What was your first job after graduation from Royal College of Art?
I had a bit of down time after graduating as I moved to Brooklyn in October and wanted to spend time with my family and friends in the UK. When I moved to New York I signed to Hornet Inc. and began pitching on advertising jobs to no avail. In November MTV’s Liquid Television approached me about creating a Valentine’s Day viral for them and that became my first job after the Royal College. Based on interviews with my friends about what their thought sex was before they knew for sure, it became a cute humorous 30 second short.
When did you realise you could have a career in drawing and making animation?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else so I almost HAD to make it work. I still don’t think I’m at a point where I am making enough money to feel stable, but a freelance director will probably always have that problem weighing heavy on their shoulders as nothing is set in stone. I think if you pursue something for long enough, take the time to develop your style and technique, and really really want it, it will deem good results. You definitely have to be pretty poor for a while though – lot’s of baked beans on toast.
Advice to anyone thinking of studying animation and pursuing it professionally?
I think the best advice I can give is to work with a style and a story that is true to you. If you follow trends and try and make work that you think will land you work it will look forced and your heart won’t be in it, and that reflects so heavily in the end result. If you stop caring what people might think and start making something that genuinely makes you happy people will respond to it, and you will make the trends and people will hire you because you have a unique perspective – not just adding to the noise.
How do you feel being a freelance?
This last year is probably the first time I have felt truly freelance. After graduating from Kingston in 2007 I worked for myself directing music videos and commercials, but I always knew I wanted to go back and do my MA, so it felt more like a breather. Now I’m out in the real world and there’s no more school to distract me so it’s the real deal. It can be quite overwhelming, moving immediately from job to job, having several on the go at the same time when I am used to a school environment where you are just producing one film for a year at a time. It’s definitely different and I still don’t feel entirely used to it – when you are working for a client more is at stake because you have people to answer to. However at the same time it’s important to push outside of your comfort zone and the jobs I have been working on since I graduated have taken me down a path I’ve never considered before and I’ve developed as an artist because of them.
It’s also important to remember to pick your battles. Pitching for commercials after working entirely for yourself can be a shift – toning down your own style to make it more ‘marketable’ can sometimes feel like selling out – so you need to decide if you’re willing to do that – you need to decide what your career trajectory is going to be and chose jobs based on that.
How would you describe key concepts behind your style to people?
My style is really just the way I feel comfortable drawing. I think my style has just developed out of an ability to draw properly! As I progress and learn more about technique my drawing style adapts too, making me more equipped to be able to express myself – getting closer and closer to what I imagine in my head to what I put down on paper.
In terms of subject matter I often explore themes that are quite adult, sometimes gut wrenchingly sad, and the style I choose softens the blow – takes you into a pleasant colourful world where nasty things are happening. It’s like being told bad news whilst sitting down.
London or New York for animation? Tell us a little bit why?
I wave the flag for New York in every element of my life, so New York for animation too! I have definitely felt more supported here than I did in London, however I think that denotes signing to a production company that is the right fit for me – so that feeling of support could have come in any city. Both places have a great animation community, and I feel much more familiar with the production companies in England, what kind of work they do and who they have as directors. Just for me personally it’s New York, it’s where I feel most comfortable.
Key skills to making fantastic animation?
Story telling skills – 100%. You could make the most epically beautiful 3D animations and if the story is weak I will turn it off. Perversely you could have a gaggle of badly drawn characters twitching about on screen and if it makes me feel something, I’ll watch it until the end.
Visit Julia Pott to see her works.