In the second part of our Job Spotlight series, we're pleased to introduce storyboard artist Cat who started as a trainee at BZ nearly 4 years ago...
Where were you working before and in what role?
I was working at a design agency up north, I started off preparing 2D assets for Apps and went on to doing design consultancy, this involved pitching ideas for briefs and meeting clients as well as helping run design workshops for schools.
What did you study?
I did my A levels at Durham 6th form where I'd studied fine art, then went on to do an art foundation degree at Sunderland Uni. This was really helpful as it allowed me to try a few different avenues of art but I was pretty set on animation and design so that's where I went! I did my animation degree at Sunderland Uni.
Did you take on any other work experience?
Nope, not until Blue Zoo, not for the lack of trying though! I was close on a few occasions but during my studies, it wasn't meant to be.
Going to animation festivals is a great way to meet both students and professionals in a relaxed atmosphere, and a bonus is getting to see all the cool work people have been doing!
How did you get the job?
I'd been at the design agency for a while and while I enjoyed working with my colleagues I still very much wanted to work more creatively and within the animation industry. I knew I was still in need of experience so I was applying to entry-level positions and internships and Blue Zoo posted a Trainee-ship position. I applied and didn't expect to hear back but to my surprise they did! I was actually in the middle of doing a test for another studio at the time so I had to weigh my options, 3+ years later I'm still glad I chose what I did!
Who doesn't want to get drunk and dance to Uptown Funk surrounded by fish?!
Which productions do you mainly work on?
I work mainly on our TV production side. I started on Miffy Season 1 doing revisionist duties which could be anything from extra panels to adding a missing band-aid to Miffy's ear to 200+ panels then moved onto boarding. From there I've jumped from one production to the next, where ever I'm needed really! I've recently been alternating between 2 shows, but I'm currently working on the super secret BZ short which has been very exciting!
I work in Panelforge, it's a mix of 2D and 3D, so you can block out an episode in 3D then draw over if needs be.
What does a typical day look like?
My typical day goes like this. I walk 20 minutes to get 2 tubes to work, sometimes I try and tempt squirrels to join me but they know better than to get on public transport so that's a lost cause. When I get into the studio I look to see if anyone's brought cake in, there's a 50/50 chance its someone's birthday somewhere in the studio. Once I'm in and settled my day could be anything from being in a briefing to thumbnailing an episode, to blocking out a board, to clean up. Some days I do some bug testing of our Storyboarding software or writing up literature for new users.
If it's a Friday I try to shoot off an email with the daily doodle prompt of the week (if you have any prompts tweet me @comma_cat, I'm always looking for new prompts hah) before I get going with my work! Now and again I'll do revisionist duties where needed, I quite like it because you can see why or what the directors are asking for so you learn a lot about their choices and what works for a show.
What are the best bits of your job?
My colleagues, they're a good bunch. Also! When we get a really fun script to work on. This is a hard question because I love most of what I do! One of the best unique moments recently was seeing how our main audience reacted to an episode we showed at an event. It was an already aired ep but regardless they were hooked and it was genuinely so nice to see them enjoying it.
Goes without saying going to the Children's BAFTAs was pretty up there too!
What are your biggest challenges at work?
Sometimes there's a lot happening and I still have to hit my deadlines, also my team's never won the BZ pub quiz. One day we'll manage it!
What software do you work with?
I work in Panelforge, it's a mix of 2D and 3D, so you can block out an episode in 3D then draw over if needs be. This is very helpful for us on the 3D shows as it means we can actually do a bit of layout for the animators in our boards. They then can import our cameras and asset locations. Plus! It means we're not boarding stuff they can't achieve in 3D! Before BZ I had started to use Storyboard Pro for personal projects as well as the Adobe Suite.
What training have you received at Blue Zoo, and have you attended any external events?
My first few months were training! I learnt so much about storyboarding in those few months and even after when working on different shows. I don't think you ever stop learning, there's a lot of talented directors and people around so you kind of absorb a lot of knowledge when you're in the position.
I've done a few presentations/ talks with colleagues and on my own as well which is always fun! Going to animation festivals is a great way to meet both students and professionals in a relaxed atmosphere, and a bonus is getting to see all the cool work people have been doing! I saw the Big Bad Fox and Other Tales at MAF last year after running a story workshop and it was so good. (Speaking of, MAF's brilliant if you can get yourselves there!). I've recently done one or two uni tours which are always nice. I think being able to share what it's like to work at the studio and what we're doing is really important.
Are you a regular at Blue Zoo socials?
HooOOOOo, lots of them! I skip them now and again but mostly when it's been a crunch week and I need to go hibernate. My favourite was the BZ Aquarium birthday party, who doesn't want to get drunk and dance to Uptown Funk surrounded by fish?!
What's it like working at Blue Zoo?
What makes Blue Zoo different?
I've not worked at any other animation studios, but I think the work ethic and the way they look after their staff is pretty neat. We're not asked for overtime unless it's unavoidable and they actively move to make sure we're up to date with whats happening in the studio which is good.
What would you like to be doing in the future?
Current future, more storyboarding! I'd like to do some non-preschool shows in the future, not because I don't enjoy preschool, more to get more experience in other show formats. Maybe when I'm older and wiser going into a supervisor role.
Do what you love, be nice people and take care of yourselves!
Massive thanks to Cat for her wise words and sharing her story. We're currently hiring storyboard artists of all levels - details can be found here. There are other roles up for grabs too, so please visit our jobsite here for more information.