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“Animation is great because it allows you to do things that are not real, so don’t look that gift horse in the mouth.” Find out what other nuggets of wisdom Tom Mortimer, co-founder of animation company 12foot6 – creators of the BAFTA-nominated The Sensibles, Modern Toss and other irreverent delights – has to reveal on his techniques when writing for animation.
Jotta: Who are 12foot6 ? Where did the name come from?
Tom Mortimer: Dave Anderson and myself, Tom Mortimer - we started it. We're both 6 foot 3 so it was the sum of us standing on top of each other. As more people joined we realised our maths might be challenged a bit, so we stuck there.
How did you get into animation?
Dave wrote comics, and i wrote in advertising and for comedy. I started lecturing at the dawn of Flash at the end of last century and we quickly realised that making cartoons would be better than working.
Did you have a mentor when you were starting out?
I worked with some great illustrators when i started. We shared a building with the Central Illustration Agency and so met and listened to a few of them. Brian Grimwood, Simon Spilsbury, Robert Shadbolt, Geoff Grandfield. At the time illustration was being battered a bit because everything was going digital. But as we always say - good art will always find a way.
What's your process for writing a treatment?
We like to try new things whenever we can, so it's about getting the idea and pushing to see what we can do with it. And we like to get something drawn or made or modelled quite quickly. One piece of art will always inspire you to the next step we find.
Do you often collaborate in the early stages or do you work alone?
There are 20 of us at 12foot6 and we all do slightly different things, so everyone has to rely on everyone else - all we ever do is collaborate.
Pencil & Paper or iPad ?
it's a bit hard to send an email with a pencil and pen. But i know what you mean. We find there is a pretty simple rule in animation, in fact with any work I think - you get out what you put in. Put good art in and you stand a good chance of coming out with something you'll be happy with. Use whatever tools you like, as long as it works.
When writing for animation what are the main elements to keep in mind for story development?
I know it's been said a million times before but, make sure there's a beginning, a middle and an end. We all need that, from 30 second commercials to 60 minute films. Also for us, something that's funny too, but that's probably just us, a bit of humor keeps you going day to day.
What are the main things you look for in an animation treatment?
When doing the ideas we use the phrase, "say maybe more often", that is, keep an open mind on ideas and art and technique. BUT, when you've done the ideas make sure you take something on that you will finish. Sounds a bit obvious, but really important. If you start out knowing where you have to be in a few weeks time, chances are - you'll get there. but if you start of with a completely open mind and stay that way, you could be at it forever!
The Imagination Series Film competition which we're hosting on Jotta is asking budding filmmakers to take a short script and infuse it with imagination- giving it all the necessary elements such as location, genre, characters etc. What are the vital elements to remember when writing for animation?
1.Animation is great because it allows you to do things that are not real, so don't look that gift horse in the mouth.
2. Animation is sometimes about finding very pretty ways of being a little bit lazy - reusing moves, clever use of backgrounds and so on. You need to make every bit of art work tirelessly for you.
3. In animation the art and the movement are only half of it - the other half is sound. Don't forget it.
Want a shot at directing your own film - with a script written by an Oscar-winning scriptwriter? Submit your take on the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series script here before August 1st!