How to set up a company and still have fun
Trevor Murphy set up Bermuda Shorts animation studio in 2004 as a personal challenge. “I was running an animation company that ran into financial difficulty, I wanted to prove that I could run a successful animation production company for three years.” At this time the creative industry was focused on what they call “breakfast cereal” animated advertising, (think Tony the Tiger), whereas Trevor and his workmates were more interested in a the creative end of animating.“I believed there was room in the commercial arena for creative animation.”
Trevor made his first animation at 14, “it was a stop motion filmed on super 8 called “Can Can” and was tin cans dancing around in my garden to Offenbach!” He earned a living from the craft up until 1998, when he decided to turn his hand to producing, and was the production mind behind the UK’s first adult animation, Pond Life. “I’m much happier pushing and promoting talent.”
Trevor is now CEO of the company he started, after passing the reigns to a new managing director, he has settled back to oversee Bermuda Shorts activities from further afield. The company has grown from a humble few to having an MD, two full time producers who handle television commercials and ident’s, an editor, a studio manager, and varying freelancers.
The crafty and creative peeps that make up their roster came to Trevor and co. via natural channels, they rarely need to search out talent. Max Hattler is one such talent. One of their proudest success stories and most active directors, Max is also very well accomplished in the art of self-promotion who came to them through a competition.
“Originally I only ever wanted 10 directors, but now we’re at 20 and nowadays you need to have that roster to provide enough of a service to ad agencies.”
Half of Bermuda’s directors are London based while the other half are based around and outside the UK, with directors hailing from Somerset, Kent and Manchester, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and a team in Milan. “That’s the great thing about computer technology, you can work from anywhere these days.”
Trevor does not have plans for expanding much further, or world domination. “Boutique is how we see ourselves. Bermuda were the first animation company to promote directors individually as opposed to being under the banner of say Pizzazz or larger production companies who never mention directors by name.” That old fashioned anonymous system was not unlike the old Hollywood system, where a studio would have a stable of screenwriters who barely got a mention in the title credits. Bermuda gave each director has a showcase, while other studios have since followed suit.
The original and unstated manifesto which accompanies Bermuda Shorts is to maintain a balance of creative and commercial work. “We’ve always said to directors when they come on board that it must be 50/50.” Another unique quality in the Bermuda Shorts ethos is never to force a job for financial reason, “I calculated how much money we lost recently from a huge job we turned down because the director did not want to do it, I almost fainted!”
In addition to that the happy folk at Bermuda don’t have contracts, they call all their relationships with their directors “mutually beneficial collaborations. So a director or designer is always here on their own accord, when they complain about they way we might be doing things we say, well you can leave, and then they say, ‘Oh hold no I don’t want to do that!’”
The essence of the Bermuda Shorts’ good humoured philosophy lies in the name- “We wanted to remind ourselves that ultimately we always want to be making short films. A memorable name that would hopefully make people laugh, and it worked really well as a way to open doors, when I cold called people back in the early days they would always remember it.”
Trevors hot tips on animation directors:
We’ve recently taken on The Neighbourhood, a computer animation Manchester based collective who have already picked up 3 jobs since they come on board.
Also Mario Cavalli, Rosto and Dave Mckean, who has made a feature length animated film, a graphic novel and a coffee table book with The Design Laboratory. He’s never done a commercial, but exists purely off these creative projects.
Check out Bermuda Shorts on jotta