BAFTA nomination and industry accolades
for animation's brightest couple

A couple from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) are receiving international acclaim for their short animated films, including a nomination by BAFTA.

18 Jan 2024

Ciara Kerr and Ross Stringer graduated from the BA (Hons) Animation course in 2020, where they met and got together. Living together and working together in the same industry could be seen to be challenging, but Ciara and Ross have had success after success.

Ross’ latest achievement comes in the form of a BAFTA nomination for his animation Crab Day, which is currently doing the rounds at festivals. It is one of three films in the British Short Animation category, up against Visible Mending and Wild Summon.

Crab Day, which already won the Best British Film Award at the London International Film Festival 2023, is inspired by the seaside town where Ross grew up, with its fishing heritage. The animated short is the story of a little boy who, as part of a fishing community’s annual ritual, must kill his first crab to become a man and gain his father’s approval.

“It’s about becoming a man on your own terms,” Ross explained. “With themes of masculinity, community, and accepting difference.”

Meanwhile, Ciara’s short animation, Homemaker, has received international acclaim, winning Best Animation at the This is England Film Festival in Rouen and Best Film and Outstanding Award at the International Student Film and Video Festival in Beijing.

The film is about a woman who has lost herself to an abusive relationship, and finding her way out. Surprisingly, given the topic of gender violence, it is also a musical and features The Voice finalist, Miss Baby Sol.

Besides festivals, Ciara is also experiencing success in feature films, most recently working with Nick Love, director of The Football Factory, on some animated scenes for its sequel – Marching Powder – to come out later this year, starring Danny Dyer.

And while doing the rounds at international film and animation festivals, it’s hard to imagine what it feels like for the animators to have audiences finally watching their creations after a year or more in the making.

Ross said: “When you're done you've got a finished thing, but you're so blind to it. Then they go around these festivals, and a few months later, after you haven't watched it in a while, you see it, and suddenly you’re inspired again.”

Ciara, who attended a festival screening in Beijing, had at least 20 women come up to her afterwards to tell her how grateful they were that this film was out there. “It’s nice because it’s so hard making the films, but we’re making them for people to see."

©Ross Stringer

So, what are the best things about living together and working in the same industry?

“It’s helpful to have that sounding board,” said Ciara. “I think we bring the best out in each other because we are in the same industry and we can help each other out.”

“What we make is so different,” added Ross. “On the surface we both make animations, but we have different goals within the industry. I’m more interested in going down a subgenre of animation – I’ve this want to explore everything.”

“Whereas I’m happy right now doing commercial work and doing these bigger film projects, being an animation director under a live-action director,” said Ciara.

While Ciara describes Ross as an extremely good animator with an interesting and unique voice, Ross describes Ciara as a wonderful collaborator with a clear vision, a strong identity as an artist, and a strong voice.

©Ciara Kerr

And from two people experiencing incredible success in the industry, what advice do they have for animation students graduating this summer?

Ross said: “Commercial jobs can become stagnant; you’re often reproducing something easy, so it’s important to remain playful and build your portfolio that way.

“It’s also good to remember it’s okay to have a part-time job that isn’t in animation. I’ve always done this, and it keeps your brain open to ideas.”

“And talking to people,” added Ciara. “Doing new things, going to festivals, meeting people because [the animation industry] is such a small world, so keep expanding your network.”

But Ross was keen to add: “Festivals aren’t places to pitch ideas, just meet people who you know you want to work with on a human level. Enjoy the journey and make the most of jobs, how can you be a little bit more creative with it?”

Ciara Kerr & Ross Stringer

Ciara and Ross also teach part-time on UCA’s animation course alongside programme director Lesley Adams, who they have described as a huge role model and mentor. She instilled in them two final pieces of advice they have for animation students.

Firstly, the importance of pitching. Lesley understands that graduates who are skilled in the art of pitching their film – for investment and support – is integral to have success in the industry.

Secondly, be a nice person.

“That’s the biggest thing they said at UCA, because [to get ahead in the industry] it doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re not a nice person.”

The BAFTA winners will be announced at a ceremony on 18 February.

To learn more about studying animation at UCA, visit the course pages.