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The lead animator from the Oscar-award-winning The Lost Thing, Leo Baker, has been awarded the Winston Churchill Fellowship. His project will be to travel to various countries, observe their animation studios and bring back some best practices to Australia.

A key point of his report will be the roles that government and non-government funding have in developing a nation’s culture.

The Governor of Victoria Alex Chernov, awarding Leo Baker the Winston Churchill Fellowship. Photo: Tegan Ringin.

The Governor of Victoria Alex Chernov, awarding Leo Baker the Winston Churchill Fellowship. Photo: Tegan Ringin.

Ozanimate: How did you find out about the Winston Churchill Fellowship?

Leo Baker: I heard about it through a friend, John Kassab -the sound designer of The Lost Thing, who was a successful applicant two years ago.

OZ: What did you have to do to apply?

LB: The Winston Churchill Trust website has all the info. It’s a fairly small application form. The application requires two referees. A professional, and a project based referee. This part of the application carries the most weight, so choose wisely. I had Shaun Tan and Adam Elliot, who gave me gleaming endorsements for the cause. I think that really set the purpose in stone for me.

OZ: When do you start your trip?

LB: 1st September 2011

OZ: Which countries are you most looking forward to seeing?

LB: Really interested in the countries I haven’t seen. Im particularly interested in what is happening in Asia, but also Germany and France, who have a very different approach to the arts and how they support such ventures. Everywhere I am going will have key examples and things to learn from for the research.

OZ: What is your current opinion about the animation industry in Australia?

LB: Other than the two larger companies in Sydney, there is very little happening in smaller studios. Freelance artists can only really rely on the larger studios, and many of them leave to places like Weta or further afield overseas.

OZ: Who are you seeing in your travels? Private studios? Public funding bodies, such as the National Film Board of Canada?

LB: Yes and yes. Also individuals and smaller studios, as well as trying to see some of the larger studios. I am also really interested in looking at educational facilities, discussing funding (where possible) and also examining correlations with other areas of the arts, such as the comic and manga following in Japan and France.

OZ: Will you be focussing primarily on business models, or artistic approaches? Or both?

LB: Business models yes, but also particularly how they foster a creative culture. I am always personally interested in artistic approaches so there will be plenty of interest there too.

OZ: Are there things in the Australian animation industry you’d like to see improved as a result of this project?

LB: Well, its not as easy as a neat change, but I hope to provide information that will spur on more sustained production here. So small studios can be revitalised, and we can have our own small culture of animation. If the work is here, the talented Australian artsist’s will be, and graduating students will also have options. Its a cycle.

Baker’s report will be ready to view in February 2012, and he hopes it will help to invigorate the Australian animation industry.

To see more of his work, check out Leo Baker’s blog Turbo Radness.

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