This is what I’m talking about. Or rather, what I already talked about at Offf Barcelona. Simon Robson (Nexus Productions) has created four brilliant animated vignettes for the independent feature film “Taking Liberties,” scheduled to hit UK cinemas on June 8th. (More info on the film site.)
Even if you don’t agree with the arguments put forth in these animations (and the film), they are excellent examples of how the smart confluence of design, animation, sound design and writingâ€”collectively known as motion graphicsâ€”can be leveraged to create compelling messages that are hard to ignore. I call these animated nuggets of information and persuasion “visual essays.” Unlike a simple PSA, visual essays intertwine educational messaging with argumentative thrusts. The result is a potent audio-visual cocktail that can, if brewed properly, alter viewers’ states of mind.
Simon has a proven track record of rocking visual essays. His “What Barry Says” still stands as a shining example of the form four years after it was created. (At least I think it was four years ago.) The new animations showcase some of the same clever juxtapositions of type and iconic imagery present in that seminal piece, but there’s a burgeoning level of sophistication and polish present in all of Simon’s work (both commercial and otherwise) that is inspiring to behold.
Simon graciously agreed to answer some questions for us:
How much input did you have on developing the visual ideas? Did Chris Atkins (the director) hand you thoroughly worked out boards or was it just you and the script?
I spent ages developing the boards from scratch. Chris totally trusted me on the back of “What Barry Says” and gave me an absolute carte blanche. It is this that inspired me to take on the project. We actually wrote the VO scripts together, too. Of course, Chris was the prime mover and Becca Elleson fact-checked all that we wrote. But I finally put my degree in politics to use and helped write the VOs for these vignettes!
The storyboard process was long and arduous. I give myself an incredibly hard time over the level of my ideas. They have to be an A++ or they donâ€™t get in. This meant many weeks of head-scratrching and drinking coffee before the right ideas came out. I actually re-wrote some of the boards as the animation was happening. This didnâ€™t make me any friends. But once I saw some ideas in production, they didnâ€™t work and had to be re-written, kind of how they used to write â€˜Friendsâ€™!!!
Did you have to split your time working on this project while simultaneously working on other (commercial) projects?
No, fortunately and un-fortunately I didnâ€™t get any pitch wins during this period. This left me incredibly dedicated to this project. I got really too deep into it, in a way. And to kind of answer the next question, I gave my directors fee for this project to production to get more animators / illustrators on it. In short, I got paid nothing. I lived unpaid for 4 months. I still owe my girl Â£3000. Fortunately, I just got a paid gig here at Nexus, which was a huge relief. Now I can go out and by some trendy clothes and stop living on beans on toast!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine you don’t get paid much for these kinds of projects. What drives you to create things like “What Barry Says” and these new animations?
What drives me? What do I want on my gravestone? “Directed some great ads that sold stuff to people”. Not really. Donâ€™t get me wrong. I really want to do ads, because there is a creative process to be explored (sometimes) and they pay me. But essentially ads are selling things and weâ€™re all a bit too obsessed with buying things, so Iâ€™d rather do stuff which I think is important for people to see and take in.
Obviously Iâ€™m a bit of a lefty and this comes across in the work I take on, but Iâ€™d like my kids (when I have them) to be proud of what I did. Besides, we all learn these crazy skills, donâ€™t we? 3D, 2D, stop-motion, etc. And it would be one MASSIVE shame if we only used them to help sell something as opposed to saying something important. Actually, as a mograph community, with what we know, if we got together in some cohesive movement we could create some amazing marketing for our causeâ€¦just a thought.
NOTE: I’m working on getting a full credit list, but I wanted to hurry up and share this stuff with you all as soon as possible.