Creative Lives — Ifor Ashton, producer at animation studio Moth
As a producer at Moth, Ifor Ashton is the organisational engine behind this lively young studio. Ifor trained as an animator and worked in VFX for TV shows like Misfits and Call the Midwife before being brought into the fold by Moth’s three founding directors – and his close friends – as their first employee. Whether the team is creating a heart-melting modern romance for The New York Times or hard-hitting films for environmental think tank Global Canopy Programme, Ifor will follow an animation project from concept right through to delivery. Choreographing the in-house team, freelancers and clients means that he’s glued to a computer pretty much all day, but his excitement for realising a vision means he’s invested in Moth for the long haul.
Producer, Moth (2015–present)
Producer, Shadowjack VFX (2010–2015)
BA Animation, University of the Creative Arts, Farnham (2004–2008)
Inside Moth’s London-based studio
How would you describe what you do?
My main role is client facing. I work with agency or company producers, our freelancers and the Moth directors to see a project from conception to delivery. I also get involved creatively in the development stages, which I really enjoy.
What does a typical working day look like?
I spend most of my day corresponding with our current clients, managing the team’s individual tasks for the day and making sure everyone knows what they need to do and that everyone is happy. I commute 30 minutes on a bus form Stoke Newington to London Fields. Every day is different. Some more challenging than others, but I enjoy both. My working hours are 10am until 7pm normally. We stay later when we have to, depending on what project deadlines we might have.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
In the studio. I spend all day in front of my computer.
How collaborative is your work?
We work collaboratively, all day long. I would say that most decisions are made as a committee between the directors and myself.
“The experience and knowledge of a creative and commercial artist’s role helps me be a better producer.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The least enjoyable is emailing back potential clients that ask for huge amounts of animation with no budget and impossible deadlines. On the other hand, it’s always hugely satisfying to deliver finished work and release it into the wild. The role has varying stress levels according to how close to a deadline we are.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I really enjoyed working on the Last Job on Earth for The Guardian. We worked closely with their creatives to write and develop a sci-fi narrative of a possible dystopian-utopian future. The freedom we had to craft this tale made the project a pleasure to work on. Working closely with producer Lucile Weigel and creative director Alistair Campbell (from The Guardian team) to get this project finished within the six-week timeline was an enjoyable challenge. We had a killer team of animators helping us: Carlos De Faria (lead animator), Claudio Salas (3D Animator) and Stephen Vuillemin (2D animator and clean up).
What skills are essential to your job?
What tools do you use most for your work?
An iMac Computer for everything. A phone for emailing from the pub. In terms of programmes I use Adobe Suite and Grammerly (a brilliant app for correcting poor grammar and spelling, it’s a life saver).
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
An animator or special effects artist.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I studied animation and then worked as a VFX compositor for a few years. The experience and knowledge of a creative and commercial artist’s role helps me be a better producer (I hope).
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
Erik Ellefsen, Shadowjack’s company director and 3D animator extraordinaire. He gave me my first break and scooped me up from the mean streets of London (I was flyering for the nightclub The End) and put me in front of a computer compositing for the Channel 4 show Misfits. I worked for him for for six to seven years. It was a brilliant time and I learnt a lot.
Was there an early project you worked on that helped your development?
Supervising VFX on set and producing VFX back in the office for Utopia, Misfits and Call the Midwife. I learnt a great deal from many extremely talented people. I was given a lot of responsibility and I am proud to say I was involved in such great TV productions.
“Working with your close friends can be a challenge. The boundaries of our relationships blur when you have to be business people while at the same time best pals.”
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Most skills are transferable in some way or another, and the VFX and animation industries are pretty similar. I guess the most important thing to be is patient, open-minded and spongey. Try to learn something new every day.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Working with your close friends can be a challenge. The boundaries of our relationships blur when you have to be business people while at the same time best pals. Again it all boils down to patience.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
It’s everything I thought it would be and better. It really is a pleasure working with your friends. Even if at times we disagree, we are all working towards a common goal – to make beautiful animation.
Inside Moth’s London-based studio
What would you like to do next?
I’m at Moth for the long game. We are building something great. I want to be here for that.
Could you do this job forever?
Words of Wisdom
What advice or recommendations would you give to a young creative wanting to become a producer?
Get as much creative experience as you can before you move over to the ‘dark side’.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Moth.