Stephen Irwin in an independent animator, working from a home studio in Kingston, Surrey. He studies Electronic Imaging at Bradford University and has an MA in Communication Design from Central St Martins, London, where animation was part of the course.
He collaborates with a sound designer on his own films, and occasionally with other animators on commercial projects. He works commercially through Paris based production company Mr Hyde, mostly for European clients, and independently when he is approached directly.
From 2005, after graduating, he made with a succession of commissions from Film London/UK Film Council, Animate Projects and BBC New Talent/Warp Films, with films screened in competition at festivals all over the world, including Sundance, Annecy, Zagreb, Edinburgh, Ann Arbor and Clermont-Ferrand. His film Moxie won the Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival 2011, and The Black Dog’s Progress won Best Short Film at the British Animation Awards 2010. Animation Magazine named him as one of their Rising Stars of Animation 2009.
Moxie was self-funded, with some in kind technical support from Mr Hyde. Hidden Place (2012) was commissioned by Lupus Films for Channel 4’s Random Acts, but most of his recent films have been self-funded, supported by income from his commercial projects.
Following their festival life, Stephen puts his films online at Vimeo.
The commissions that Stephen got in his early career bought him time to establish his style, develop his skills and make award winning shorts. The support and profile given with these commissions was also invaluable, for example, Animate’s public screenings and q&a sessions. It has taken Stephen around seven years to establish his personal style, and the commissions he received early in his career bought him the time to do this.
But now there are no dedicated funds available to commission short animation in the UK, so many graduates simply stop making personal work and concentrate on commercial work instead. Without support, it is a struggle; his commercial work now helps to buy him the time to make his own film, but he wouldn’t be in this position without the earlier support.
“It takes a long time to learn what you’re doing and establish a style. You’re not necessarily going to have that style established when you graduate. In fact I’m still learning. You just have to trust that you’ll get better with time. You just have to trust your taste and your gut and keep working.”