Paul Young is co-founder and CEO of Cartoon Saloon and Producer of the Oscar-nominated animated feature Song of the Sea. Lynn O’Reilly, an animation student at BCFE, caught up with him at the recent Irish VFX + Animation Summit to ask for advice on breaking into the animation industry and the role of the Producer of an animated feature film.
Do you have any advice for any animation students who are trying to decide what they want to do when they leave college?
It can be hard when you’re young. I was lucky because I went to study in Belfast first and went through lots of different art and design disciplines before I settled on illustration and then on to animation. The best advice I can give is whatever part of it you enjoy most, like you if you enjoy the drawing or the writing the most, just try to draw as much as you can, or write as much as you can. Then get out and about and meet the studios. Try and call in and talk to people who work in those studios. Talk to past students. Try to get to places like Annecy [the International Animation Film Festival] and you’ll meet so many more people from other places and other colleges. And then you suss out more from them. The most important part of the college experience is the people you’re with, the people in your class. Obviously you learn from your tutors and your classes, but you learn more from each other.
You’re Producer on Song of the Sea, and the role of Producer is not something people get much of an insight into compared to other roles in the filmmaking process. Would you be able to shed a bit of light on this? What’s involved in being the Producer of an animated feature film?
It varies. For big studio films a Producer is more like what we would consider a Line Producer or a Production Manager, and that’s the only thing they do, that’s their one focus. Whereas with smaller studios, as a Producer I’m doing lots of things. I’m not really as hands-on with the day-to-day production like a Line Producer or a Production Manager. I’m trying to get money for the next film, like a Business Director or a Company Director.
Studios do need a lot more Production Managers, because there is a lot of people interested in animation. We’ve hired fantastic people from colleges like Gobelins and colleges in Denmark, who, in their final year, just focused on Production Management and learned how to be producers. Maybe after spending some time studying animation they realized it’s not for them or they’re not getting the skills, and for them there’s a great career to be had in Production Management.
The best people you can find are from colleges who have been through the production process, who know what it’s like to make something themselves, then they’ll understand what it takes. I studied animation and illustration and I never really thought I’d be a Producer. I just kind of fell into it, because we had to find money to fund our projects. I never really got any training. So what I had to do was hire a Production Manager who’d worked on a TV series or hire a Line Producer who’d done a feature film –I’d try and bring them in and at least they might know more about the pitfalls. And now I’ve learned a lot after making a number of films. So really, it’s just about doing it.