The Nature of Collaboration

Like many in the creative industries I am an introvert destined to rely on a broader and broader number of people the more successful I become, and in accepting this notion I have started learning the subtle art of collaboration (albeit somewhat begrudgingly). Collaboration (as I have mentioned in previous blog posts) is a tentative relationships that has consequences on every element of a production. But i have come to realise that a good collaboration can deliver you a product far better than what you could ever produce alone.

I love learning about studios, especially animation studios in Japan and a video I watched recently on Kyoto animation really resonated me and I wanted to write a blog post to meditate on the concept of professional collaboration. Whilst my initial interest in studios was a mix of creative idolising and a genuine fascination in the inner workings of the industry I wish to enter, I have started to find the nature of collaborations of immense interest. Kyoto animation is unique in that it does almost all of its projects in-house and watching this dissection of the consequences of that choice was absolutely fascinating.

I completely understand the scheduling benefits of having a single workforce that earns a salary rather than doing contract work. Simply working on our music video with a crew of four with two production days, scheduling was tough, and in the industry time is money… if we couldn’t get our projects done, we would suffer professionally and financially for it. This assurance of work and synchronisation of schedules would make for a near perfect workforce capable of creating projects with minimal production delays. Working in-house would mean the ability to foresee almost all conflicts and resolve them ahead of time rather than trying to play catch up when they inevitably occur.

The other even more resonant part of this video was the concept of creative collaboration. I haven’t watched too much anime from Kyoto animation, its style is a little cutesy for my tastes, but I have definitely noticed the cohesive designs of its productions. Character animation and background art are mostly done by seperate departments so a really resonant sign of an uncooperative team is stylistic differences between those two elements. The narrator points out that at Kyoto Animation “everyone in the studio knows and trusts each other… They are always chatting with the same creative souls”. Reflecting on the production of our music video I spent a short while talking about Veronica and how both the production debrief and the informal car chat felt like essential parts of making the team work as a unit. We learnt, to some extent, to trust each other and interact on an informal level, something that is necessary, I think, to engage with someones artistic personality. I feel like studios like Kyoto Animation have really perfected this formula. All the creatives know one another and understand each other on a creative level. This makes creating a cohesive work easy. Tessa, San, and I have this to some extent. We know each other well and have worked on enough projects to know each others creative processes, instinctively.

Over all I think one line stood out to me the most: “you have to trust the team you make”

Whilst there are production benefits to Kyoto Animations formula, a lack of outsider influence could diminish creative exploration as the studio could become an artistic echo-chamber. What first enamoured me to the idea of collaboration was the fact that what I could make alone was confined to my personal capabilities; to some extent it is the distance we have from those we collaborate with that make the collaboration worthwhile. Collaboration brings with it great risk and great reward and I think no matter how one works, whether in a vastly connected team or creating something through the collaboration of extensively different artists, the most important thing to ask oneself is do I trust my team. Who I am in a group of artists is still a question I am working on, and I doubt I will find the answers even 3, 4, 5 years from now. It will take a lot more trial and error for me to understand what it means the creatively collaborate, but watching this video has helped me reflect on the collaborative process we underwent during the production of bloom and what I want to replicate in my career moving forward.




Also this has nothing to do with collaboration, but just on the topic of talking about anime styles: Masaaki Yuasa is a god of animation he made Ping Pong in Flash Animation and it is just the coolest shit. The art direction is out of this world. Please watch it. For me.

I am obsessed.