Aardman Academy Spotlight: Mark Simon Hewis
We’re handing over to the Aardman Academy for this week’s Spotlight, which features External Education Moderator, Mark Simon Hewis. Keep reading to find out where his career began, and how he’s helping budding animators get into the industry…
1. How did you start out in animation?
I wanted to be a photographer nearly all my life, but then I was forced to make a film at college when I was 17. I’d seen people doing pixelated animation and really loved it, but I didn’t have a camera that could shoot stop-motion. So made an entire 1 minute film inside a photobooth in Woolworths. I thought it was just a bit of fun but that film went on to play in festivals around the world.
2. Tell us about the Aardman Academy courses you work on…
In 2013 I stopped working in commercials at Aardman and started lecturing, and my first role at the Academy was helping to develop a way of connecting academics from animation schools around the world with Aardman. We wanted to make a network that was linked through the Academy that offered a real industry connection with students, lecturers and the industry. That became the Lecturer Development Course. I’m also running a course that is aimed at helping anyone who wants a career in film and animation to better understand how to get into the industry, the hugely varying options for a career they have, and also demystifying the film world and roles within it. It feels really exciting working with the Academy.
3. What’s your best advice for people wanting to get into the animation industry?
Watch lots. If you want a creative job, practise it and enjoy it. Play. Always want to find a solution for problems. Make lots of things and always be nice. People want to work with people they like.
4. To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?
Walking on set as director for the first day of shooting my first feature film and remembering being in a photobooth in Woolworths when I was 17.
5. Name three people who inspire you:
Just three people? That is tough. First of all, I’m inspired by anyone who believes in something and puts all of their heart into trying to achieve it while still being kind on the way. But here’s a go at picking three: The filmmaker and animator David Anderson is the reason I started making films. I think his short film “Door” is still one of my all time favourites. The artist and photographer Moholy Nagy, who was a big part of the Bauhaus movement. He was also a rule breaker! Finally, Martin Parr. When I first saw his photographs as a child, it felt like he was looking at the world through the same eyes as me.
6. Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?
I have two (or three), and both for the same reasons. “Angry Kid” and “Purple & Brown”; I love that they’re punk and anarchic. It’s such an art how they’re crafted and how each episode builds over time. They are bursting with energy and immediacy, which isn’t easy with stop-motion.
7. What has been your all-time favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?
In 2007 I made a film called “The Life Size Zoetrope” for Channel 4 and Animate Projects. The idea was to turn a fairground ride called a “Round Up” into a giant zoetrope that showed an entire person’s life in one shot using flip books held by the riders. I had no idea if it’d work. I loved that it was about trying to work out something that seemed almost impossible. It took an entire year to plan and only one day to shoot. In the end it won the Grand Prix at the London International Animation Festival… and it’s a live-action film.
Mark’s next course, Gateway into Industry, takes place on Friday July 12th 2019. Register your interest here.