Saturday, 15 February 2014

Introducing Nano Films

Everyone needs an animated film, even if they don't know it yet. Ten years ago, no-one could have imagined that every plumber would need a website. I predict that, in ten years time, every business will want a short animated film that tells the story of what they do.

Maybe it will be an animated logo, a mini infomercial, something to play on a smart phone, or a short film on their website, something that makes their business unique and different, something that reaches audiences (especially younger ones) who don't want to read pages of dull text on a static site.

The only trouble is - the cost. Animation is time-consuming and expensive. But what if we could make animated films really cheaply, for a tiny budget? Then, surely, everyone could afford one, and businesses all over the world would queue up to commission small films.

In September 2012 I set up my online school at, training students to become animators and reach a professional standard where they can find work in the industry. All the lectures are online - there is no physical classroom.

At the same time I started working here at Bucks, helping to develop and launch our new Animation and Visual Effects course, designed to compete with the very best courses in the UK. Universities are slow-moving beasts but we launched the course successfully in October 2013, and applications for 2014 are way up on last year.

One of the key selling points of Bucks is employability, but how do we actually put this into practice? One solution might be to find work directly for our graduates and undergraduates, but how do we go about this?

Poster design by Monika Dcikowicz
The next step then was obvious. Why not start to find work for all this emerging talent by bringing in small freelance jobs, starting with friends and aquaintances, and slowly building up a business that can take on many small projects. Tiny films don't require much management, and they don't need to be expensive. So our pitch is simple - at Nano Films, we make tiny films on a tiny budget.

Our first film was made last year and has the snappy title "What is Wrong with the Global Development Organization"? Designed and directed by Bucks graduate Monika Dzikowicz, it is playing at the Exeter animated film festival next month. It's all about the problem of what happens to an organisation with good intentions which get taken over by bad management - which is to say pretty much most organisations anywhere. Almost everyone can relate.

The second film we did was for Rocketseed, an email banner company that does some complex tech stuff that can be kind of hard to understand. The purpose of the film was to help the company explain what they do in a simple, clear way that their non-tech customers can easily comprehend.

Making short films is fun. Often clients don't really know what they want, so much of the job involves figuring out what is the story they want to tell, and then working out the best way to tell it. Part of the challenge involves keeping it very short. Almost everyone has a minute to spare to watch a short; but few of us have five. It's easy to write a long script - but writing a short one takes time.

Both my shiny new online course at Animation Apprentice and my old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar classroom at Bucks produce a constant stream of talent. Making short films on small budgets is a great way to keep graduates and undergraduates busy, help kickstart their careers, and provide companies with a simple way to get their message across.

But most of all, it's fun.


(Editor's Note: You can see more about Nano Films at To find out more about our films, check out this post on What is Wrong with the Global Development Organisation?. You can read more about the Rocketseed project here. For more practical advice on freelance careers, check out this post on your first client project, and read out our post on Portfolio CareersLearn the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to freelancers and taxesFor more on careers in general, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business.)

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