Animator based in Trinbago René Holder, co-founder of the animation studio Farr Creative, traveled to Lille, France last month to attend Cartoon 360, an event that brings together pioneers and leaders of the animation industry to brainstorm ideas, share expertise, develop products and showcase new work for finance and production.
The only participant from Trinidad and Tobago, Holder made a strong impression with the company’s cricket-themed series, Howzzat, to an audience of potential collaborators during the big animation event last month.
The 35-year-old creation shared with Buckle his experiences at the event and discussed what Caribbean creatives can offer the global entertainment industry.
Holder, along with his partner Lyndon Johnson, enrolled in the UTT Animation Diploma in 2008, as part of his first class. Although the two chose not to graduate, they had accumulated enough knowledge and skills to start their own business, Lab206 Studios, two years later. The team got down to business and found success with a series of commercials and music videos, including the 2015 hit Destra Garcia, “Lucy”.
Changing prospects and a marked lack of local funding opportunities to fuel the industry’s development have left Holder somewhat exhausted, leading him to suspend his animation work in 2017 for the next three years. “I took a break … to figure out how to make animation work in the Caribbean,” he said. By this point, the artist had developed quite a network and moved into a creative direction, not too far from the action but just far enough to gain much needed perspective. He oversaw creative work for projects across the Caribbean before returning to his original passion.
Holder was able to bypass many of the limitations in accessing the management of a Trinbago-based animation studio by setting up the company in Estonia. A member of the European Union, the nation of Northern Europe approves electronic residency for qualified persons; such a move gave Holder better access to the EU market, facilitated new networking efforts and allowed Holder to come into contact with many companies whose representatives he was able to meet in person at Cartoon 360 .
While Covid is still raging, with France currently in its fifth wave, Holder has not been discouraged, choosing to lean on the positive and take advantage of the opportunities that would come with face-to-face networking. “Business is a people’s game,” he said, adding that all his previous communications with animation experts overseas were “reduced to one screen”. Holder acknowledged that while the virtual environment has, in fact, helped foster some of the relationships established, ” [communication] cannot do everything; you can’t ignore in-person networking.
One of these groups was Irish Society Daily madness productions, an all-female animation studio whose work has been featured on the BBC, with additional material in development for other major networks.
Finally able to rub shoulders with the best of his fellow animators, Holder got down to pitching work. Howzzat, pleasantly surprised at how the unique idea was received. He said that despite the lack of funding which may seem to hold back growth in some of our creative fields, thanks to ingenuity and courage, Caribbean creatives are certainly able to stand alongside their international peers.
“We take ourselves for granted [because of] where we’re from, ”Holder said. “We over-prepare by thinking that we are disadvantaged. You always feel like you need to do more … because [your colleagues] exist within a system that supports [their craft]. “
As it turned out, many attendees were very impressed with Holder’s presentation. “Most of the judges said we have one of the best pitches there,” he said.
Holder said that showing up at the event as a Trinbagonian with a company based in Europe made him feel “a little bit of impostor syndrome” before realizing that you were positioning you where you need to be to get the job. better access to opportunities for your work to thrive in the animation community was more common than he thought. “There was a guy from Italy who came up [his company] in France because there are many opportunities [there], he recalls.
He spoke about crossing with other animators of Caribbean origin, in particular St Lucian Wesley Louis of the London studio The Line and Kim Ettinoff of Supercell, of Martinican origin.
With “diversity” being a buzzword in entertainment these days, a number of leading production companies in North America and Europe appear to be making a greater effort to tell the stories of non-people and cultures. Europeans. Earlier this year, Disney Animation announced a “first of its kind” partnership with Nigerian-Ugandan production company Kugali Media to adapt the comic book seriesIwaju, which premieres on Disney + next year.
While it can be argued that this wave of ethnic and cultural variety in storytelling is long overdue, and inclusion efforts are largely a commercial movement, what remains important is that elaborate narratives are genuine and respectful of those they are meant to represent. .
Holder explained that the American perspective of diversity usually comes with downsides, the struggle to try to be heard in a space where you are seen as an outsider. But, he asserted, what is seen as “the other” in these societies is our daily reality in our multicultural, multi-ethnic nation.
“We are surrounded by the excellence of blacks and browns,” he said. “We have a black woman president and [we’ve had a] Brown female prime minister; we grew up around these things.
Holder has had no trouble conveying the colors and nuances of this so-called diversity in all its authenticity. He said that while it was praised at the event, it just felt natural to him. “It’s not something I need to pretend or understand; it’s just my standard.
At events like Cartoon 360, creatives compete on an equal footing, regardless of their background. “Most of the time, broadcasters come for the next big thing [and] it depends on what you bring to the table and what you can produce, ”Holder said. He mentioned Lion Forge Animation, the production company behind the Oscar-winning short, Hair love, directed by Matthew A. Cherry. “We are in competition with them,” he said.
He urged Caribbean creators to recognize the value of their contribution to global creative industries. “We really need to see ourselves as global players rather than disadvantaged people. “
The host spoke about the importance of taking the time to strike the right balance between the unique and marketable qualities of our culture and the satisfaction of a global audience through cross-cutting and universal themes that make the plot both and the relatable characters.
“There is a very fine line between creating something local for local [consumption] and create something local that has broader appeal, ”Holder explained. “Find this space [is what] do one Squid game become a Squid game-it’s very korean [but] plays to a larger audience. He and his team worked to achieve this balance by conceptualizing Howzzat as a “character-centric” story “in a larger and more complex world that occurs [to play out] on a cricket pitch.
With production set to begin in a year, Holder continues to collaborate to develop the project into a full season, representing the country and region in the global animation industry.
“As long as we’re true to who we are and… the stories we want to tell,” Holder said, “there is space for us.”
Check out the Farr Creative content strip at Vimeo and discover their work on Instagram and Facebook.