It’s time for one of my favourite Small Business Chat updates, saying hello again to Tone Hitchcock of Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design. I first interviewed Tone in May 2012 and then we did updates in June 2013, July 2014, September 2015, and October 2016. Last year, when asked where he wanted to be by now, Tone answered, “This time next year? More of the same, hopefully. I have some potentially ace stuff coming up (some of which was potentially ace at this point last year too, but is now a lot closer to potentially happening…), so I’m feeling very optimistic for 2017!” Was he right to be optimistic? I think so …
Hello again, Tone! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
The year since we last chatted has been pretty amazing, actually; I’ve been very, very busy, and have done a massive variety of projects, the largest of which was designing, creating and installing an 8.5m long Pliosaurus in Bristol Museum. I hinted somewhat obliquely at this job in my last post, as we were just about in the very early stages of working out how the exhibition was going to come together. The whole project was about 3 months work, spread over an 8 month period; unusually, we managed to control the work to the extent that it didn’t get on top of me, and I had time for other commissions in between. The finished piece has been in place in the museum since June; she is suspended from the ceiling as if swimming, but is close enough to the ground for children to interact with; she has a face tracking camera installed so her eyes follow you around the room, and a movement sensor triggers a deep growl if you get too close to her sore mouth. The project culminated with the museum producing an exclusive toy Pliosaurus to sell in their souvenir shop, based on my original sculpt: having a toy dinosaur made is, quite literally, a childhood dream come true!
I’ve included pics of last year’s Art Ninja stuff, which has now been broadcast; I did some more work for them this year, so I’ll share those images next time. I’ve worked for Leviathan Workshop again, sculpting heads for Katy Perry’s dancers to wear at Glastonbury, and a swan pedalo for a musical in London; I made some fantastically fun props for Jeremy Clarkson’s Grand Tour show, did some mutant potatoes (or ‘mutatoes,’ as we decided to call them) for a horror comedy film, sculpted some giant eggs for a Really Wild Show special, and made a load of exhibition props for various clients too, so all in all I’d say I’m further along this year than I expected to be.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’m still doing the same kind of work, but every year, I make more contacts, and have a better body of work to show to prospective clients, so while the nature of the job is the same, the quality of projects I’m being offered is definitely improving. I’ve also had a some extremely good propmakers recommending my work to some quite big clients, which is at once rather humbling and very satisfying.
The Pliosaurus was the first project I’ve done that I needed to bring extra people on for, too, which was a slightly alarmingly grown up change, as normally it’s just me in a shed making random nonsense on my own. This really felt like a big step up. Still not sure if I’d want to manage a team all the time, but it all went very smoothly; I had Brendan Arnold & Emma Powell working on the animatronics for the eyes, and the control system for the camera and sound, Sarah Dowling helping me with the actual construction (along with my Dad, and my mate Dan, who happened to have a day off at the right time!), and my cousin Giz Hitchcock, who I’ve worked with a lot before, on the installation and final artworking. I also managed to rope in Damir Martin, a longstanding FB friend from Croatia, into producing some amazing CG animations that are projected onto the curved walls around the Pliosaurus to further the illusion of being underwater.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
This year has, in fact, been pretty smooth. Obviously, every project has its own challenges and issues, so you learn from them, but, for a change, there haven’t been any massive lessons this year, probably because I haven’t made too many gaffs in the initial part of a job, so haven’t had to do any real fire-fighting.
Any more hints and tips for people?
In this job, you ALWAYS need to keep a beady eye on tv & film production assistants. They tend to be very lovely and affable, but inevitably have far too much on their plates, which means that often emails don’t get read properly, you’re always chasing them for decisions, and once the project is complete, they tend to move on very quickly to the next thing (read: forget to send your invoice to their accounts department…). As I’ve sais before, the admin side of this job is the least fun- let’s face it, no one decides they want to make film pops for a living because they actively enjoy paperwork- but you really do need to make sure that EVERYTHING is written down and signed off properly.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
More of the same! Bigger and better, hopefully, although a life-sized Pliosaurus is going to be pretty hard to top. This year, I also spent a week as an extra on a film (based on a Scandi Noir book; it’s been relocated to the US, and filmed as ‘3 Seconds,’ if you fancy looking it up on IMDB), which is the first time I’ve had time to do this since spending a day as a medieval Lord in ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War.’ I played a Hispanic gangmember, complete with facial tattoos, in Gloucester Prison, which was standing in for New York. Great fun. If I can fit in a few more gigs like this in between my proper job, I’d be quite happy.
So he was right to be optimistic – what a fantastic year and fancy having a toy made from one of your designs – that’s got to be a high point in anyone’s career. I can’t wait to see what Tone does next!
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