Feed Me Light [STUDIO]
Bringing Your Ideas to Light: A look at the challenges of the animation business and team building.
Interview by Laura-Beth Cowley
Feed Me Light is a creative studio based in London. They provide a range of services and creative solutions for clients that span from creative briefs, to storyboarding, illustrations, 2D & 3D animation, filming, post production, print, video games, and VR.
Opening its doors in late 2015, the studio went through unprecedented growth in its first three years. The FML family has expanded beyond its original founding team, with additions in both sales and production and increasing the talent roster with signings of directors and junior talent.
Growing a studio came with the new challenges of general business management along with managing clients and feedback. The studio ensures that their artistic talent is supported by a solid team of producers, who find creative solutions to support the project and help find a compromise between the budget and imagination.
With an exponentially growing studio, higher calibre client projects, and an increased demand for content produced by Feed Me Light, they have solidified their status as an effective and impactful design agency, reflected in the rising number of accolades that the team has won, including Best Emerging Agency 2018. Here we interview Kiri Haggart, Executive Producer and Managing Director at Feed Me Light.
The Feed Me Light ethos is centred around ‘being good sorts’; what does this mean to your studio?
Kiri Haggart: Our company mantra of “being all round good sorts” boils down to two important factors in how we operate.
Firstly, it is the leading ideal in how we have built and sustained our company culture. We are first and foremost a group of friends who love working together in creating fun and engaging outputs. That’s why we first came together to create FML, and continue to work and develop together. We believe that we produce our best work when we are striving to be our best selves, and respecting those around us as they do the same. We’ve been incredibly lucky that every person who has joined us since has reflected this ideal.
Secondly, we believe in a healthy, charitable culture of giving as much as we receive. We believe Feed Me Light can offer this in three distinct ways.
By “creating good”, we use our talents and positive atmosphere to work with organisations such as The Amelia Project in creating visual outputs that shine a light on their cause.
By “giving good”, we make sure we give back to the global community and drive a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme that will grow as we grow. For every job Feed Me Light wins, we give a percentage back to our chosen charity of the year.
By “doing good”, we strive to set an example and donate our time to sharing our experiences and skills through outreach programmes with school groups.
You have a very diverse range of styles and work, all of which are bold in their own way. What do you look for when recruiting directors, writers, and animators?
KH: The people that have joined FML over the years are a direct result of connections we have built along the way. We have been blessed to have rubbed shoulders with some of the best creative minds and crafts folks in the industry, and the people we welcome on board, we welcome as friends. By sheer serendipity, we believe that these friends are talents that excel in their specific field, who are truly the best at what they do.
Everyone that comes on board continues the ethos of being ‘good sorts’. They come in with big hearts, lots of talent, and no ego. Our love of collaboration and our respect for our colleagues’ creative visions is what we feel allows verity to flourish in our studio and our work, which leads to the dynamic and bold range of styles in our studio portfolio.
We also ensure that this immense talent is supported by a solid team of producers, who find creative solutions to support the project and help find compromise between our budget and creativity. In our line of work, people are generally quite excited to come in and do their thing, so you don’t really have to do much more than give them a healthy work environment and be flexible around what they need to flourish.
You’re quite a young studio but have already worked with a lot of big Intellectual Properties and picked up a fair few awards, when did you decide to launch your own studio?
KH: Moving to London in 2009, our founder Denis pushed his love for animation design, working for studios such as Nexus, Electric Theatre Collective, and Saatchi & Saatchi as a freelance 3D generalist.
Opportunity came knocking in 2015 in the form of a collaboration between the fledgling FML and the directing duo, Marc and Denis Bouyer, on the big commercial project: “A Husky Story”. Off the back of this success, and a desire to continue creating high-end work with like-minded people, Feed Me Light grew from an individual freelance company to a team of creatives based in a studio in East London
Growing a studio came with the new challenges of general business management and learning to manage clients and feedback. Understanding the need for that buffer of a producer led to an expanded team of great management that could support our talent. Through this growth, FML began to find its feet, and more importantly, its distinct creative voice and flavour.
What brought you to animation in the first place?
KH: In short - it’s fun. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to create. The people in the industry are fun. You can create an idea in your head, and then have the ability to sit down and actually make it happen. You can create anything you want and you’ve got the ability to control everything. Which means you’ve got the ability to make something funny, or the freedom to control a serious matter with a light hearted approach. It’s the ultimate creative playground.
Where did the name 'Feed Me Light' come from?
KH: There are three varying ideas behind it:
Firstly, our founder, Denis, has always been really interested in spirituality and meditation, so he was fond of the idea - both visually and spiritually - of enlightenment; the idea of being ‘fed light’ as you grow.
