Shay Hamias is an animator and designer who has become known for his uniquely progressive compositing techniques. Throughout the years he's adapted cut out photo styles, contemporary illustrations, stop-motion and mixed media with a strong sense of design. He loves playing with new styles and approaches and incorporating fresh ideas into narratives with cool transitions. We caught up with Shay to find out what he thinks about design, NERD productions, international roller-skating and his plans for the future.
LBB> You’ve got quite an eclectic background! Please tell us more about you and how you originally got into animation and design?
SH> I saw Chicken Run and from that point on I decided then and there that I wanted to go into animation. I graduated in graphics at a Bauhaus art school in Tel Aviv, Israel where they specialised in industrial and interior design and so my animation style is very design led. I try to solve each brief as a design challenge first and put my artistic viewpoint to one side. At the end of the day, whatever is right for the job.
LBB> Rumour has it you used to be an Israeli roller skating champion. How on earth did that come about?
SH> I was brought up in a suburb in Tel Aviv which was renowned as being “The City for Kids”. You could learn any sport you can ever imagine such as gymnastics, dancing, skating. Until I was 28 I was skating everyday, and learned how to twirl and jump which led to eventually becoming the first Israeli skater to enter International competitions including the European & World Championships. Sadly when I moved to London, I had to give it up as there is nowhere to skate here believe it or not!
LBB> You have a distinct rhythm to your work, do you think your training as a dancer has helped with the timing and rhythm of some of your animation projects?
SH> Yes. Animation is all about the movement. You can draw something very crudely but if the timing is right it can look correct to the eye. I actually wrote a dissertation about dancing and animation. Animation is essentially observing movement and recreating it on screen. The more you understand movement, the better the animation is.
LBB> Your animation style demonstrates a wide variety of techniques and styles. Is mixing it up important to you?
SH> Yes, otherwise to be honest, I get bored. I’m intrigued by emotional storytelling. Earlier on in my career I would say I was interested more in motion graphics & design but now I prefer when there is a narrative and a story to tell.
LBB> You have worked with Tim Burton on the titles for Sweeney Todd which won a catalogue of awards. How was that experience and was it very different to the tight constraints of commercials?
SH> Tim Burton was refreshingly easygoing. He trusts the process. He saw the initial designs and storyboards and pretty much left us to it. He was very generous in allowing you to have your creative freedom. With commercials, you have to lock down the designs at the beginning so sometimes this can spoil the spontaneity of discovering new things during the creative process.
LBB> Misys, a corporate client is an example of experimenting with styles & textures. Tell us more about the project.
SH> I loved the brief from the beginning which was creating images from ink in water. We had to experiment quite a lot with ink and paper and test out various ways of shooting. The idea was to break down the image into small sections that the ink was allowing us to do. This meant we had to shoot a lot of trials until we got it right, then brought it all together in composition. It was really fun making something organic that wasn’t using a digital format. The fact that it also won many awards including LIAA was a massive bonus!
LBB> It has been known that you are very good at nailing the brief first time round. What have you learned to be the most important points when it comes to treatments for animation?
SH> I think it’s important to understand what the client is looking for, more than what you want to do personally. As the Director it’s crucial to try to gauge from them exactly what they need and try to answer it with something they may not have thought about. I normally start by clarifying the client brief, coming up with a solution and responding to it using my “designer thinking-cap”. You have to think like the client. What is the problem and the issue that you’re trying to solve. It’s the best starting point to develop from.
LBB> Your next project is an awareness online film for Multiple Sclerosis with Digitas NY. You’ve done a few projects in the past to raise awareness ie. the Mindful film for MC Saatchi (which won a D&AD Pencil). What attracts you to these briefs in particular?
SH> These briefs strike an emotional cord as you’re not selling a product but engaging and educating with other people on real-life important issues. I normally find these briefs are much more open ended and creatively challenging.
LBB> Tell us about your relationship with NERD Productions and how your business relationship came about?
SH> I’ve been working with Executive Producer Milana Karaica for over a decade. We initially met at Th1ng and have grown together to form a great partnership of director and producer. We both encourage each other to be brave and push boundaries so it was only natural that I went with Milana to start NERD Productions. We have a great crew on board and a strong family ethic. We’re all from different parts of the world with different eclectic stories which I believe is integral to the creative environment. It’s a very exciting time for a new production company like ours who also have a wealth of experience behind us.
LBB> And finally are you working on any passion projects? Any roller skating championships in the pipeline?
SH> Alongside the day job, I am currently an artist in residence at Birbeck University with Anthony Bale. We are developing medieval manuscripts and trying to make an animation in response to a book he found locked in their university safe. We’re trying to bring to life the exciting creatures that live in the margins of medieval books. And no roller skating championships at present. However, I’ve uncovered a new passion - learning the Argentine tango! London is full of hidden dance studios!