Nexus is a 110-seat animation studio, based in Shoreditch, London. They have been running for 15 years, and have a built from initially a team of three. The studio is home to a core team working in CG animation using 3D studio Max and a suite of other software. They have a team of directors working alongside animators, designers, effects animators and modellers working on everything from live action VFX through to stop-frame work. Nexus has 40 – 50 full time staff at any one time, and freelancers when needed on projects.
Chris O’Reilly is co-founder of the studio. He tudied English Literature at Oxford University and has always had an interest in story and writing; he became interested in animation whilst living in Japan. The animation directors and animators come from various UK art schools such as the Royal College of Art, Farnham, Kingston and from French art schools including Gobelins. Others may have previously established themselves in associated industries such as post production, gaming or motion graphics.
In the studio they work across shorts, commercials, music videos and animated title sequences. Work has included title sequence for the feature film Catch Me if You Can, an Academy Award nominated short This Way Up, music videos and commercials for brands such as Coca Cola, Honda and Vodafone. They also have a number of features in development, with support from a BFI Vision Award.
Nexus Interactive Arts, established three years ago. fosters collaboration between moving image artists and programmers, working across the web, apps and interactive installations.
Nexus has agents representing the company in the USA, Canada, France and Spain; it co-owns a small studio in Sydney, Australia and it has a feature film agent in the USA.
The studio has an extensive track record in supporting the independent work of their artists. They have directly funded work in the past, and also supported their artists in getting funding from the Mesh, AIR and Animate schemes. They have also had success with funding which is links technical innovation and experimental projects, from companies such as Google and Microsoft. It is much harder to get traditional narrative based films funded through this model – there is a gap in funding this way.
Their ideal projects are genuinely cross-platform – with the ambition of apps, web and film being created simultaneously. This Way Up is on DVD and I-Tunes, Carp and Seagull is an online experience and some projects are purely installations.
Work includes an Oscar nominated short, Grammy nominated and MTV Award winning music videos, and Cannes Grand Prix, Gold Lions and Black D&AD pencil winning commercials. The diversity of the work is something that they are really proud of, from their short, This Way Up receiving an Academy Award nomination, through to a children’s interactive animated installation developed for therapeutic benefit with physiotherapists at the Royal London Hospital. Shorts have won prizes at festivals including Ottawa, Sundance and Annecy.
STATE OF PLAY
They have seen animation go from a friendly niche industry when they first started out, to a global and highly competitive business. It is many times more competitive than when they first started out, with a crowded marketplace with many practitioners competing for the same projects. This has made them become much more focused about what they offer to their clients.
There is incredible animation talent in the UK, but it hasn’t been historically very well supported previously. At Nexus they work hard to provide a supportive environment for their artists and provide a platform for creative people to make exciting work.
The proliferation of social media, new screens and multi-platform content, creates exciting opportunities for animation. Through their Interactive Arts division, they are at the cutting edge of experimentation in this field, finding new ways to push forward with animation driven ideas, which offer unprecedented creative control and new ways to engage with and interact with audiences.
“It is difficult for students to grasp the complexities of the animation ‘industry’ – it isn’t really one industry – it’s animated sections of lots of other industries.
“Things are changing so quickly, that it’s almost impossible for colleges and universities to give you the exact skillset you need. It can help to prepare you to get the right kind of mindset, to embrace new technology, rather than coming out with all of the correct technical boxes ticked.
“People are beginning to understand how animation works in different models to the film industry. Animation is a massively collaborative process; it’s not just about a director and a producer. Making animated films with any scale and ambition relies not just on one artist, but dozens.
“In order for animated feature films to flourish within the UK, we need to also help studios to prosper because they are the collaborative home of the artists and technical people behind the best of the UK’s animation”.
Images: Chipotle, directed by Johnny Kelly (2011)
Grand National – The Outsider, directed by Smith & Foulkes
Coca Cola – Happiness is Movement, directed by Johnny Kelly