studio walls with artwork that I love and try to watch new animation and movies as much as possible.
Has the trend of outsourcing animation overseas affected your firm, if yes, how have you dealt with it or compensated for it?
Only partly, we may have lost out to some contracts as we got undercut by overseas firms but I think this is a natural part of the progression of animation. That's why I think online content will start to take over and it can be produced for smaller budgets meaning independent studios like us can keep working
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
I would say decreasing as with a huge increase in schools and online animation courses the market has been flooded with animators and there's not enough jobs to go around. Luckily the video-game industry is doing well and is soaking a lot of people up.
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.