Name: Christos Hatjoullis
Bio: Originally from Liverpool. LJMU Visual Studies undergrad with a fondness for computer graphics and music. Post Grad study in Multimedia at University of Liverpool. Arrived in London 1999 & worked for an new media organisation as an agent (read talent scout.)
Co-founded Shroom Ltd in 2001. Two hundred and something’ projects later, still doing it.
Also works as a mentor with production companies, film makers and other creative business people, which is very rewarding.
Nerdeo: Who are you and what do you do?
I’m creative Director and producer at Shroomstudio. We’re an independent design and moving image production company with a specialist interest in animation for Broadcast. We make independent films and work with a wide range of clients, collaborators & other film makers on a dizzying array of projects.
Nerdeo: What projects have you worked on? Which project is dearest to your heart?
We’ve worked on so many projects it’s hard to count them all up. Making films is the most satisfying, especially when it’s an independent in-house project, but they take a lot of time so we fit them in around our schedule when we can. We also design video installations for galleries which are usually science based, using microscopes and projectors. That can be challenging and very different from working on a TV series but it also allows us to work with our own brief, so research and development becomes a key part of refreshing our creativity.
We’ve also been quite involved with music and design stage visuals for international artists over the years with huge screens on stage, It’s always exciting to see how the animation integrates into a live performance. Also, throughout our long work history, we have worked on quite a few environmental projects with organisations like The UN and WWF. That’s always a positive feeling to help communicate complicated messages on behalf of the trees and the creatures 🙂
Nerdeo: Your latest project is “Sophie’s Story” what is it?
It’s a true account of one woman’s journey through crack addiction. It’s an animated film using an edited interview and it explores the social issues surrounding hard drug use, but from a users perspective, which is one of the reasons we made it. It’s a difficult subject, but animation is a great medium to explore ideas which are difficult to otherwise film. We’re hoping it will be a pilot for a series examining a range of addictions.
Nerdeo: Where did the idea for “Sophie’s Story” come from?
We’ve worked on a lot of difficult or sensitive material using animation from sexual health for the NHS to ADHD for Channel 4 News. I always felt films about often drug use seemed a bit phony or slightly patronising. We often hear from health professionals, policy makers and law enforcement in relation to drugs and we thought it would be really interesting to hear a story from someone with direct experience of what it’s like to be an addict. In this case, we were put in touch with Sophie through a local drugs charity and she wanted to share her story which happens to be an incredible story. The main challenge was to edit down someone’s life into a short film. It was really an attempt to demystify the subject, explore background social factors and crucially, find out what the catalyst is for change.
Here’s a sneak preview of the film. We’re shortlisted from over 500 entries for Short of the Year so if you could post this link out that would be great. The prize is promoted submission to over 250 film festivals worldwide ( A GREAT PRIZE !) we need as many views as possible ( THANKS 😉
Nerdeo: Animation films take a long time to make! How many years has it been for you to get to the stage you’re at now? How many people are on your animation team?
The studio was established in a cold draughty warehouse in Hackney, 2001 and we were lucky to get a break into TV early on. We knew a few young film makers who we collaborated with and we were commissioned by Channel 4 to make our first series in 2004 (which took about 12months to complete.) That was our calling card and 15 years later, we’ve made a lot of pixels. We have a wide network of animators in our extended team and other specialists in our circle, a few who we’ve trained up from graduation. Everyone is multi-skilled across a few areas so we do all do a few different jobs each which makes our team flexible.
Nerdeo: On a personal note; what artists inspire you?
Where do I start? This is the part where you think, who do I leave out?! Our Dad, Mike is a great artist and so is our mum Aud. (luckily for us). Our whole family is an extended art clan, so we grew up around art and discussion of art was dinner time chat. We lived next door to Gustav Metzger (the Godfather of Auto-Destructive art) for about 12 years at the studio in Hackney and he is a great influence. He lives art way beyond the definition of artist and I admire his conceptual and political strength. Even though he was in his 80’s he’d often come and see our live video installations and give the most concise feedback and he always wanted to read our notes on whatever project we were involved with! We live in a community of great artists in Hackney. Magnus Irvin, one of Britain’s best printmakers and brilliant raconteur has always been a good friend & neigbour an and inspiration in many ways. Peter Kennard who works with Cat Picton Phillipps is another very local influence.
We were brought up on modern art, cubism and all the other ism’s.. Cezanne, Picasso, Miro, Klee, Chagall, Magritte, Kandinsky, Arp, Paolozzi, Giacometti, Rothko, Epstein, Moore, Frink, Warhol, Lichenstein.. I could generate quite a list but I suppose I have to stop somewhere. My dad got us into all sorts of art and we’d watch Abstract Canadian Film board or Polish animation on TV and be captivated. Len Lye, Jan Svankmajer, these are the people who opened us up to what animation could be. Although we were also big film fans and as kids were fascinated by all types of animation. Chuck Jones, Looney tunes, Warner Bros, the whacky antics of Tom & Jerry, set to Jazz scores which would have me in a spin. Animation or art, you name it, we loved it all and consumed as much as we could. We’re also big Ghibli fans, Pixar Fans and we got interested in Manga as kids watching Akira on cable tv. We love science fiction and I’m also a bit of a film addict. From Kurosawa to Bergman, Truffaut to Scorsese, Spielberg and Nicolas Winding Refn. Did I mention Ren & Stimpy ? Possibly the best animation series in my living memory.
Nerdeo: Could you give any advice to someone looking to get their indie films made?
Give yourself enough time to get things right. Don’t compromise because you’re in a rush to finish something. Work with what you’ve got and make it great, whatever it is. Find good people and build a team of people who share your passion. Learn from others along the way. Never stop being inspired and don’t give up on your dreams. And remember Story is King. No amount of funky camera angles, expensive lenses or effects shots will make up for lack of a great story. Keep networking, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the least expected place. More than all of that, trust your instinct. It’s not about how big a budget you’ve got, it’s how much of yourself you can put into it. Audiences will not be fooled.