We caught up with Lou Kneath of +3K Animation Studios, a very busy lady with a clear plan and ambition for her team and the place she calls home.
Choose a Leonardo Di Caprio Movie, just one…
It’s got to be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I loved seeing him play an anxious actor trying to figure out his next move and the entire arc of his character. The scene where he forgets his lines and has a complete meltdown in his trailer is utterly brilliant. Total performance art.
How did you get to where you are?
I was always very arty, so I did an HND at Dumfries school of Art on Graphic and Illustration. The selling point for the course was that someone on this course designed the Telly Tubbies and I thought I could do that. Whilst on that journey I discovered I loved to tell stories.
For my final year project, I ended up doing an animation and there wasn’t a lot of support on the way to do this at the time. It was off to the library and grab the two books there were on animation (no internet at the time!) and then just winging it with everything I made. I won a couple of awards for the animation, which was pretty cool. That’s what put me on my way to tell stories with creative characters. That took me to my next stage.
In 2003 I went to the Brampton Road Art College (at the time it was the Cumbria Institute of Arts) I took on a digital animation degree. Oh my god it was so complicated but I swear you can do anything. It was scary, it was so techy. As much as I enjoyed science and things, I felt I was much more on the creative side of things. So, it was very much about learning the software and getting used to computers. So, I got a bit more tech savvy and the greatest thing I learned over the years was It’s just a fancy pencil if you remember that then nothing should overwhelm you.
After graduating from the uni, my first job was at Cumberland Newspapers. I worked in their design studio. Primarily in digital advertising, a new thing back then which ironically was the downfall of papers. I spent three years at the CN Group made some amazing contacts and worked with a lot of local businesses there. But Animation was always at the back of my mind. So, I set up my business whilst still at CN Group. It just happened organically. My animation wasn’t at the level I wanted to be, I wanted to go from good to great.
I built up my twitter account. From there with my animation talents were recognised and I met a chap in London who suggested an Animation Mentor course in California which was mentored by people who worked at Disney and Pixar. So, I saved the money and worked my butt off. The course was 18 months of flat out non-stop learning at a hundred hours per week it nearly ended me. I graduated in San Francisco. I made great friends with the people I learned with and the people who had taught me. I had a network of genuine friends including Oscar winners from the animation
When I got back, I worked on productions for CBeebies and film and TV projects. But all the time I wanted to work in Cumbria. I had to make it happen. I had to answer the question: how do I create an animation network with the necessary tech support level business in Cumbria so that I can do what I want in the place I love?
I won contracts with Story Homes, Stobart and the Lanes in Carlisle. I pulled together talent from my time at CBeebies and California and made a team. I created, directed and managed projects as they developed and we got paid. This existed as a digital entity on the internet, a virtual pool of talent. We were all able to do what we loved on a schedule that suits us. It was doable and that’s the core way we work as creatives. It’s all about flexibility.
The internet is everything for this to work. It allows me to manage the organisation as it develops here in Cumbria. The internet is essential whilst we grow and, in the years, to come it will allow us to become truly international.
One of the key aspects of working in Cumbria is it allows us to provide opportunities to develop local talent. There is now potential for us to develop jobs, work experience and internships. We have a place to bring talented people together. We are local BUT global.
It’s all about creating a top-notch business, reaching for the stars with big dreams and ambitions for Carlisle. I have found the best of both worlds!
What’s your favourite thing about the Guild?
Originally when looking for a base it was about the location and the building. The Guild met both of those. But it’s more than that. It’s the people and vibe that everyone brings to the space. It’s the cooperation that makes it a lovely place to work. It’s so supportive and inspirational which is because of all the other people and the conversations we all have.
What quick piece of advice would you offer to someone starting out on life’s journey?
Ask yourself, what do you love and what are you good at? That is your purpose, follow it, cling on to it. That is your path. It’s not what you want to be, it’s what you love that is important. So, make your job/business the same as your passion and follow your passion.
So, what’s next for your business?
We are very excited; our first animated short film is in the early stages of production. It will show what we really capable of, producing industry standard work. We are doing this in Cumbria, creating content that matters. It’s about making people think about the environment, inspiring and motivating people. We want to both entertain people and help make little changes that make the world a better place.
One of the things an artist should do is to inspire change for better for all of us. We have a level of responsibility to try and help each other.
What does coworking mean to you…
Coworking for me is the future of entrepreneurship, managing business and supporting local business and the area. It creates an opportunity to bring great minds together.
You are focused on your project next to others who are focused on devoping their businesses, looking after their clients and pushing Cumbria to the next level. This broadens your horizon so much. There is always an opportunity to learn something new from the other skill sets, expertise and industries in the room.
The Guild is the people. The coworking environment is an ingenious way of bringing ideas and opportunities into one place. It is a business eco structure. Sitting side by side with different businesses that have different approaches means that everyone has been able to benefit from each other.
Three top tips: networking, inspiration and planning
Networking was a bit intimidating at first but over the years I’ve learned to love it. The best networking isn’t just introducing yourself; it’s about creating great relationships. Stephen Spielberg started as a runner on film sets. He became everyone’s buddy that’s how he started his network. You should show you really care, make real relationships and friendships. Networking is about them trusting me and me trusting them.
Finding Inspiration. Find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes you can struggle with an idea for a project or even to get into the right frame of mind to get into the creative zone. If you go out into the world you will find inspiration. Look at art, listen to music and study the world around you. When I find new inspiration it always pushes me forward. When I was working 100-hour weeks, a great animator said you can’t be a great animator if you haven’t studied life. From great epic story telling to the smallest nuance of a believable character… you will find it all in real life. Go out and live life and then turn your inspiration and imagination into art.
Share your knowledge. As Yoda says, Always pass on what you have learned. Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t, so listen to others and remember that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. And if you are struggling to explain your message, let us know because animation is damn good at explaining pretty much anything you can imagination.
Check out http://www.plus3k.tv/ to find out more about the awesome +3K Animation Studios.