How did you get started in the animation industry and what has your journey been like to get to the work you’re doing now?
Hello! I’m Hanae. I’m a producer at The Line, a production company in London. I’ve been there for 3 years, mainly working on 2D animation projects.
Before joining The Line, I worked on animation TV series at different companies in the UK, Japan and in Ireland, hopping from one project to another every 6 - 24 months. I did that for about 7 years.
It sounds like a linear dry path condensing it like that, but it was a bit of a muddy road. It took about a year and half after finishing college and a handful of odd jobs, I landed on my first job as a colourist on a feature film called The Illusionist. I met some of The Line guys there. At that point my goal was to become something to do in animation. It was VAGUE. I had no idea what it takes to professionally make animation, nor had any knowledge of “production department”.
I then moved back to Japan and I worked at a graphic design studio on boring corporate stuff. I realised I didn’t like that at all and wanted to get back to animation. I got a job at Studio 4C because they needed someone who speaks English to work with a US studio, and it was then that I properly started my animation adventure in production.
The journey since has been an endless tumble - when I moved to London, I re-started from Production Assistant because I struggled to fit my previous experience into the new role. But the early learnings and anime culture have been more useful on my current job - if you keep going, stuff starts clicking into place!
A lot of our readers work on the creative side of animation and would be super interested to know more about how the production side works. Would you be able to walk us through an average day in the life of a producer?
Ooh! A producers’ average day depends massively on the scale of the projects they look after. You could be creating a big new IP (intellectual property) with many stakeholders, developing a feature film, running a 26 episode season of a series, etc. I mostly oversee one short-form commercial project at a time from pitching to final delivery, so my daily tasks are based on where the project is at. Here’s a mash-up version of what’s it like:
The early stage of the project is always the busiest part when you need to formulate a plan, which involves project scope, budget, schedule and crewing. Generally, this is one of the most fun parts when you get to roll up your sleeves. Relevant to this stage, there is a cool SDT post breaking down standard advertising briefs and structure - it explains how a production company gets work in the advertising areas of animation.
Once the job is awarded, more busy time continues building a team, setting up a process and collecting information to ensure the film is within the scope and the rest can go as smooth as possible. This allows a head space for constant troubleshooting at the later stage. For me, this bit is a lot of trial and error, adjusting to work with the pipelines of each project and crew. It’s like picking the right battle and creating a lean process that works for the specific requirements. Once we are at stage to start churning out the work, production managers bring in their mighty skills to ensure the project is flowing well and production is on track. For smaller projects, producers might also act as a production manager - and assistant, runner and everything else!
Once it’s time to deliver the project, it gets busy again to make sure every loose end is tied up for delivery.
Regardless of the specific micro tasks, I feel like the day is roughly made up of 60% emailing or talking to people and looking at edit, 20% thinking and 10% working on spreadsheets. Remaining 10% is either laughing, crying, making hot beverages or remembering to drink water, which calculates about 48 minutes per day.
What influences you and how does that feed into your work?
I’m constantly inspired by the insanely smart and talented folks I work with, or friends with. How they collaborate, troubleshoot and even how they write emails have taught me a lot about how to approach things at work. It’s not that you can immediately steal their greatness (I must mention the drawing skills) obviously, but I have been incredibly lucky to have these friends, colleagues, clients and crew.
What’s one of the more frustrating things you’ve been asked by a client?
It’s really frustrating when we don’t get to show our work, and I have to tell the crew they can’t show their work. It’s also very sad when the work doesn’t get released at all, which is quite rare but happens sometimes.
Can you tell us something unexpected that you’ve learned? This may be something that you’ve experienced in the production of an animation or within studio life.
Not usually unexpected for a producer, but I’d say spreadsheets. I think making animation requires some kind of intuitive understanding of proportion like aspect ratios, resolution, fps, 2s, 3s, calculating budgets, etc. It’s simple stuff but spreadsheets come in handy for organising the data, making calculations or creating formats. I always thought they are for boring jobs, so it was a surprise when I first discovered my love for it and realised how fun to come up with creative solutions to make things work the way you want.
From your experience of the animation industry, are there changes you’d like to see?
I would like to see the animation to be a realistic career choice for wider social groups of people. I believe that promoting the industry with open information and honest insights will make a difference. The Internet has been a great place for this for the people who are interested already, but for many people it might not come across as a career. Animation can be a much more diverse and inclusive place with more people from wider backgrounds. Screen Skills has this informative animation map that is useful to share if someone around you is interested in working in animation.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?
You don’t need to answer a difficult question right on the spot. This really helps not to enter into crisis mode. Breathe, hear it out and just say you’ll get back to them. You know there is always time to talk to the others and prepare your answer.
Tip of the month
Do you have a software tip that changed your world?
Yes, lots!! In no particular order:
Mac screenshot specific (Window - ctrl + shift + 4 + space, then click the window.)
Mac preview PDF signature and markup function
Ctl+K link insert on all Google things (and now you can do multiple links in one cell on a sheet)
Slack link inserts by pasting onto the selected text.
Google drive link box insert on Gmail (because otherwise, no one sees it)