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Interview with Fred Simmons

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IMG_20150702_113445Simbrix is pleased to welcome Fred Simmons to the team.

During the last month, Fred has been working hard and having a lot of fun exploring the creative potential of Simbrix.

His short stop-motion animations, or Simflix as we like to call them, are the first of their kind and we’re very excited about what he has offered so far and what might be coming in the future. Just before he started pre-poduction on a new video, we had the chance to sit him down, where he was able to keep his hands off  the Brix for long enough to ask him a few questions.

 

You just graduated from Nottingham Trent University. Did you enjoy your time there?

I really enjoyed it. The quality of teaching at NTU is excellent. I studied Media with German and I thought the courses were great. 

And what were your results?

I got a 1st! It’s funny, though. In my first year, I barely scraped a 2:1. There was a real learning process involved, not just with the material, but with studying itself. In my fourth, I worked harder that I ever have in my life and came out of it with a 1st, which was very rewarding!

Was that the most rewarding part of it?

Not really. I spent the third year in Germany and the NTU funded a short promotional film that I made about the Erasmus program. That was a great experience and I learned a lot from it. Writing my dissertion as well, on social media and identity was very important to me.

Can you tell us a bit more about your dissertation?

 The main subject of my dissertation was the sense of isolation which seems to come with with the migration from tradition forms of communication and onto the web. I think we’re concerned that these technologies distract us from the real world, but the fact is that technology and social media are redefining the way we communicate. Whether that is a good or bad thing is not yet clear. 

Do you enjoy living in Nottingham?

Yeah, I love it. I work part time here, I go skateboarding and do film projects in my spare time. The skate community is great and still growing. Nottingham’s got a lot going for it, a great music scene and night life. It’s a vibrant city.

 Do you remember the first film you made?

Of course. It was five-minute skateboarding film that I made when I was 13. It was shot on a handicam, which would camera of choice for the next few years. It was terribly edited on Windows movie maker, with an appalling soundtrack, but you’ve got to start somewhere and I learned from it.

And was that the first time you took an interest in making films?

Well, I started playing with cameras at the age of 11 and I got my first second hand video camera. It had a basic stop/start feature which allowed me to do rudimentary stop motion. 

Speaking of, you seem to have an experienced hand at animation. Had you done much before you came to Simbrix?

I’d done some stop motion work before. One thing I did was trying to create the impression that pictures were drawing themselves on paper. All I had for a studio was a desk with a lamp. But starting out, you don’t really need more than that. 

What was your first encounter with Simbrix like?

Really good. I met Assim. He showed me around. As soon as I saw all the bright colours and designs, I felt like I was 9 years old again and had stepped into some kind of Wonderland!

What have been some of your greatest challenges working with Simbrix?

Probably making Simbrix Grand Brix, When filming the stop motion models in a house using only natural light. I had to fix the light levels in post production, adjusting shadows and brightness to make the shots consistant. The continual change in the quality and direction of light made that almost impossible to do, but we are really pleased with the results. It looks homemade and not too slick, which is a big part of what Simbrix is about. The point of Simbrix is that anyone can play with them. You are rewarded more for imagination than technical skill. 

What’s your favourite thing about working at Simbrix?

Creative freedom is cannot be underrated! At Simbrix I have the opportunity to build on what I’ve learnt in my studies, but I can also experiment; develop new skills and try out new ideas. Simbrix is an up and coming company but still new enough that you can really see the impact of your work and the contribution you make to the whole project. 

Simbrix Grand Brix is technically much more complicated than Retro Invaders! Do you find your finding your stride animating with Simbrix?

Definitely. Grand Brix was difficult to pull off but I immediately knew how to approach it after Retro Invaders. Filming and editing were much more intuitive despite the greater complexity of the Grand Brix.

You use panning shots and focus in a cool way. What made you think of that?

I wanted to create more of a “realistic” style, haha. More cinematic. Almost like a car-chase movie. Retro invaders was fixed to one surface representing the arcade machine screen but with Grand Brix, there was freedom to move around with scenes and the chance to use techniques which complimented that.

Can we expect more experimentation and innovation in the future?

Absolutely. I think that’s what Simbrix is about. It’s a creative process which is really fun to be involved in. So taking what we already know and improving it comes very naturally. There’s a lot of learning from our mistakes and getting better. Your not fully aware that it’s going on because you busy having fun, but yes. Keep watching and you’ll see.

Do you have any quirks while you are being creative? I mean, do you listen to music, eat yoghurt, play the tuba or something like that while your coming up with ideas?

I do sometimes listening to music but it depends on the circumstances. Filming in somebody else’s house, as a guest, it’s really kind of them so you want to be on your best behaviour. But on my own, things can get quirky. Nothing weird; I just listen to a lot of music to keep my brain stimulated, especially in post production.

Thanks, Fred.

Thank you.

•Fred walks out on his hands•

 

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The Simbrix 2015 Grand Brix