Held this past February, the Cape Town International Film Festival brought with it enough geeky goodness to thrill animation professionals of every kind. But perhaps no one had more cause to geek out than the three students who lucked out when CTIAF partners stepped in with some amazing last-minute prizes in the associated Student Awards. Last week’s interviewee, Best Film award-winner James Mann, won a trip to the animation studios of Japan. This week, we talked to Best Character Animation award-winners Luke Berge and Timothy Meyers, whose film Paint bagged them a two-week internship at a little startup shop called Nickelodeon.
Q: Congratulations on your winning work on Paint at CTIAF! How excited are you to visit Nickelodeon in America and what do you think you’ll gain from the trip?
Luke: Thank you! It’s been a combination of both nervousness and excitement, which has shifted to the latter as the thought of going has started to sink in. I’ll inevitably gain some experience on how the American animation industry functions and hopefully this trip will break me out of my shell of comfort and shyness! Hopefully.
Timothy: Incredibly excited! I have always loved the animations from Nickelodeon and seeing the inner workings of the studio should instil some knowledge of new and classic animation techniques.
Q: Paint features two characters at war to turn a mysterious landscape the colour of their choice. What inspired it?
Luke: Paint is essentially about two characters unexpectedly uniting, despite coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. The underlying point is that we are all cut from the same cloth.
Q: What part of Paint you are most proud of?
Luke: Hmm, probably scene 01 shot 02. The eye shift from right to left is quite nice if I say so myself.
Timothy: Obviously, the animation is my proudest part of the film and not only because we won an award for it!
Q: What got you both interested in animation in the first place and what animations, studios or artists have inspired you along the way?
Luke: Around grade 9 I began toying with bits of clay and taking stop-motion photos of it moving, etc. In grade 10, I handed in a stop motion short film as an art project and continued to do that every year until school was over with. The next logical step for me was to study it! Well, Pixar has always inspired me. Not just due to their skill at animating, but their stories. Also, Tim Burton’s animated films got a yes from me.
Timothy: Honestly, it was games and the characters I played in them. If it was good animation I felt the character more and could put my self in his or her shoes. I really wanted to be a part of that process and animate characters people can engage with, just as I did in my youth and do today. Ubisoft and their game Assassins’ Creed, 2k and their game Bioshock, even EA and their game Dead Space have been huge inspirations to me and ultimately lead me to my career choice.
Q: How would you describe your experience at The Animation School – what opportunities and insights have they afforded you?
Luke: Since I like animation and being part of the process to create films, The Animation School was largely positive for me. Yes, there was a lot of work to do and often in short spaces of time, but as long as you keep your interest in it, it’s not too hard. The fact that I’m getting to answer these questions is directly because of The Animation School, so they’ve definitely pushed me to the door of the animation industry as well as provided an internship last year directly in the industry.
Timothy: It was a great experience indeed! Working with like-minded people and with a quite free creative process was very enjoyable. I found great mentorship in Benito Kok and would not be the animator I am today without the experience of working with him and the animation school.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced getting to where you are?
Luke: One of the biggest challenges, especially for my shy self, was to come together and be a team with five other people that I wasn’t well acquainted with. It took a long time for me to overcome it and be able to communicate freely with the rest of the team.
Timothy: Honestly, the biggest challenge was myself. Being a creative there are always doubts about one’s abilities, but with the support of a team and loved ones and perseverance in spite of anxiety helps. It will all be okay in the end if you let it.
Q: Where do you think good ideas come from?
Timothy: I guess the good ideas come from a place of influence. You observe life, art, other people and make you own interpretation and refine, refine, refine. It definitely helps to be surrounded by like-minded people in a comfortable and free space, then ideas flow, but still one must refine, refine and refine.
Q: What advice would you give to young animators and is there anything you think the industry can do to further support and cultivate talent?
Luke: If you’re thinking of doing animation, make sure that you actually want to do it and not just fancy the idea a little bit. Because you’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer trying to figure out where the heel roll control is, so you best make sure you actually want to do it or else it can be very tedious! And with regards to the other question, I’d say the industry is doing well in providing young talent with opportunities such as this one. We can always do with more of that!
Timothy: Try not to doubt and be hard on your self. Of course, one can be self-critical but never, never let it cripple you. All I can say is have an idea of what you want to do, Breathe, work hard at it and remember you will be okay.
Q: If you were to animate each other, what animal, object or thing would the other be and why?
Timothy: No offence to Luke but I would most likely animate Luke as a llama. They are fluffy, lanky and shy, But they can surprise you, Don’t piss off a lama! They can also pull some hilarious expressions (in my mind) and Luke has that talent too!
UPDATE: Paint is now viewable here!
Character from Paint