In an age where everyone has been forced to stay in and stay safe, the need for connection and technology has never been so important. With a boom in gadget use over the last year of the pandemic, the need from clients to commission animated content that will stop people in their tracks is booming too. Although animated content is in high demand, Illustrators are often left feeling daunted by the task of making the static come to life through motion.
We interview London based Illustrator and Animation Director, Linn Fritz to hear her thoughts on navigating the world of animation whilst forging this with a career in illustration, creating a well rounded and successful practice. All whilst tackling the lack of diversity in the industry and making space for underrepresented artists through the wonderful Panimation platfrom which she co-founded with fellow artists Bee Grandinetti and Hedvig Ahlberg.
How did you get to where you are now as an independent Illustrator and Animation Director?
I have always been interested in creative work – Photography, radio, graphic design and film which I studied in college. But I would say that my journey started at Hyper Island in Sweden. Hyper is a different school without any teachers, lessons or tests… Sounds like a dream, right? It was! They gave me the right tools to succeed in the professional world, I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of.
After graduating I have been all over the place: I’ve lived in Amsterdam, Stockholm, London and Sydney, working with incredibly talented people in different studios. Now I work as an independent Illustrator and Animation Director in London.
What came first, Illustration or animation? How did you make the leap from one to the other?
Motion graphics came first actually – Whilst at Hyper Island! I had no clue what I was doing and being very naive, but I found it to be fun and challenging. After a few years in the industry, working in-house as a Junior Creative at a PR firm in Stockholm, and then as a Junior Motion Designer at Cub Studio in London, I ended up getting my dream internship at Buck in Sydney. They opened my eyes to design and illustration like no one else had and I felt like they really believed in me and pushed me in a great direction. So, the leap from motion graphics to illustration was a very natural transition in my career.
After I got into illustration, I actually started studying traditional animation at home by doing some online classes to get a better understanding of animation, something I wish I had done way earlier in my career.
What is your process?
I wish I could tell you that I have this epic process, but it’s quite boring and normal. After I’ve received a brief or been on a client call, I write a big list of words that come to mind when studying the brief that then helps me to kickstart the project, whether it’s an illustration or animation. Depending on the timeline, I usually take a day or two to just sketch anything and everything that comes to mind before actually getting into the project. That way, I just don’t pick the first idea that comes to mind, even though that’s usually the one I end up with in the end…
How do you start to get things in motion?
If it’s a client project I usually have a well worked out animatic or storyboard, but if it’s a personal project I sometimes just open Flash or After Effects without a plan and see what happens.
Illustration & Art Direction – Linn Fritz // Animation : Billy Mpetha
What advice would you have for any illustrators wanting to take the next step and jump into the world of animation?
When I was getting into Motion graphics I worked around the clock for years to get better. I was also young, lived with friends from school so the only thing we did was work on personal projects and talk about the latest animations we’ve watched – Which definitely helped!
When I got older my priorities changed and I started to understand that you need a life on the side of your job, and you need to recharge to be able to create good work. So, these days I schedule time, like I would with any client job, for myself to do a Skillshare class or just a personal project.
So, my answer would be to schedule some time in your calendar to learn animation. Use the internet to your advantage by doing a Skillshare class, join a community (Panimation and She Drew That are great animation communities for Women, trans and non-binary animators. Motion Hatch is a good one too!) or join an online school like School of Motion or MoGraph Mentor.
What have you noticed about the industry over the last year that has surprised you?
Something that surprised me very early on in my career was how incredibly helpful and supportive everyone is. In some strange way I feel like I’m friends with everyone I talk to in the industry, both online, in real life at events and at festivals. It’s been amazing to see how everyone came together last year during the pandemic in order to support each other even more than before!
In your eyes, what is the future of illustration / animation?
Over the last couple of years we have seen a shift in the media landscape – Our attention span keeps on getting shorter and so do the deliverables for a lot of creatives. I have almost completely shifted my focus to animated gifs and quick turnaround jobs with tight deadlines and personally, it suits me so much better. I thrive on a short deadline and tend to produce better work when I literally don’t have time to get distracted.
