Better Together is a new idea and, for now, an unofficial series. For many of us, there is a somewhat typical path we follow: get out of school, move to a big city, get a job, cut your teeth somewhere for a year or two, and then go freelance. It becomes like clockwork…
For others, opportunities present themselves which challenge the status quo and the typical studio model: you get an email from a client/agency, the budget is good enough (kind of), you have no idea how to do this solo, you find a friend, both of you decide to go for it and jump in the deep end together trying your best not to screw it up.
These situations can be a whirlwind of new experiences and, for a brief moment, offer a glimmer of independence.
There is something really special that happens when people begin to team up and collaborate with one another and do things on their own terms. That is what we’d like to explore with this series.
To kick things off, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Hannah Jacobs and Lara Lee. Both Hannah and Lara have amazingly strong voices and are consistently putting out stellar work. In recent years, they’ve also started to collaborate with one another and have steadily been releasing work that is quirky, fun, and represent some of the best qualities of animation.
The following is a Q&A with Hannah and Lara about the nebulous world of going out on your own and teaming up with a friend.
First, can you each tell as a bit about yourselves, your work, and where you are from?
Hannah – I’m a British freelance animator and illustrator currently living in Hastings in the UK.
Lara – I’m a little bit of a mishmash, – I’m from Korea and studied Visual Communication in Seoul then I studied further in animation at the RCA in London and worked as a freelance artist. Since last year I’ve been working for Buck Sydney.
How did the two of you meet?
Hannah– We met at the Royal College of Art in London.
Lara – I remember I saw her work back when we were both at the college it was a super short film about a bird dying in 3 minutes. Loved the sense of humor in the piece a lot and I had to tell her that.
What was the first project that you decided to collaborate on?
Hannah – The first project was for The School Of life, and I think it was the short film ‘The Darkest Truth About Love.’
And how many projects have you worked on together now?
Hannah – We’ve worked on 3 films for the School Of Life together, and just finished a 6 episode series for VICE.
Do you have a coworking space or do you work together remotely?
Hannah – So far we’ve actually been working remotely – in fact Lara has been working out at Buck in Sydney so we’ve been working very remotely on the VICE job!
Lara – We’ve been the typical modern co-workers, working via Skype and stuff. My home in the UK is in Brighton and having been away in Sydney recently, our personal habitats haven’t quite overlapped too much so far. But it has actually worked fine so far as we have our own pace of work and we can always toss work ideas back and forth between us.
What was something you learned from each other?
Hannah – In a general sense, I have learned lots of little animation techniques and ways of working that have really evolved my working process and made things quicker, especially in Photoshop where you can sometimes get a bit stuck in your ways and forget there are so many other ways of approaching something. I think the absolute joy of working with Lara is that she is so wonderfully creative and has a very imaginative approach to design and animation and that keeps me on my toes and challenges my own approach to drawing and movement. I’ve also learned how to label files and organize folders so it’s not a nightmare for co-workers! (although Lara may disagree with this!)
Lara – So nice of her of all those she mentioned. I think she forgot to mention that I sometimes get a bit carried away working on a specific shot that probably isn’t that necessary whereas Hannah has a good eye for seeing the film as a whole and knows when to move on. Also, she’s such a lovely person to talk to and I learn a lot from how she deals with clients and emotionally facilitates the whole process, which is a big asset in filmmaking. Also, Hannah’s free spirited and beautifully simple drawings are very inspiring.
And how do you think you balance the each other out?
Hannah – For me, I think the most obvious way in that we balance one another out is that my drawings are inherently more messy and untidy and Lara is naturally quite neat and organized. So I think we have found a middle ground where our styles meet, and as a result developed a new way of working that combines the aesthetic of our individual work. I think as Lara comes from a graphic design background where I come from illustration our combined working style benefits from a crossover for each project.
Lara – And sometimes Vice Versa. Another thing is, we don’t always stick to working via a traditional process and we don’t mind simplifying certain stages – I find that sometimes minimal drawings and free marks invite broader imagination/creativity. But often spend more time talking and gathering ideas. Whoever starts off an idea or brings in a keyword, the other tends to develop that into a different direction, with a fresh approach. Seems like we alternate the roles and to me, it seems to be balancing out pretty well.
Collaborations between only two people can be a hard balance, have you ever reached a stalemate on an issue or is there anything that you regularly disagree on?
Hannah – I actually don’t think we have…unless Lara has said something else haha.
It’s strange because we’ve just developed this system and way of working that is fairly intuitive to our individual strengths, without really ever having discussed it. I think that might be why we don’t hit any issues, because we do just seem to balance the other out. I think sometimes the best collaborations can be the unplanned ones, that are allowed to develop in a more organic way without heaps of pressure or expectation.
It also means that each project our collaborative style evolves a little more or takes a different turn. Again I love that about joining forces with someone else, you’re never quite sure what the end result is going to look like.
Lara – Like Hannah said, we’ve never really had any really strong disagreements. In fact, the peace-making side of things probably often come from Hannah. I really appreciate when she generously accepts my random ideas because I know I can be a bit of a stubborn stick! If we do ever come to a strong disagreement on something though, I believe we would always be able to negotiate so that neither of us feels left behind with the decision-making. Or maybe the roles could be split into director and artist for a particular project, which would be equally fine with me.
On the other end of the spectrum, collaboration can be very empowering. What do you think the benefits of working together are?
Hannah – I think there are so many benefits to collaborating on projects. Sometimes working solo on animation projects can start to drain your creative resources and the brilliant thing about working collaboratively is that I get to continuously be re-inspired throughout a project every time I open up a new edit and see a fantastic new design or new idea in a storyboard and that’s something I’ve learnt is really important to me. I think it creates a completely fresh approach to working on something and the result is often far more interesting. I also love the feeling of the shared experience of working together and then getting to share and enjoy the end result of your combined hard work. I find it really humbling to get to work with someone so brilliant and have the opportunity to learn a new technique or new approach from them. That’s a pretty wonderful way of working for me.
Lara – I think one of the reasons our collaboration works quite well might be that we generally share a similar visual sense of humor! It’s so nice to work with a person who understands similar spectrum of emotions but also to find a fellow artist who would harmonically agree on how to visually interpret those. If one of us had a pretty random idea that has some potential in it and we both seem to love it then there’s a sense of feeling that ‘oh well we’re doing this!’ and it’s super easy from there. But sometimes when you work alone, it’s harder to judge things and you tend to endlessly wonder if what you have is just a bunch of silly ideas or if it could have had a better twist on it with a different perspective. Sharing the responsibility is definitely another plus too. There’s a great communal sense of achievement when you have a team rather than being a one-person band.
Finally, what’s next for each of you individually and collaboratively?
Hannah – I’m working on a new music vid for Tom Rosenthal at the moment and developing a new idea for a kids show with my girlfriend who is a writer.
Collaboratively we have nothing penciled in just now so we shall see where the next project takes us :)
Lara – I’m currently working for Buck so that’d be my chief focus for awhile. In the longer term, it would be lovely to work with Hannah again of course on different things – alongside each other’s own exciting creative journey.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Better Together and if you’d like to request a profile please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org