The Interview Series // 01

We met Tim on the rooftop of the Ritz in St Kilda. Yes, the Ritz. Sounds pretty swish doesn’t it – meeting on top of the Ritz. It is on this roof that Tim runs XYZ studios (http://www NULL.xyzstudios NULL.com/), one of Australia’s premier animation studios. In addition to playing boss, Tim also directs some pretty amazing ads (http://www NULL.xyzstudios NULL.com/index NULL.html?myreel=%2Cjourney%2Cchampion%20kids%2Cscooter%20squad%2Cfly%2Cfootnap%2Cwhite%20lies). He showed us the new server he’d just had installed in the bathroom. That was pretty cool. Then we left to find a good restaurant with a dark corner and plenty of beer. We ordered three glasses, asked specifically for two pizzas, then fired up the recorder.

Waitress: Sorry, I don’t have a very good short-term memory. That was a meatlovers and the chicken?

Tim & Junior: Yep.

Tim: She should get a job on Fawlty Towers.

Junior: Ha, yeah. Weird.

Tim: So what’s Junior about anyway?

Junior: Well, for us Junior is about connecting young folk from all creative fields. Not just advertising, but architecture, design, photography…

T: Come on, it’s about meeting chicks.

Jr: Um, no. Was that what starting your own studio was for you?

T: No.

Jr: Well there you go.

T: Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know being creative and doing stuff will attract someone, but it’s not the motivation. Being creative you’re compelled. You’ve got things you just have to do and have to get out. The difference between a creative leader and someone who doesn’t have the sense of self and their own work is that those people are more like a cover band in a pub. People go and see them but it only goes to a certain level.

Jr: So what takes a young creative from being a cover band in a pub to the next level?

T: Well the thing is you gotta look for your breaks. You gotta take a shit job and turn it into a winner. I don’t actually think there is a bad brief; it’s more what you bring to it and what you sell on it. We get scripts from agencies that we look at and say ‘what are you guys paid for?’ No offence guys, but you do, some of them are absolutely abysmal. People look at our work and it’s a total unknown what we bring to the table and what the agency did – but I can tell you most of our jobs we pretty much wrote them and took the agency along for the ride.

Jr: Ha, we’ll be sure to take all the credit next time we work with you. So what made you decide to set-up shop for yourself?

T: I’ve always been a driven person and I always wanted to run my own business – I’ve never had a personality that works well with someone else – I’ve always just got crazy ideas. Guys in the studio always say to me, ‘Tim, you can’t do that’. And I need to hear that to then go do it. If they didn’t say that it wouldn’t spur me on. And then I get to rub it in their face.

Technically I wanted to quit at the end of school and start my own business. My parents and friends said ‘no don’t – go to uni,’ so I did Communication Design at Swinburne. Great course, had a great time. I basically just self-taught in animation. It wasn’t even part of the curriculum. Then when I graduated I went and worked as a graphic designer for Andrew Hoyne (http://www NULL.hoyne NULL.com NULL.au/) for a year and after that quit it and started XYZ. Then as I got the jobs I just sort of learnt how to do stuff.

It was very slow and very hard at the start, because obviously I had no experience and no name, so no-one would give me a job. I rang all the agencies and they never rang me back and I took it all personally that they just didn’t like me as a person. Then over time one thing led to another…

Jr: And here you are.

T: And here I am. Drinking beer.

Jr: Hells yeah. So our plan is to de-mystify the entire creative industry for young creatives. It’s an awesome plan. We want people to read this blog and say, ‘hey, I can call up (insert dream job/studio here) and say ’get me in there’, because I’m valuable to you.’

T: New blood is valuable to businesses. You can pick talent a mile off. I only need to look at the first ten seconds of someone’s reel to know if I need to watch anymore. They have a sense of timing, composition – 99% of what we get is junk, 1% is gold and they get to come into the studio and kick on. It’s nice that you’re trying to demystify the industry – there are people who really have no idea how to approach a studio, and there are people who make it seem very natural.

