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BA (Hons) Animation students collaborate with The Ivors Academy on major campaign

A still featuring a CD character from the campaign animation.
A still featuring a CD character from the campaign animation.
Image credit: Lucy Wei, Ying Zeng and Rusnė Dragūnevičiūtė, BA (Hons) Animation.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
06 May 2021

London College of Communication (LCC) has a long-standing history of connecting academia with industry. Our students and graduates collaborate with organisations ranging from start-ups and SMEs to global businesses and leading brands, sharing their skills and creativity while building the networks and experience they need to kickstart their careers.

Many projects involve working with organisations based in our local area, such as The Ivors Academy - the UK's independent professional association for music creators, which aims to support and protect their rights while celebrating the impact of their artistry.

In March 2021, the Ivors Academy partnered with the Musicians’ Union to launch their Composers Against Buyouts campaign, which opposes unethical business practices affecting the rights, earnings and careers of composers and songwriters within the media industries.

Backed by leading professionals including David Arnold and Hannah Peel, the campaign focuses on the impact of an increasingly common ‘buyout’ approach, where music creators are asked to sell their work for an upfront fee, resulting in the loss of royalties over time. In addition to raising awareness of the issue, Composers Against Buyouts aims to provide educational support to early-career composers, and to set standards when they're commissioned by broadcasters.

As part of the campaign launch, students from the BA (Hons) Animation: Animation Arts pathway at LCC were invited to develop a short film illustrating what a buyout is and what music creators should do when faced with such deals. The winning project, Keep Music Alive, was developed by Lucy Wei, Ying Zeng and Rusnė Dragūnevičiūtė, who chose to explore the theme through visual metaphors of plants, bouquets and gardens as a way to visualise and encourage long-term investment over short-term gain.

"Support new talent and benefit from new ways of seeing the world"

Mark Taylor, Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications at The Ivors Academy, explained the importance of working with LCC students when considering ways to articulate campaign messaging in exciting, memorable ways.

“I’m a big fan of London College of Communication - its students and graduates are the most exciting and forward-thinking creatives you’re likely to meet. When we wanted to communicate why it’s so important that composers for film and TV understand (and hold onto) their rights, LCC students were the obvious people to work with,” he said.

“Royalties are essential to how music creators sustain their careers, but it can be a dry subject. We were inspired by the fresh thinking and perspectives the students brought to the project, as well as their creativity and professionalism.

“We are committed to providing new opportunities for emerging creatives through our mentoring programmes for music creators, paid internship opportunities, and projects like this. SMEs like The Ivors Academy are the backbone of our economy, and I’d encourage them all to explore how they can support new talent and benefit from new ways of seeing the world.”  

We caught up with the winning students Lucy, Ying and Rusnė to discuss their creative practice, the inspiration behind their concept, and their top tips for aspiring animators who are interested in studying at LCC.

Keep Music Alive | Composers Against Buyouts

Have you always been interested in animation, or is this an area you’ve moved towards over time?

Lucy: Growing up, I always found myself doodling or drawing. Creating visual art was my main hobby, but I never thought of pursuing education or a career in it until I watched a film by the Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa which changed my perspective on animation as an art form - and so, I decided to study animation arts.

Ying: I loved drawing and illustration as a kid, and didn’t really know anything about animation until my first year at another university before I got into UAL. I had a chance to do a stop motion project, and it was a fun time - I was able to collaborate with people and we did lots of creative stuff, so my interest in animation started from there.

Later on, when I was doing my foundation course in London, my passion for moving images still remained, but I began to explore many other fields like graphic design, filmmaking and photography. Last year, I finally decided to specialise in studying animation.

Rusnė: I’ve always liked drawing, painting and craft-making. I enjoy animation more than live action content, and started to consider creating animated content when I started high school.

Do you specialise in any particular theme or approach as part of your creative practice?

Lucy: In terms of my own projects, I tend to just work on whatever is on my mind or emotional state in that period of time. However, I’d like to focus more on musical and expressional works in the future.

Ying: My works are mostly self-expression instead of narration-focused.

Rusnė: My work is also usually just a reflection of what I’m interested in at that moment. I particularly love working with analogue, but I’m trying to combine that with digital techniques as well.

Concept art for the CD Man character from the campaign animation.
Concept art for the CD-Man character. Image credit: Ying Zeng, BA (Hons) Animation.

How did you find out about the collaboration, and why did you decide to get involved?

Lucy: We were given this opportunity by our tutors as a project option for one of our units. I wanted to work with The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union as I’m interested in the music industry and had heard of this issue before.

I also wanted to choose a project that would be more challenging to me personally. This collaboration had a more specific client-need that we had to aim for, and since I’d never worked on something like it before, I knew the project would be a great opportunity.

Ying: The project was part of our assignments from last term, where all of us on the Animation Arts pathway had to work on a short animation for either the Ivors Academy or the Horniman Museum. The Ivors Academy project was about educating young media composers on the rights they have over their work, and how clients can use the buyout process to exploit young talent for cheaper rates and agreements that don't benefit them. I chose to work on this brief because the audience was mainly young adults, which I felt allowed me freedom to progress creatively.

