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The NL - Tim Kings-Lynne Interview

Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Tim Kings-Lynne is an animator with feature film visual effects company Rising Sun Pictures, and his work appears, most recently in Get Smart, Speed Racer, 28 Weeks Later and Charlotte’s Web. He spoke to Darryn King about his job (in between work on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).

What do you do in a typical day-
When I get in, one of the first things we do is do the dailies review, which is a team meeting with the supervisor and everyone on the team, so we can review all the work submitted the night before. We give feedback and discuss progress and the plan of attack for the next day.
After that the feedback is distributed, and I review it for myself and actually work on it, which is the actual animating. You work on it through the day and at the end of the day you submit the next daily.

Is your work mostly independent or collaborative-
I guess animation as an independent skill is fairly independent, but it is definitely a team-focused job, especially VFX. Peer review is pretty big, especially inside the animation team. But basically we try and bounce as many ideas as we can. It kinda helps the quality – hardly any of the VFX I know of can be done yourself. It helps the quality but also removes what we call ‘diva culture’, which would be problematic – because it’s such a team thing, you don’t want someone who carries on and makes things harder for everyone.

Do you get assigned an entire sequence, or just parts of a sequence-
Usually you’re assigned shots that are part of an overall sequence of shots for the film. You all have to work your shots as a team to make the whole sequence successful.

You were Lead Animator for Charlotte’s Web – what extra responsibility does that entail-
You become a conduit to the supervisor, watching over feedback and keeping an eye on things like consistency, and essentially trying to motivate the team to do their work as best they can. You’re essentially responsible for making sure everyone on the team gets it done. That can include giving feedback on shots and animation, but also testing rigs, testing out ideas, working with other leads of other departments.

Many of us have seen behind the scenes at Pixar, which seems like heaven: animators strapping themselves to planks of wood and filming themselves doing stupid things. Are there those sorts of antics at Rising Sun-
There can be. It wildly depends on what kind of job you’re on. On Charlotte’s Web, we tried to encourage the character kind of stuff, and people basically were responsible for doing that themselves. People used video references – you could make your own, but we also hired a local actor to come in and do the lines as well, just to get a different take on them – anything to generate new ideas. There’s a lot of planning.

Do you have a favourite project-
To tell you the truth, Charlotte’s Web was one of my favourites, mainly because the animation work was very challenging. It was also a very well-known character and a pretty hard character to make feel emotive and human. But ultimately very rewarding and the end result was very good.
Recently we’re doing work on Where The Wild Things Are. It’s a really interesting film, and has a great aesthetic to it. The animation is really great as well. I personally love the projects where the animation is challenging, and on Wild Things we’re doing some groundbreaking stuff. Basically new ways of doing old tricks.

So much creative liberty do you have-
To be honest, visual effects is in essence a service industry. I like to think of it as design rather than straight-up art – you’re working to a brief. Ultimately it’s someone else’s final call on things and it’s their briefs that you’re working towards. That in no way means that you can’t add your own creativity and personality to the work while you’re working on it. And obviously the more you do it, the better you get at it and the quicker you can turnaround something means that you can get more and more of your creativity into the actual shots.

What qualifications do you have-
I have a degree in Multimedia Design – I studied animation units of that course in university. Most of what really got me into the industry was… Well, the defining moment for me, to be a bit geeky, was Jurassic Park.

It’s interesting that half the kids who saw that film wanted to be paleontologists, and the other half wanted to work in special effects…

Exactly. I was in that half. Well actually I wanted to do both.
But really, it’s the demo reel you create and your own practice, and that was all done in my own time, at home, while trying to do other little freelance illustration and design jobs. But I think the demo reel and essentially a coherent application where most people can see what you can do. I’m glad I did go to university because it gave me a start in that direction but I think the drive to do the actual work seems to appeal much more to employers. Actually practicing animation is what animation’s about.

Are there late nights-
Yeah, a fair bit. I guess it’s pretty common knowledge that work hours can be dramatic. But it’s not just because it’s the effects – I think most creative, deadline-based industries are like that – a lot of people can see similarities in design jobs. But it depends on the project and whether it’s crunch time or not. You can work a fairly normal week, to tell you the truth, during most of the project, up until deadlines – which can blow out.
But the industry seems to be changing. Awareness is growing of that kind of thing, but also, the age of people in the industry is getting older and there are families and things like that. I hope we see better work-life balance.

Any advice for anyone interested in getting into this industry-
I guess, basically, don’t give up… Work on stuff – you get better results through practicing animation, not just reading about it. If you’re building a demo reel, keep reviewing the reel and get people to look at it. Take in their advice.
The other really big thing is, people don’t really show as much passion as they have. That can make a big difference because you have to really want to do it.

What about the thrill of seeing your work in the cinema-
To tell you the truth it’s still probably the most exciting part. It can be hard work and the hours can blow up, but really it’s so much fun going to the cinema and actually seeing stuff that you’ve done. Ultimately I, as an animator, want to create moving things that people really enjoy watching. And the biggest buzz is seeing that work on the big screen.

Do you sit and watch through all the credits of the films you work on-
Oh yeah, all the way through. Everyone on the team does that for their own names but also because it’s really nice seeing who else worked on the show and out of respect for them.

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