Emerging animator Aiden Cassidy joined BES Animation during the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – from his own home.

Like Film Victoria, BES Animation, the Melbourne studio behind popular children’s series Kitty is Not a Cat have long been dedicated to nurturing the talents of early career creatives.

So even amidst transitioning all of their staff to working remotely due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, BES spoke to Film Victoria about offering a seven-week virtual animation attachment on the third season of their award-winning series. Within weeks, emerging animator Aiden Cassidy had joined their team – from his own home.

BES Producer and Company Director Judy Whittle says animation is a creative field that lends itself to working remotely and that 18 months ago they had set up BAM, a system through which staff can access the server and upload work, making them well placed take on their first ever virtual attachment.

“We’ve also started using Zoom to train staff and provide feedback on their work. People can share screens, draw on the screens as they talk, see and hear each other. It's working really well.”

“We always match our young creatives with the BES mentor that best suits their learning style so they can get the most out of the opportunity. Aiden has a dedicated mentor as well as multiple other people who will check in with him regularly and who he can reach out to,” said Judy.

Aiden is also working alongside four other early career creatives – Sarah Brennan, Annabelle Ots, Crys Kirk and Ben Jones – who got their foot in the door in animation thanks to Film Victoria’s Industry Skills program and BES, and who are now working full-time with the company.

Though he started his attachment just three weeks ago, Aiden says working with the BES animators virtually is “effortless” and it simply feels like one big studio simulation.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as animation is digital art. The biggest difference is communication with other staff and feedback from directors is via an online messaging tool or a virtual face-to-face meeting rather than in person,” he said.

When the virtual attachment opportunity came up, Aiden was both pursuing his own personal projects and working in a construction job after having finished up with another animation studio. He jumped at the chance to get back into professional animation, in order to continue to expand his experience and his own portfolio.

“I’ve worked for a studio before, but it was not long enough to really understand the ins and outs of creating a production. So I’m excited to familiarise myself with different programs, work on different genres or styles of production, and connect with people in all parts of the production process – all of which will help me in the future,” said Aiden.

Aiden’s best advice for getting the most out of an opportunity is something he himself listens to.

“I’ve found the best way to learn quickly is to ask as many questions as you can. The more questions you ask, the more solutions you’ll get, so I’m not shy when I don’t know something. Also being receptive to guidance and feedback is something that will help a lot in furthering your abilities.”

Mentoring from seasoned professionals is one of the most career-changing aspects of an attachment. Sarah says the animators at BES were committed to make it a great educational experience for her and likewise she was always ready and willing to learn.

“I received tips and feedback on using the animation and storyboarding software and how to improve my shots. I learnt about the importance of file management and keeping things in order, so that further down the pipeline it is easier for others to work with a shot, and about shot composition and how to interpret scripts, which is vital now I’m a Storyboard Artist. I’ve also improved my communication skills when asking the director for feedback,” said Sarah.

For Crys, now a Junior Animator, the learning opportunity on Kitty is Not a Cat Season 2 was a big step up from the expectations of their university work. Crys says they received a lot of revisions from the director at the start, but their work improved, along with their confidence and productivity.

“I had just finished my animation degree, and had been freelancing for a couple of months when I got the training position. It can be difficult to find work with no prior experience – the studio really has to take a chance on you.”

“Through the opportunity, my understanding of the fundamentals of animation improved greatly, but honestly one of the biggest things for me was learning how to focus and really be productive for an extended period, every day. I love animation, but it is perhaps underestimated how much discipline is required to do it in a professional setting. It is something I am continuing to improve, especially now that I am working on Season 3 from home and have to keep myself accountable,” said Crys.

Production Assistant Annabelle agrees that breaking into the industry is hard and says she puts extra effort into every opportunity that comes her way.

“Through the Professional Attachment on Kitty is Not a Cat Season 2, I was able to gain a fuller understanding of the role of production assistant and develop the skills required. The extended time with the company allowed me to demonstrate initiative and a strong work ethic. – and now I’m working on Season 3!” said Annabelle.

“I also got to write a script for Season 2, working closely with [Head Writer, Show Creator and BES Company Director] Bruce Kane. I have a degree in screenwriting and would love to focus more on the scripting side of production in the future, so that experience was fantastic,” she said.

Bruce says Film Victoria’s Industry Skills program was integral to their company as it enabled growth by filling skills gaps and aligned with their commitment to fostering the next generation of creators.

“At BES Animation, we’re keen to provide as many opportunities as possible to young graduates in our ever-growing, local industry,” he said.

“For Sarah, Annabelle and Crys, who came onboard prior to us (temporarily!) becoming a virtual studio, the support we received from Film Victoria meant they had the time to move between departments and be involved in the multiple facets that go together to create a successful in-house animation production studio.”

“They gained a wide range of experience at a professional level and were able to find where their talents best sit in the industry. All of them are now much valued members of our ongoing team and are producing work that is seen in over 100 countries around the world,” said Bruce.

“For Aiden, the day-to-day will look different, but we know we can still offer a worthwhile learning experience through a virtual attachment with online guidance and mentoring from our incredibly talented team of animators.”

Applications are now open for our Professional Attachments register. Early career animators and other below-the-line screen practitioners can apply to the register to be considered for attachment opportunities like these.

Our Key Talent Placements register is also open for applications from early to mid-career writers and directors for paid placements on productions, which can include participating in writer’s rooms or directing 2nd unit.

Applications close 11pm Monday 4 May 2020. Apply today.