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Colin Williams

Colin Williams
Creative director
Sixteen South Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Pitching: Ivory Towers

What is the biggest issue facing the animation industry?
The hybrid way we’re working now feels like a world without borders. You can work for a studio without being physically present and that has worked in our favour. We’re crewing up for a new series in-house now. I spoke to some of my fellow producers as friends during lockdown and we all agreed that the one thing that’s going to be hardest to protect is the culture of the studio. If you’re working remotely, it can be quite a soulless exercise. Do you really feel part of a team? Not in the same way.

What is your company doing in response to this?
We’ve been spending a lot of time internally thinking about how to get people together to socialise and make space for people to feel like they’re part of a work family. There’s a whole movement of people away from town centre and we’re in the process of fitting a new studio a few miles outside of Belfast city centre, on the lough. When we come back in the autumn, it will be a hybrid model where we make a real effort to stay connected. We’re in a nicer environment for our teams and the overheads are lower. That means you stay competitive and can put more money on screen and in people’s pockets, rather than in our landlord’s.

Ivory Towers

Are physical animation studios essential or is working from home the future of the industry?
Part of me mourns the idea of being in a building full of like-minded people doing the same thing. Will we become so fed up with staring at computer screens that we’ll run back to physical studios? As humans, we’re wired for connections and community, so I don’t think remote working is a permanent thing and there will be a swing back to studios.

How do you feel about Disney’s decision to close many of its TV channels around the world?
You can look at Disney and think linear is dead. But I don’t believe that’s the case at all. We’ve sold Odo, our latest show, to more countries than we’ve ever done on any show before and they’re all public broadcasters who still have an audience on linear. It would be foolish to think linear TV is dead. But let’s be honest, in some countries broadcasters are flagging and digital TV channels are finding it hard to compete. Disney+ is such a strong platform that it’s a really smart move on their front. But what does it mean for getting a show off the ground with them? Time will tell. Let’s hope they buy lots.

Tell us about the project you are pitching at Cartoon Forum.
Ivory Towers (pictured, 52×7′) has been created by Sixteen South’s development producer, Stephen Coulter, and is set in a home for elderly animals and a place full of mischief, mayhem and madness. It follows a four-year-old elephant who visits her Grandpa at Ivory Towers and loves nothing more than bringing out the child in all the residents. It reflects and celebrates ageing and the preciousness of intergenerational relationships and proves no-matter what age you are, we’re all still kids at heart. RTÉ in Ireland is backing it.


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