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Animators Try to "Toon-in' Local Industry

Kina Sky by Coretta Singer

Jamaica’s animation industry is still embryonic, so much so that to describe it as an “industry” seems a little grandiose. However, a growing number of Jamaican animators have enjoyed some success. On day two of the inaugural Kingstoon animation festival and conference a few of them gathered to share their experiences and insight on a panel dubbed ‘I Made It and You Can Too’.

Fabian Jervis, lead animator for the new animation outfit, Skyres Studios advised that would-be animators should not get caught up on whether or not they can draw.

“Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you cannot draw," he said. He argued that being an animator did not require illustration skills as much can be done via the computer. Skyres, which launched as a part of the festival, produces both 3D and 2D animation.

Coretta Singer, possibly one of the island’s most successful animators, and the creator of Jamaica Animation Nation (which has now become Jamaica Animation Nation Network), on the other hand, specializes in 3D animation. Singer, described herself as a 3D generalist, and pointed out that the industry would benefit from more specialists.

“In my mind I wouldn't really say that I've made it,” Singer said referencing the title of the panel, “because it lends itself to a kind of complacency and there's so much more that I want to do.”

Coretta Singer and Samuel StewartSinger explained that she was motivated to get into 3D animation after she saw Jurassic Park, which ended her aspirations to 2D animation.

"When I saw that movie, I knew that's what I wanted to do," she said. "I wanted to be a part of that magic."  She started her company Maven in 2006 after having entered ‘Voyager’ and ‘Voyager 2’ in the Anime Caribe Festival in Trinidad and Tobago. ‘Voyager 2’ earned a People’s Choice award while ‘Deeper’ earned a Best Animation award in 2007.

Singer also explained that over the years she had amassed other awards some from festivals she never heard of as the head of Anime Caribe, Camille Selvon Abrahams, often enters the winning films from the Trinidadian festival into others around the world.

One of her most notable successes however has been ‘Kina Sky’ which aired on Nickelodeon as one of 30 shortlisted finalist of the network’s animation festival. Since then she has embarked on some collaborations including working on Pink and Blue with James Parris.

Samuel Stewart of BYG was the third presenter on the panel. As a part of his presentation he screened his short film ‘Jerk Chicken’ which is currently being adapted into a television series and has been picked up by TVJ. ‘Jerk Chicken’, a comedy about an embattled rooster went over well with the audience.

Like Singer, Stewart had also gone the route of competing in Anime Caribe. He explained that although the version he entered in the festival went home undecorated by accolades, it had been well received by the audience. Explaining that he would always put audience feedback over awards, Steward noted that he took the lessons from the screening and adjusted the film. The revised version was screened on HBO Urban.

Fabian Jervis of Skyres StudiosStewart argued that it was important that aspiring animators remember that there should be artistry to the work being created. Even so, he had earlier explained that when he finally went to the Art Institute, a place he had long yearned to attend, he was disappointed by the experience. As such, he cautioned, that what one gets out of school is completely dependent on what they put in.

"If you go to school, it depends on what you do with your time,” he said. He also advised that money was not a good reason to get into animation.

"Do it, and do it because you love it, not because of the money,” Steward advised, “because it's not gonna come quick."

Singer advised that an important trait is willingness to err.

"Don't be afraid to make mistakes," she said.

The panel, moderated by Hartley Neita, touched on several other topics including the value of putting forward Jamaican content, available markets, working with people across international borders and intellectual property.

Kingstoon panel of Judges“The real money is in creating your own IP,” Singer said, noting however that much emphasis was being placed on Jamaica become a location for outsourcing animation.

Jervis noted however, that the local industry had already begun to grow. He argued that several years ago there Jamaican animators were few and far between, but the size of the audience bore witness to that growth. He remarked however, that sustainability would require animation being taught in schools from the primary level upwards.

Yet Singer advised that growth of the industry greatly depended on the output of those who make up the industry.

“At the end of the day it's all about the individual, picking themselves up and driving it forward," she said.

The Kingstoon Festival was held at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge, UWI, Mona, June 20-21, 2013. Kingstoon included several panels on animation with experts from ToonBoom Inc, Bento Box Studios, Sheridan College, and Shadow Gang. The event also had a competition portion with saw aspiring animators vying for internships, scholarships, hardware and software in the categories Best Final Animation Product or Advert, Best Experimental Animation, Best Storyboard/ Script and Best Character.