Interview with Gavin Strange (JustMakeIt! Conference 2022)

Our video team sat down with director and designer, Gavin Strange, to talk all things creative! Gavin will also be speaking at our conference in April 2022!

 

Gavin Strange is an experienced and enthusiastic creative who has worked at Aardman Animations for more than thirteen years. For his day-job as a director and designer, he has worked on award-winning projects such as Shaun the Sheep, Turtle Journey, his own music project called Project Toy, and is the author of the bestselling self-help book, Do Fly. 

To hear some advice about just getting on with projects and reaching out to people you admire, our team sat down with Gavin for a conversation.

 

We really enjoyed your talk, ‘Don’t Make It Perfect, Make It Now’. It runs parallel to Cahootify’s ethos, ‘Just Make It’. What does ‘Just Make It’ mean to you and why is it important?

 

Gavin: You know, on a weekly basis, I hate everything I’ve ever done and I’m just frustrated that I’m not better, and it comes down to me siting grumpily and thinking to myself: “Well, the only thing you can do is get better, then.” That’s it! All you’ve got to do is get better – and for me, the only way to get better is to make more stuff, and get into that cycle of trying to do stuff.

Then, of course, we get back into the complications: when are you going to find the time to do it? How are you going to find the energy? But you’ve got to be kind to yourself, one step at a time. I think, take solace in the fact that, those people you look up to – unless they’re not human – are definitely going through the same frustrations. I’m sure they look up to other people and go, “Man, why didn’t I do that?”

 

“You’ve got to be in the game to try and win it.”

 

That’s so bizarre to think about, isn’t it? The people we look up to and celebrate, they’re like gods. They are just these beings that have created these things we love… but someone has to do it. Someone in the world has to write that script you love, someone in the world has to design that typeface you adore using – it might as well be you! You can only try! You can only be a part of the game, there’s no point sitting on the sidelines. It might be you, it might not be you… but it also might be!

 

What advice do you have for creatives who are exploring their own distinctive voice across different mediums?

 

Gavin: I’ve always loved music production and have always thought, “Agh, well, I’m not good enough so I’m never going to try,” but I’ve actually found it a really fun and creative process. I enjoy it because it’s very different to what I do for a day-job, and it’s also sort of easier because a lot of the devices I use don’t need a screen. If my daughter’s asleep on me at night, I can have one hand and I can make stuff, so it’s a way to be creative without changing my scenario.

I’m really not very good and just don’t simply understand music theory, but there’s still in something in me that goes, “Well, it doesn’t matter about that. Try. Just try!” You know, I don’t need anyone to like it – I’d love someone to like it – but I don’t need anyone to like it to stop me trying. The worst that can happen in the digital age is no-one will hear it to read or care or click the link, and that’s fine. You just move on the next thing and try and do something else.

So, yeah, it’s just constant push-and-pull, isn’t it? This emotional rollercoaster! But you’ve just got to try it. Make wonky music, make wonky stuff.

Don’t make it perfect, make it now.

 

How can creatives take inspiration from around them and use this to inform and develop their work?

 

Gavin: My inspirations kind of come from everywhere, and I really want to be a cheerleader for creativity and people in general. There are so many different people who do so many different roles. You know, I love film directors like Spike Jonze and Edgar Wright, but I love visual 3D artists like Ash Thorp; I love this artist called KAWS who makes beautiful, big, amazing sculptures and paintings and graffiti; mainly because they all do lots of different things, and I guess, again, they have a distinctive voice. They might all do things differently visually, but they still have a strong authenticity to their art.

I’m always reaching out to different people. I’ve done it since I was younger and I still continue to do so. When I first joined Aardman, I seeked out Nick Park because I’m a huge fan – now I’m very proud to say that we’re mates – because he was so kind and welcoming to me when I first joined the company thirteen years ago. It really showed me that you can take that risk and reach to the people who really inspire you, because generally, A, it’s flattering to hear from someone who likes what you do (that’s always a wonderful thing to be told!), but also, creatively, it’s really nice to talk about that stuff, so you might as well take the punt.

I’m forever e-mailing people or sending little messages. I just think being an active participant in that world has obviously been reduced so much in the last few years, because it’s dead easy to see what that person’s up to – send them a message, send them a tweet – so I think it’s really nice to be an active member of that community.

 

“Take that risk and reach out to the people who inspire you.”

 

I take inspiration maybe not from the individual pieces of work, because when I do, I just get really sad that I didn’t do it! (laughs) You know, I get really sad looking at what they’ve done and going, “Oh my days, you’re incredible.” Instagram is both a blessing and a curse, because you see it and think, “Wow, look at that, that’s a really awesome thing,” and that fades really quickly and your brain goes, “But what are you doing?” “I… I’m just scrolling on Instagram.”

