INTERVIEW WITH… AARON WOOD OF SLURPY STUDIOS AND SKWIGLY
Here at Festival Formula we’re keen to meet new people and get to know what everyone is up to, whether it be the festival circuit they’re planning, the post-production status of their latest project, to what collaborations they’ve got in the pipeline. So when we met Aaron Wood at St. Albans Film Festival and got chatting, we were thrilled to find out this busy man has a hand in a lot of resources we use! If you’re in the animation field then you’re bound to have heard of Skwigly and the brilliant database animation-festivals.com. So without further ado, let’s hear what else Aaron is up to.
Tell us a bit about your job, and what you do…
I wear a number of different hats, so it may be best to tell you a little about each of them!
Slurpy Studios (Managing Director and Producer)
As the Managing Director, I am responsible for networking, recruiting talent, marketing and overseeing the general business side of things. As a producer I manage the projects which our studio makes including budgets, schedules, and overseeing completion of projects.
Skwigly (Marketing & Writer)
My responsibilities include managing the website, introducing new features, marketing and managing the advertising/promotional aspect of the magazine. Additionally, when time permits, I review events, books and films.
Although the website is largely self-sustaining, I oversee the technical aspects of the website, marketing and promotion, including a number of newsletters.
You’re behind the (brilliant!) website animation-festivals.com which is a comprehensive database of animation festivals. (Loving the interface by the way). How and why did this come about?
Thank you! Back in the beginning, when we started Slurpy Studios, we were submitting Katie Steed’s short film “Death By Scrabble” to many festivals. To keep track of the festivals that were entered, plus those that selected the film, Katie kept an Excel spreadsheet. After the festival run was over, we had a list of over 250 festivals and it seemed a shame for it to sit in a folder somewhere on our hard drive, never to be viewed again. Initially we were going to publish the list on our own website or blog, as a resource, but we never got around to it.
It was only during submitting another film, “Best Day We Ever Had” that we realised we could create quite a valuable online resource if we did it properly. We also had the idea of making it like Wikipedia, so that anyone could log in and add or edit a festival. This idea saved us work in updating the site, and it helped it to grow and stay relevant.
We first launched the website in 2009, and it was very well received – animators were using it, and festival directors were updating their information. During this time we learned about how people were using the site and how we could improve it, and this led us to completely rebuild it in 2012.
You also run the animation website Skwigly, the online animation magazine, which collates interviews, podcasts, listings and everything animation under the sun. Tell us about how it came about…
I was quite a late joiner to the team: Skwigly was originally founded by David Smith who, in 2012, sold the magazine to Steve Henderson (Editor), Ben Mitchell (Features Writer & Content Producer) and myself. Since the three of us became co-owners we have introduced a number of new features to grow the content and community. Such additions have included the showcase, events calendar, hosting our own events, video content and an improved chat room (being launched on 1st September).
We already have a fantastic Facebook and Twitter community but are currently looking to extend our reach and are encouraging those new to animation, especially students, to join the community – both on social media and our chatroom.
We would argue that animation has a stronger community feel than that of live action filmmakers. Do you agree, and how important do you feel it is to connect with other filmmakers?
I would find it hard to make that comparison myself, as I rarely attend purely live action events. But from all of the animation events and festivals I do attend I would say, yes, animation has an incredible community feel about it. When you attend an event or festival you become aware how small and intimate the community is compared to live action – everyone knows each other, and everyone is so friendly and approachable – and that includes your animation ‘hero’s’.
It is very important to connect with other filmmakers. Everyone has such different experiences and backgrounds and will approach filmmaking differently. From technical to style choices, and from funding methods to distribution strategies, you can learn so much from other filmmakers.
What are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us obviously!)?
At Slurpy Studios, we have had quite an unusual period where four major projects have all been completed within the same week, so now that we have some commercial downtime we are focusing our energies on our short film The Fearsome Beastie – an animated adaption of the children’s book by the same name. We are running a production diary for it, so people can see behind the scenes of creating an animated CG short film – http://fearsomebeastie.com
Tell us the best and worst part of your job.
There are many more ‘best parts’ so it is quite easy to list these! I love the fact that every project is different – you get to delve into many different subjects that you have to understand before you can make a good film. There are not many jobs where one day you are learning about construction waterproofing, and the next day about ‘heavy menstrual bleeding’!
Another great part of my job is the networking events that I attend, which I also do so for Skwigly and animation-festivals.com. I love meeting new film-makers, artists, musicians, producers and festival directors. And as animation networking usually takes place in a pub (or at least with some wine and beer), it is usually such a relaxed and comfortable way to meet new friends and industry contacts.
The downside of these jobs is the admin involved – doing the accounts, emails, fixing code, and other small tasks – but they are all important to the bigger picture!
Share with us one of your favourite films and tells us why you like it…
My favourite animated short has been Robert Bradbrook’s “Home Road Movies” ever since I saw it over 10 years ago. I am still not sure I can put my finger on exactly what I love about it – I think it is a combination of many things: the visual style, the simpler age of automobiles in the 50’s/60’s, the story of growing up, of families drifting apart, of losing your parents, or perhaps just the general nostalgia that it provokes. It’s the best mix of CGI, live action and photo collage that I have seen in a short film.
Thank you so much to Aaron for taking the time to talk to Festival Formula about all the different projects he’s up to. A very busy man!
Aaron is the Managing Director of the animation production company, Slurpy Studios, and is the Producer of their animated films – for both broadcast and corporate markets.
Aside from the day-to-day running of the studio, he is a co-owner and writer at Skwigly Animation Magazine, and manages a successful international database of animation festivals through the website animation-festivals.com.
Prior to founding Slurpy Studios, he curated exhibitions (for the Bob Godfrey and Halas & Batchelor studios) with the Animation Research Centre Archive, and worked as a stop motion animator on a number of TV series.