Introducing Animator extraordinaire Joe, who's managed to climb the BZ ladder since graduating in the fast-paced, varied world of Services.
What's your job role?
I am an Animation / Design Director for Services.
How long have you been in your role?
I've been with Blue Zoo for around 5 years. Started as a little illustrator intern and now a slightly larger director.
Where were you working before?
This is all I know - I came to Blue Zoo fresh out of University. I did a tiny bit of illustration / storyboarding freelancing during the summer before making the big, scary jump into the workplace.
Stayed for another 2 weeks after that finished which then turned into a month, then another month, and there's no sign of them realising that I'm still here...
Where did you study?
I studied Animation at Norwich University of Arts. It was a brilliant place to go if you didn't really know what you wanted to specialise in. When I was there we did a bunch of traditional 2D drawings with the lady who created Felix the Cat Food Mascot, made some really cool stop-motion puppets with the bloke who did the Wombles, and kinda dabbled briefly with Maya by making a broken robot. It really was a great place to experiment and really broaden your horizons.
Plus there were flowers everywhere in Norwich, and I mean everywhere...and there were loads of cheeky restaurants tucked away in weird places, so that was alright.
How did you get the job?
In my final year at Uni, we all submitted our final films into a competition. We had to go on the radio and everything to try and drum up votes from the locals. The prize was a nice little glass trophy, but more importantly a 2-week internship at Blue Zoo. I won! Stayed for another 2 weeks after that finished which then turned into a month, then another month, and there's no sign of them realising that I'm still here...
It's always interesting to see bright ideas from students slowly blossom into something proper good, and to also keep an eye on the young upstarts who will eventually steal my job.
What do you mainly work on?
I work in Services which is where we do all of Blue Zoo's commercial work. It's always busy. We juggle quite a few jobs at once and get everyone involved. There's always a creative meeting happening for a pitch that's just come through, helping each other out reading through and improving scripts, storyboard panels needing drawing up, concepts needing conceptualising, weird little character need sketching up...
That's what keeps me going and what I think is the most interesting thing about Services in general. As a Director and being able to not just see, but be involved in every aspect of a project, from idea to paper to screen, is really satisfying.
Before you know it the project's over and it's on to the next one.
What does a typical day look like?
Wake up. Let my dog Eggs out to do her business. Get the train for about 8:30. Survive the commute by writing weird stories about dragons and goblins, and with a cheeky iced coffee sit at my desk ready for the day around 10.
See what's on for the day. If a project isn't in at the moment, it's these precious times you get to work on secret projects you do in downtime. Either that or be thinking of your own show idea, drawing up some characters, looking up some tutorials. Just using your time efficiently. Speaking of being efficient, a very important part of my day is drawing little blokes and characters on our chalk wall in our kitchen. Can't forget that.
By using the programs over and over again it's built my confidence up tenfold. You just naturally get better at it and learn tons of little tricks.
What are the best bits of your job?
Variety. Projects on services are never too long. So by the time one finishes you already know what's coming up in 2 weeks time, so it gets you excited.
What software do you work with?
Photoshop / AfterEffects / Premiere / Illustrator. All essential tools for my day to day working life. Since working at Blue Zoo and being thrown into the deep-end as a little scared Uni grad with basic Adobe Suite knowledge, by using the programs over and over again it's built my confidence up tenfold. You just naturally get better at it and learn tons of little tricks.
Have you attended any events with Blue Zoo?
I've revisited Norwich on a few occasions to the old stomping ground to give Character Design talks and represent Blue Zoo. It's always interesting to see bright ideas from students slowly blossom into something proper good, and to also keep an eye on the young upstarts who will eventually steal my job.
What BZ socials have you attended?
Tons of them! The pub quizzes, where like Cat, my team has also never won. The summer socials too, where I always go home with an alcohol-induced injury. Either way, we all have a good giggle.
What makes Blue Zoo different?
Blue Zoo has given me the chance to really push my own creative ideas with initiatives like their Blue Zoo Shorts Programme, where we create two short films a year, of which I have made 3 (not to toot my own horn). Being able to have your ideas heard and to be listened to and appreciated has really helped me grow as a professional.
What would you like to be doing in the future?
Continuing to develop my skills as a Director and to stride towards making more creative projects not just a pipe dream, but a reality. Also maybe in a proper nice and ridiculously massive house with loads of dogs that's infinitely closer to work. That would be ideal.
Any words of advice for people starting out in the industry?
Some swift tips I wish young Joe knew... - It's fine to talk to people. - Don't be scared to go for lunch or just move from your chair. - If you're stuck and have a problem like Photoshop has crashed, or you don't understand feedback, ask someone. Don't sit there and sweat buckets and wait for eye contact. Just chill for a minute and get some help. - Have an open mind and don't take feedback close to heart.
If you need any more "swift tips" either for your short films, character designs or anything Dungeons and Dragons related do give me a little look on Instagram @joethedrawer.
Being able to have your ideas heard and to be listened to and appreciated has really helped me grow as a professional.
A massive thanks to Joe for sharing his story. We have many creative roles up for grabs, so if you think you'd like a career in animation head over to our jobs site here.