(laughs) You know, you use this tool to be inspired, but then you realise you’re using a tool but you’re not creating. You’ve got be fluid in taking the inspiration, but not the negative associations of your own brain telling you, “You didn’t do that, you’re not good enough to do that, and why aren’t you doing that?” You have to keep at arm’s length and go, “They did an awesome thing… maybe I too could do an awesome thing?” I think that comes down to a positive mindset and you’ve got to be in the game to try and win it.

Watch the full interview videos with Gavin on our YouTube channel here

 

 

 

 

Interview with Robin Mukherjee (JustMakeIt! Conference 2022)

Our video team sat down to chat with award-winning screenwriter, Robin Mukherjee, who will be a guest speaker at our conference next year!

 

Robin Mukherjee is a hugely successful writer of film and television scripts, known for his work on Casualty, The Bill, Hetty Feather, and the award-winning feature, Lore.

Before he gives an exciting talk at our conference next year, we wanted to chat to Robin about his experience as a writer, his advice for aspiring creatives, and the value of networking.

 

What is the value of Cahootify and ‘Just Make It’, in your opinion?

 

Robin: There’s very few flowerings of any cultural movement, around the world, through the history of mankind, that does not in some way involve a collective venture. And I think Cahootify, in a sense, is that collective venture. It’s the collective, creative community of today.

Somebody wants to make a film. They’ve got a story to tell. Or they have a great eye for the visual effects, or they’ve got a good ear for sound. They want to make something, they want to create. They need a team, they need people to get in touch with, and Cahootify is about that.

 

“The ones at the top get out there and do it.”

 

Robin: If I could have a diagram, so this was, let’s say, a triangle, like this [Robin forms a triangle with his hands], with a point at the top and the base there, and it represented all the people who ever wanted to make something; the people who actually make something will be at that tiny little tip at the top. All the rest will do it one day, they’ll do it someday. They’ll wait for the stars to be aligned. But actually, the ones at the very top, the ones who make it, they get out there and they do it. They have the initiative.

You’ve got to push it through. You’ve got to take responsibility for it yourself. Cahootify then provides the wheels for that engine to turn. So I think it’s really important that there’s a way for people who have the initiative and the spark and the determination to make something, to then meet other people who are on a similar mindset. And then things happen.

 

 How important is ‘truth’ in writing?

 

Robin: It’s the most elusive, mysterious part of writing, but I think it’s also the most central and powerful part of it. It is the truth of it. It’s the truthfulness of it that hits you, that resonates with you, that lingers.

It’s the perennial question, really: What is the writer attempting to do? Communicate, of course. We’re attempting to communicate. We’re attempting to divert people from their anxieties and problems into a kind of fantasy landscape that we’ve invented for their benefit. But there’s also, kind of, the work of the artist. The honesty of the studio. The honesty of the easel, or the pad of paper. You’re trying to produce something that is true to you, that is authentic, that is genuine, that is real.

It’s so much more important than technique, because it determines your own technique. Formulate technique is borrowed from other people’s truths. It’s borrowed from the form that other people’s truths have had to take in order to make themselves apparent to others. You borrow their form, great. But you need to find your own truths, you need to find the form that articulates that truth. That’s how art develops, how it progresses. That’s how it is creative, and alive!

 

Do you have a bad habit you have to keep at arm’s length when writing something?

 

Robin: (laughs) Well, it’s procrastination, isn’t it? But sometimes procrastination has its’ place. Sometimes you just need to go for a walk. You need to do something else. Do you know what? You even just need to look at Facebook. You need to put your mind into a kind of numb zone and let the subconscious wheels turn. You’ve seen something, you’ve had an idea, you’re pushing into a scene, and I find it quite useful, then, to do other things. You’re never quite separate from it.

 

“Procrastination has its place.”

 

So if somebody were to come up to me and start trying to talk to me and have a sensible conversation, although apparently I’m “cleaning my car”, the neighbour comes along and they try to talk to me, and I’m like, “… Yeah, what?”. Because actually the body is cleaning the car. The mind is in whatever imagined landscape is trying to see the story. So procrastination has its place.

But then it can – like fear and not knowing – it can get in the way. It can then become a displacement, and then creative energy gets dissipated and that’s the end of it. So one has to just gauge each moment as it comes. Whether this is sort of allowing the mind to roam freely, just slack off the reins a bit, so it can find itself, ease itself, or whether you’re just distracting yourself from what you should be doing.

 

How do you feel about the writing process in relation to deadlines?

 

Robin: Well, another fault that I think I’ve sometimes been guilty of… guilty is the wrong word, but anyway…. is overcooking. Re-writing and re-writing and re-writing, until the end, you kind of have a microscopic forensic eye on every single syllable and you can no longer see it from a distance.

Whereas actually, that sort of highly meticulous, deeply organizational, rational way of writing can get everything nicely lined up and lose the very thing all those things exist to carry. And so that’s another thing. The wonderful thing about deadlines is things are ripped from your hands before you’re ready to hand them over, and that’s a very good thing. So having too much time to write something can really work against you.

Watch the full interviews with Robin on our Youtube channel here