Panimation re-brand – Direction, Design and Additional Animation – Bee Grandinetti
When and how did you, Bee Grandinetti and Hedvig Ahlberg form Panimation? What was the main driving force behind this?
I moved to London back in January 2015 (Where does time go!?) when I joined Cub as a Junior Motion Designer. I didn’t know anyone in London at the time and decided to reach out to Bee Grandinetti online as I’d seen her amazing work and asked if she wanted to grab a pint at a pub, London style. She lived with Hedvig Ahlberg, and the three of us became friends really quickly.
We all worked as Junior Motion Designers in different animation studios, and we wanted to create a safe space where we could talk about our experiences and find support, and most importantly – find other women in the industry, as we felt like the only ones. We started talking about Female Directors in the industry, and the only one we could think about was Julia Pott.
In the studios we worked at, none of the senior creative positions was held by women, and there was a lack of role models and representation, which made it difficult to see yourself progressing into that position one day. So instead of just sitting around complaining about this issue, we decided to do something about it. So we started what was then called Punanimation back in 2015 …
In our early days our efforts were more focused on cis-gender women. But as we grew as humans, we also became more and more certain we wanted to welcome trans and non-binary people in our gang just as much. Therefore, we felt that we couldn’t be called Punani anymore (which means lady parts) So we changed our name from Punani, to PAN which means everyone!
Have you noticed a shift in diversity within the animation industry?
Even though the animation industry still is dominated by cis-men, there has definitely been a change in the industry as it’s no longer impossible to find directors that aren’t cis-men.
I would also like to believe that our directory is helping to bridge the equality gap in the industry. Recruiters from Adobe, Google, Instagram, Twitter and several animation studios and production houses have reached out to us to let us know that they have been using and hiring diverse talent from Panimation!
How is the platform run today?
Our platforms are set up in a way that are extremely self-sufficient as all the founders have full-time jobs.The Facebook group and the Slack community are both a very kind and inspiring place to be with lots of like-minded people eager to share and learn from one another. We have moderators accepting or inviting people into the safe spaces or just checking in with the conversations every now and then.
Our Directory requires a bit more love and is built from scratch by one of the Panimation founders, Bee Grandinetti and her husband Murilo Polese. Last but not least, our Instagram takeovers that’s been happening every week for over 3 years now and are carefully selected by the founders or suggested by our members.
What have been your most exciting revelations / discoveries through Panimation?
Panimation has grown to become so much more than we ever expected it to be. It’s become a self-sufficient community where people find support, jobs and even make friends for life. It’s become a place where people feel comfortable coming out with their corrected gender and are being met with love and support. It’s become a community where mothers discuss maternity leave and how to tackle prejudice against them.
Panimation has shown us that there is power in numbers, that you can achieve a lot with a little, that you’re not alone in your journey and that no action is too small.
And it’s great to see that, even though this is not a diverse industry and that there’s loads to improve, it is still a very lucky and fun industry to be in. We know this kind of initiative can easily get a lot of trolls and haters, but our male peers have been overall very supportive, understanding and even offering to help us out.
What’s next for Panimation – how would you like to see it develop?
We have big dreams for the future, but since day one, all the work we do for our community is done on a volunteer basis in our spare time, outside our full-time jobs. And when we organize bigger events such as screenings and exhibitions, we have taken the money from our own pockets. Words cannot express how happy and proud we are of coming this far. But we also feel there’s a lot more work to be done and lately we’ve often been confronted with the truth that there’s only so much one can do without proper resources.
We’ve been offered to post sponsored content on our Instagram, but we have made the decision not to engage because we want our community to be about our members and their work. That’s why we set up a Patreon where people can contribute with however much they can, even a dollar a month helps us run. It doesn’t matter if you’re a member of Panimation or if you’re an ally who just wants to support our cause. Anyone who’s craving for more diversity and finds Panimation valuable is welcome to chip in.
If anything, the past years have shown us how much more we can achieve when we all combine our forces. With more funds we will be able to realise bigger projects that can help close the gap even more such as Mentorship programs, short film grants and even a Panimation Festival!
Many thanks to Linn Fritz and Panimation for their time and answers.
You can find more of Linn’s work on her Website and Instagram.
You can also keep up to date with all things Panimation and see the Directory via their Website and Instagram.