I was open to collaboration, but it was hard in the beginning because I’d just transferred to BA (Hons) Animation - I didn’t know anyone in the class, and many people has already paired up. When I was about to approach it solo, Lucy Wei contacted me, and then Rusnė joined us. I feel lucky to have collaborated with my amazing teammates. Our communication always goes smoothly, and the 3 of us share common interests in visuals, so usually agree easily too.

Rusnė: I took on this project because I wanted to gain experience in working with a client who has specific goals, and also in designing work for social media.

The topic resonated with me because I think we’ll have to face the problem of managing intellectual property and fair payment in our own future careers as well.

A graphic image of a piper accompanied by the words 'Keep music alive'.
Concept art for a Piper-character sting. Image credit: Ying Zeng, BA (Hons) Animation.

Tell us about your creative process - what inspired your idea, and how did you develop it?

Lucy: I began by developing a visual style before the actual storyline. I knew that I wanted to work towards something out of my comfort zone, and to take inspiration from graphic design and commercial works. This resonated with both Rusnė and Ying when I approached them for a collaboration, and we later developed our work based on one of the ideas that Ying came up with. We then made adjustments to the story to bring out the information more clearly, since that was the crucial aim of this film.

Ying: My starting point was visualising the target audience: musicians. I was first inspired by Édouard Manet's oil painting, The Fifer (1866) and drew an original version of the character design. However, later in the client meetings, we came to realise that the animation should be more about the media composer, so we changed our character ideas.

The most challenging part was visualising the buyout process. I thought flowers could be a representation of musicians' creative outputs and my team liked the concept, so we explained the buyout through flowers being picked by a giant hand, representing the exploitation that doesn't benefit music artists.

Rusnė: I came to the team when Lucy and Ying already had the initial idea for the film; however, after a review session, we decided to change direction. We had a lot of brainstorming sessions where we looked for a suitable metaphor to present a rather complicated topic. Ying suggested using flowers as a symbol for the work that media composers create, which we further developed into a choice between giving away the seed and receiving a short-lived bouquet - which stands for accepting a one-time payment, a ‘buyout’ - or planting the seed and growing a garden, only giving away the blossoms that regrow later, which represent royalties.

Then, we created a storyboard with the narrative, I put together the animatic, and all there was left to do was to animate the whole thing.

Animatic | Keep Music Alive

What were your roles on the project?

Lucy: We didn't have very specific roles in the pre-production stage but rather worked as a team. I worked on some character design and storyboarding etc. When it came to the production stage, I mainly worked on the character animation and communication work with the other collaborators.

Ying: I mostly worked on concept art, character design, environment design and the final composition.

Rusnė: We developed the idea together: Ying was in charge of art direction, environment design and background animation, and me and Lucy were character animators.

What were your project highlights?

Lucy: Working as a team on a more professional project and using industry-standard software was really important for me – a lot of it was a first-time thing, so this has been a precious experience.

I felt lucky to be on a team where everyone treated the project with a full sense of responsibility and professional spirit, and that we had mentors who gave us a lot of valuable feedback. It gave me a better idea of the industry and the workflow of projects like this.

Ying: To me, my highlight was the teamwork. The collaboration was unexpectedly great!

Rusnė: It was our first time of working in a team, and it turned out great! I think we had really good energy together - I enjoyed sharing ideas and feeling inspired by my teammates.

It was also lovely to discuss our ideas with people from The Ivors Academy, who were all very kind and as excited as we were by this collaboration.

A still from the winning campaign film featuring a character playing a saxophone.
Image credit: Lucy Wei, Ying Zeng and Rusnė Dragūnevičiūtė, BA (Hons) Animation.

What have you most enjoyed about your time at LCC so far?

Lucy: I've been enjoying the diversity of different student groups, and getting the chance to know people studying in different areas of the arts who I may not have met at another university. I hope that there are more platforms or collaboration opportunities with other courses in future.

Ying: I would say the part I’ve most enjoyed is being able to use the workshops on campus. Before Lockdown, I spent lots of time in the screen-printing workshop.

Rusnė: I've enjoyed the people and the opportunities at LCC. Our tutors and coursemates are great – there’s a real sense of community, which is very reassuring when you have to share your struggles or need advice. There’s a lot to do, and pretty much any idea you have can be explored, discussed and brought to life here.

I’ve also really enjoyed the printmaking and screen-printing workshops. They’re a nice way to relax productively, play around and get ideas for future work.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in exploring animation?

Lucy: Be open-minded to all forms of art, don’t be afraid of new experiences, and make sure that you enjoy the animation process as much as you enjoy watching it.

Ying: Hard work, patience and passion. I'm not an experienced animator, but judging by what I've learnt from professionals, I think hard work is the most important of all. Many people have talents and passions, but not everyone is willing to work on them consistently - so, enjoy the fun but be prepared to work hard!

Rusnė: Always make things. Realise as many ideas as you can. It’s important to find your own voice, and that only comes with practice.

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