Stop motion animator and director Daniella Orsini on ScreenSkills’ animation budgeting clinic

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Working through the TV series budgeting process for projects was both unfamiliar and unexplored territory for stop-motion animator Daniella Orsini, as for many creatives.   

Daniella was working on developing an idea for a children's pre-school animated TV series at her Catfish Collective Animation Studio and knew budgeting was a very important side of things that she "knew nothing about." So she signed up for a place on ScreenSkills' animation budgeting clinic to push her business acumen in the right direction.      

The clinic is one of several online masterclasses and workshops funded by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Thanks to the contributions from UK animation productions, ScreenSkills has been able to offer training for free to animation professionals at all levels across the UK.

Daniella was working completely on her own when she spotted the ScreenSkills' clinic. "The thought of having help from an experienced professional in the business seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up," she says. "I'm planning on pitching my animated series to funders, so a budget is something that I need for that." 

The ScreenSkills course teamed Daniella with mentor, animation guru and industry veteran of more than 30 years, Simon Quinn, and set a practical exercise. "We were asked to create a budget breakdown for our series to show the total cost, the cost per episode and the cost per minute. It was the most detailed budget I have ever made and I felt completely out of my depth in the beginning." 

She uploaded her first attempt and then had a two-hour Zoom call with Simon. "He was brilliant and spent way more time helping me than the allocated time we were given," she says. Simon talked her through what she had included, why she had included it, and, crucially, what she had missed out. "He also provided me with a template to use which really helped. After a couple more Zoom calls, I had a very detailed budget that I would be confident in submitting to funders."

Daniella says that completing the course has made her feel much more confident about budgeting. "I feel that I've come a million miles from where I was at the start of the course," she says. "I refer back to my template when necessary to refresh, so that's been a great resource."

As well as budgeting, another of the requirements was to create a schedule. "I planned out a year-long schedule which has been incredibly helpful," Daniella says. "I've found it a really great way to help organise things, and it's colour coded (of course!) so it's really easy to understand at a glance."

This was better than before when she had "everything flying around" her head or "scribbled down in a notebook by my bed in the middle of the night."

A stop-motion animator, director and mother-of-two, Daniella graduated from John Moores University in Liverpool and began training to become a hairdresser as she struggled to find animation work. A move to London in 2010 saw her put down her hair scissors after landing her dream job animating a short film called Being Bradford Dillman. It won numerous awards internationally at animation and film festivals.

She became a freelancer animator for brands including McDonalds, SwissSugar and BBC Bitesize as well as creating animated projections for theatre companies.

Since 2013, Daniella has been running her Catfish Collective and has animated and directed TV ad campaigns for brands including Cheerios, Flora and LEGO. She now operates out of a studio in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, which she shares with a grumpy border terrier named Bernie.

And she has kept in touch with Simon, her ScreenSkills-appointed mentor, a real cut out and keep contact.

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