When we do talks or visit universities and schools a lot of folks want to know how we got started in this business.
So here’s a potted history.
Did Greg study animation somewhere?
Greg studied in Southampton, but not animation. He is a self-taught animator. He started out as an illustrator and graphic designer, but back in 2000 he persuaded a client to create an animation project. He had three months to deliver half an hour of animation. He taught himself to use Adobe Animate (back then called Macromedia Flash) and after going half-mad from the workload, he delivered his first animation. It was a baptism of fire.
How did Myles start out writing?
Meanwhile I (Myles) had been copywriting for New Scientist and the BBC. I had a background in sciences but wanted to move into writing fiction. I decided to return to university and study screenwriting at Bournemouth University.
Greg and I started working together on our own short animations. We created characters and worlds using a variety of different media: some of it was pure illustration, some of it was mixed media, using photographs and illustrated characters. But the key point is this … we just kept on making things. Some were series. Some were standalone. Most were comedic in some way (or we hoped so). Each time we tried something new – something that would challenge us. We started putting together a little website and made up a newsletter list of our friends. When we did a new animation we emailed them. We soon realised it wasn’t enough to just make an animation. We had to spend time telling people about it too. Eventually we were shortlisted by the BBC in their new talent awards. We felt like we were starting to get somewhere.
Making a stand out piece of work
To begin with we had to create our short animations in and amongst the other paying work we were doing, but by 2005 people were starting to take us seriously. We created an animation Fuggy Fuggy (we’ll update this with a HD version soon) about a little trainee ninja animated by Greg and Tracy Bartlett. It won awards and led to contracts with Aardman Animations and the BBC. That allowed us to launch our company The Brothers McLeod Limited in January 2007.
Networking and working for hire
Meanwhile I had started writing for children’s television. I used to check out the news in Broadcast magazine and see if there were any shows being commissioned. I saw that one called Frankenstein’s Cat had just been greenlit, so I got in contact. Thanks to my decision to get out there and get networking I’d already met the head writer Alan Gilbey. He’d run a writing for animation course that I’d attended in Exeter. It all paid off. He gave me my first proper TV writing job and I wrote three episodes of Frankenstein’s Cat (created by Curtis Jobling).
Soon our attention turned to short films. Our first attempt was Dog Tired funded by the Film Council. But it was the subsequent more colourful, illustrative and experimental film Codswallop that really took flight. It received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Short Animation. We were up against Wallace and Gromit so on the night we didn’t really stand a chance. But we did get to hang out in the same room as Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet, Mickey Rourke, Brad Pitt, Sharon Stone and Terry Gilliam, so it wasn’t all bad.
Trying new things
Each time we started a new project we tried to extend our skills or our network. To begin with we’d done everything ourselves from the script to screen including the music and the voices and the edit. Later we started to find good freelance animators who could help us deliver things more quickly. We worked with professional actors. We built up relationships with producers who could help us with more complicated budgets and schedules. We didn’t have to learn all these things overnight. We built up our knowledge gradually.
Keep on truckin’
After that we’ve not looked back. We continue to make short animations, to write scripts for our own projects and for other production companies. We have written and illustrated four books (two in conjunction with our sister Fenella Smith).
We also continue to work with other creative people. We both enjoy working solo, working together and collaborating with other artists.
If you have any questions about how we started out, then just fire us an email and we can add to this article.
All the best.