Secondly, everything we see is a result of the reflection of light upon shapes, and this creates the world we see. In order for us to make sense of the world, it’s all about how light is being reflected and interpreted. This is very applicable to animation, where we literally build images, and worlds, from scratch.
Lastly, ‘FML’ as an abbreviation obviously has a more infamous meaning, which often comes in handy when you’re dealing with tight deadlines.
You work with a few collectives and teams of directors, like Team Tumult and BRVTVS, how does working with a group differ from working with individual directors?
KH: There are obviously differences, but there is also so much variation working between two individual directors that we ultimately wouldn’t say the difference between group and individual is any more different. Every director has their own unique approach.
All of our directors are incredibly hands on throughout the entire process, and generally don’t sit back and just ‘direct’, they are doing the work as well. It’s something we love and encourage.
With collectives like BRVTVS and Team Tumult, and even the Bouyer Brothers, there are just more of them to spread across the process, which is amazing. They have their specialities and strengths in particular aspects of the production, which I feel pushes and challenges the level of what we want to achieve across the whole project. Within their group/collective, they also push and challenge each other, which delivers the best results. As a group they still take on and accept the moniker of ‘Director’ as if they are an individual, and they’ve been working together for so long that they work well as a team in balancing the responsibilities of that role between them.
You’re a very international group, does this bring a unique perspective to your storytelling and visuals?
KH: Visual Storytelling is a universal language and we feel lucky that it is the thing that has brought us all together. There's an unspoken mutual respect for the time people invested to get into the position it takes to now be working together. This level of respect pushes us to do our best work to create high end visual outputs.
When a project comes together under the FML roof, it is the result of a multitude of talents from across the board, not just the creative workforce. Everyone has something to bring to the table, each person comes from their respective culture and has their own experiences to share. A story that Cianán may tell at lunch will differ largely (and normally involve a lot more drink) than a story one of the twins may tell. These experiences provide humour and insight into our daily lives that we otherwise never would have had, and helps push our ability to understand, craft, and tell the stories of our clients.
‘A Husky Story’ brought a remarkable level of texture into CGI film and developed a beautiful sense of colour, space, and light. Can you tell us a little more about this film and why the studio developed it in this way?
KH: The original brief that came through from the client was relatively ‘open’, but one thing they were really interested in was stop-motion. We didn’t actually do stop-motion at that point, but what we could deliver was a well crafted 3D approach. The directors pitched an approach which combined stop-motion with 3D, so we had an animated approach which lent itself to a handcrafted feel.
We also did a lot of research on the brand, and they aren’t your typical beauty brand. Their shops were all really colourful with quite funky designs and slightly left-of-field ideas. So it worked well to pitch the super colourful approach, working with dynamic lighting and backdrops.
We worked with specialist artists who loved colourful ideas and working with lighting, so this was an easy thing to cultivate. In regards to the textures, it is truly one of the most fun parts of 3D. To create the additional details like fur or hair around the clothes makes it much more real, and those small details, like the thumbprints, takes it to that extra level of craft.
The range of styles, although very different, feel very much of the same world. When you get a new brief or project do you know who will direct or do you have in-house pitching for each project?
KH: We don't have in-house pitching. When projects come in, we sit and chat, get the juices going, and it becomes apparent quite organically whose stamp the project fits and whose hands it will best be placed in. It's always been a very organic process. Other times jobs will come in with clients requesting a specific visual style from a particular director who they know will deliver their vision.
Cross-collaboration between different directors is something we’re proud to foster in the studio as well, when a project comes in that is strengthened by the creative minds of a number of our creative leads. Its our own special FML House Blend, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity for these kinds of collaborations to take place.
What has been the most exciting part of Feed Me Light’s story so far?
KH: This is a really nice question as it makes pause and reflect on the last few years which, as we sit here and ponder, has been amazing in so many ways.
What sticks out the most for us, and has the biggest impact on our day to day life, is the people. Our team. They have been THE most exciting part of the FML story so far. And I don’t just mean the studio staff, it is also every single freelancer we’ve had in to work with us on our projects.
We’ve grown in size, we’ve gotten stronger, we’re delivering projects which keep us motivated. We’ve also been too busy sometimes, and things have also been too stressful, there have been many moments for our team to crumble and lose interest, but they never have. It almost sounds too good to be true.
But hands on hearts, we know that we are who we are, and deliver what we do, because of our people and our team. The underlying fact is, we come in everyday to have fun, and we enjoy what we do. It sounds almost like a prepared answer, that perhaps we feel is the ‘right’ answer to make us sound good. But it’s not, we truly love our team and the environment they help create.
What’s next for the studio?
KH: Our main goal for the coming year is to consolidate what we have built so far. The growth the studio has gone through in such a short space of time has been crazy, and we feel it is important that we take the time to reflect on this growth, and ensure we support and cultivate our expanded family and preserve the core ethos that we have maintained from the very beginning.