Studios probably don’t want to be rung up, because it clogs the phones. You just want to send an email – this is who I am, here’s a link to my work online, here’s my CV. And they’ll look at it, and they don’t want to see something that’s overly designed, they just want to see the work neatly presented so they can see the talent, and then just a little history of what you’ve done and what your skills are. And that’s all you need. That’s what the good people do.

Jr: I suppose for some people though, they might not have the reel together yet or they know what they want to do or where they want to be but they might have just finished uni, they might not really like the work they’ve done at school, but they know where they want to be and they know that they’re good they just don’t have the work to show for it.

T: That’s a problem. That’s why you do uni – to get the folio. No one will take you on just cause you sit there and go ‘I’m really good but I can’t actually demonstrate an example of that.’ You’ve got to be self-motivated.

I was a train-wreck when I was in my early twenties. Still pretty much am. But I was hyper insecure, I was a total wallflower. People don’t believe me when I tell them now. I never did public-speaking until I was about 27. I’d never speak in a group of more than two or three people.

So if you’ve got talent and you’re down on yourself – definitely stick it out.

Jr: Networking – A stupid fucking buzzword. There’s a way to network and a way not to network. Have you got any advice for anyone who’s worried about how to do that?

T: I was serious when I said I was shy. I used to hate the whole idea of networking. I hated it. Because I felt so fake. I was just doing it for a reason. But now because I like what I do and I meet people that like what they do it’s not really networking, it’s genuine. We’re all craftsmen and we respect what each other are doing. There’s a lot of respect there so when you go out to awards nights and stuff, you start over the years building relationships with people that you respect. It’s really good to catch up with them and because you’re for each other you say ‘oh you should meet this person or you should talk to this person’, so then I can do it.

But being that person that just works the room for the sake of it – I mean, that’s why I’ve got an executive producer. I pay him to do that.

You have people doorstop you and they do a trade that’s not related to you and they say ‘here’s my card, give me a call’, and I’m like – ‘No. I don’t use large-format digital printing’.

Jr: Ha yeah.

T: It’s always large format printers. They’re total sluts.

Jr: You know what? You’re absolutely right (http://www NULL.techfresh NULL.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/hewlett_packard_huge_printer NULL.JPG). Ok, so here’s the burning question: how do you feel about working with juniors?

T: We actually try to not use juniors now. Except for maybe one or two on a job, cause you want to break new blood and give them a job that’s appropriate but you don’t give them more responsibility than they’re ready for. It’s better to pay a senior one hundreds bucks an hour to get it done in two days and have it done right, than pay a junior two weeks and then have to go into the office and say no to your girlfriend that night because you’re going in fixing up his stuff even though he costs less at the end of the day. I’ve learnt that lesson, so we try to only work with the most senior people we can. A smaller team, more skilled, a better result – and it actually turns out to be quite efficient.

Jr: That’s interesting, because we know some young creatives out there who are very professional and can get things done on time and in budget. But we also know from working in the industry that there are some who can stuff up an entire project and it makes you look bad. It seems to be that the difference between a young person who gets a lot of work and a young person who doesn’t get any work is the fact that they can get stuff done on time and within budget.

T: That’s a really, really good point. We talk a lot about creativity, and because we’re creative people we put all the focus on that, but from a holistic point of view it’s probably only a third of the job. The creative might be awesome, but have you managed the process – that’s a third – and have you delivered on time – that’s a third. Because at the end of the day, producers and account execs don’t care how good it looks as much as, are you putting them in a difficult position if they have to constantly bullshit their client why it’s running late or what’s happening.

(http://www NULL.xyzstudios NULL.com/index NULL.html?myreel=%2Cjourney%2Cchampion%20kids%2Cscooter%20squad%2Cfly%2Cfootnap%2Cwhite%20lies)

(Click the image above to check out some of Tim’s work)

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 29/10/2008