Laura Jeffcote on Animation Trainee Finder

Laura Jeffcote on Animation Trainee Finder

How did you hear about Trainee Finder?
I found Trainee Finder after completing a CelAction2D animation course through ScreenSkills. The programme was advertised through the digital newsletter.

What made you want to get into animation?
I was fan of stop-motion animation and cartoons from the 1970’s. I loved British animation and then we also had these incredible psychedelic American and Canadian cartoons on the TV too. I was besotted with The Banana Splits, Bob Godfrey’s Rhubarb and Custard, and also, a film called The Phantom Tolbooth, which was half live action and half cartoon. And of course, there was Disney and Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes. I made my own cartoons and created stop-motion models out of felt and papier mâché. In 1986, Pixar made Luxo Jr. and I about passed out with excitement from the possibilities of CGI. I reached a certain age and couldn’t ignore the pull anymore, so I retrained.

Had you always wanted to work in the screen industries?
Yes, I had always wanted to be an animator but I thought it was an unobtainable goal and I was discouraged to pursue art by my family as it wouldn‘t lead to a “proper job”. But it became apparent many, many years later that I should have listened to my gut. Kids, listen to your gut!

What were you doing before you joined the Trainee Finder programme?
I was coordinating arts volunteers at Leicester Museums and Arts Service and doing the odd bit of freelance work. Whilst retraining in animation at university, my elderly parents became ill and I ended up with caring responsibilities. So that put the kibosh on any animation plans for quite a while.

Had you had any previous experience of animation?
I completed an eight week animation internship at Seed Creativity in Leicester in 2018.

What were your highlights of the Trainee Finder programme?
Definitely getting a trainee position at Lupus Films. I was a trainee rigger and designer for six months and was offered a junior designer role for an extra seven months. I designed approximately 500 props, characters, costumes, VFX and a few backgrounds for a children’s animated series for Apple. It was phenomenal. I worked with animation professionals who were so knowledgeable. I learned loads, absolutely loads about designing for animation.

How did Trainee Finder help you develop your career?
In a nutshell, it found me my first design role on a major production. The programme also provided industry insight and job search training, a lovely mentor from Smoking Hippo, and it brought the trainees together at Manchester Animation Festival, which was an absolute blast. My confidence increased as an animation designer and, most significantly, once you have worked on an animation pipeline, you understand how it all works. The knowledge and practical experience of a pipeline is invaluable.

What have you got lined up next? Will you look to stay in animation – or other screen industry roles?
The Trainee Finder programme is extended until October, so hopefully I may get another trainee role whilst I also search independently for designer positions in the industry. I now have an online portfolio presence and I am working on increasing my design skills. I will also take a refresher course in CelAction2D animation so that I have more than one string to my bow.

Why do you think programmes like this are important for the industry?
These programmes are essential for getting new talent into the industry. Industry employers tend to look for new entrants with studio experience. In my experience, and with my own set of circumstances, it has been beyond difficult to get that first studio role and that first role is, without doubt, the springboard to a career. ScreenSkills acts like a matchmaker, enabling and supporting both trainee and employer.

Why would you recommend Trainee Finder?
Trainee Finder provides a structured and supportive programme that includes training and development, mentoring from industry professional and paid placements. It really works. If you are looking to work in the screen industries but you are struggling to navigate your way in, these programmes are key.

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