Reflecting on my first collaborative project

As part of my journalism course this year, we were required to partake in a collaborative project with students or individuals outside our course. Prior to this announcement I was working on an idea for a project of my own. This collaboration unit presented a perfect opportunity for me to find out three things:

  • How to approach other creatives
  • How to work in a team on a creative project
  • How I should go about my own projects next time, in terms of things I should and shouldn’t do

The Project I was working on was a animated series I wanted to produce sometime in the future when I had more time. I was thinking of naming  it ‘First Generations’. It would be about the life of a first generation Nigerian immigrant, based off my own experiences, experiences which i’m sure others could relate to.

When I was younger I often felt like I was growing up in two different worlds;  a Nigerian one at home with family and then a Western one whenever I was out in society. The show would really be about how the character navigates life and how he grows and matures as the offspring of these two very different cultures. I wanted it to be a comedy that would get darker and more mature as the character ages. The African representation on TV, is usually quite irritating in my opinion. African characters are usually the comic relief, they’re always given a funny accent and seen doing foolish things. I wanted my story to show what my culture and my upbringing taught me and show the side of Africans we don’t get to see that often on TV. The drive, the family values, the fun, the wisdom, the hard work. I was aiming to create something that showcased all of this. I didn’t want to and still don’t want to make it halfheartedly so I used this collaborative unit as a learning curve to give me a better understanding of how I should go about creating this when I finally think I’m ready to go about it.

For this project I decided to create a mock trailer for the series, one that I wouldn’t use anywhere but its only purpose would be just to figure out how to go about getting something like this created; how long it would take and everything I would need to get it done. So i wrote my script for the trailer and then put all my efforts trying to find a team of animators that I could work with. This is probably where I would have struggled the most: networking and socialising isn’t my strongest point and I had no idea how to go about it. Thankfully I’m at an establishment where nearly everyone’s looking for their next creative venture. All I had to do was post adverts (so like posters and small handouts) on a couple hotspots around the university and responses came in within two days. By the end of the week I was sitting in a meeting with a team of 5 animators around the table all looking at me waiting to hear me pitch my idea.

Our first meeting was my first official chance to tell my idea to the group and to get their feedback. Ethnicity wise, the group was mixed:  Jewish American, White European and Filipino to be precise. I thought the initial response to my pitch would be that of confusion and maybe cause a few of them to drop out, maybe due to lack of understanding or maybe just lack of interest. To my surprise however, they all seemed to be as passionate as I was and felt they could relate to the topic. Obviously not the Nigerian aspect of it but they were all first generation kids in their own right also. This led into a conversation where they shared their own experience of growing up in-between two cultures and how it affected how they live life. Their interest in the series idea made me reevaluate the state of British TV and the shows that were being commissioned and the lack of black shows on air. Their response to my idea made me question if we didn’t have any shows because the people at the top of these TV networks simply didn’t want to allows us to have any shows, rather than them not making any shows due to lack of positive audience responses.

Working in a team on a project like this was very fun and really helped me get an idea of what I would need for when I seriously plan to get a series produced. As a writer I quite foolishly assumed the only thing I’d need to do was write the script and that would basically be my job done, yet I needed to get a substantial amount of reference images, help create mood boards, rewrite the script to make scenes more realistic in terms of what the animators were skilled enough to achieve. Doing this really allowed me to show my culture off to people who had no idea about it; it also let me get rid of any misconceptions that they had especially of the more rural side of life back home. I found it quite funny a lot of the time, because I could tell they were trying quite hard not to offend.

Due to their own busy work schedules, since they were students themselves and had their own deadlines, it took about three months for the trailer to be completed.

When it comes to work like this and the aesthetics of it, I tend to be very picky about it. I’ve grown up watching anime and cartoons so I’m a fan of good character design and overall good animation, even though I have literally no  professional knowledge in the subject so I really shouldn’t have anything to say on the matter if i’m being honest. Although I was happy with the finished piece, when I next aim to produce a series like this I now know, I should spend as much time on choosing animators whose style of design coincides with my thoughts, as I did brainstorming the idea and the substance and context behind the animation. Also if I’m working on projects like this maybe instead of having the team on the outside looking in, try have the team experience culture for themselves as much as they can, like having them experience a proper Nigerian Party or take them to a proper Nigerian Restaurant, have them fully immersed and be surrounded by it for a time. Letting them experience the tastes, the colours, the smells all for themselves. There’s only so much information one can draw out of pictures and mood boards. Also I would make sure we have a lot more time, so that at no point we feel rushed and can take our time in every aspect of the products creation. It’s quite annoying looking at something and seeing what it could have potentially been if you allowed yourself more time for it to be completed.

This collaborative project was an opportunity for me to come out of my comfort zone and finally experience the industry I’ve been interested in my whole life, and I thoroughly enjoyed partaking in it. Seeing something you thought up in your head all those nights in your room become a concrete thing is a feeling I couldn’t describe in words. Especially when done like this, having my ideas that were initially on paper being translated into a trailer that I could watch was just amazing, regardless of how good the final project was.