From university to working full-time in Northern Ireland's vibrant screen industry
By refusing to limit her skill set, Animation graduate Rachel Hynds has made a swift leap from her student days to success with local production companies and hit kids' TV shows
It’s difficult to assign a neat ‘job title’ to Rachel Hynds, because when it comes to film and animation, there isn’t much that Rachel Hynds hasn’t done.
Leaving Ulster University with first-class honours in her BDes Animation degree in 2016, she has been working full-time ever since, in behind-the-camera roles spanning editing, design, cinematography, compositing and visual effects.
She has previously worked in training and teaching roles for the British Film Institute and Nerve Belfast Creative Learning Centre; in editing, filming and photography roles for NI production companies including Visual Narrative and Inlifesize, and most recently as a visual effects (VFX) artist on Pablo – a kids’ TV show produced by Paper Owl Films in Holywood for CBeebies and RTE Jr.
Although the industry is heavily contract-based – therefore not a lot of full-time jobs or long-term stability for the creatives involved in putting these shows together – it seems to be thriving and benefits, Hynds believes, from being small but perfectly formed.
'Everywhere is kind of the same in that you work contract to contract,' she says. 'You get hired for however long the series is and if they have something to keep you on for, then great. Usually they are working on something in the background – work will overlap - so you usually have an idea if there will be something.
'If not, the industry’s so small here which is really nice because you always know people who are doing the same kind of thing and looking for people. So, this current contract with Jam Media runs until September.'
Rachel and Matt Boyd were named winners in the 2017 RTS NI Student Awards' Drama category for their film Recode
Over the past decade, the film and TV industry in Northern Ireland has seen an explosion of growth, largely due to tax relief, and funding and development driven by Northern Ireland Screen.
However, when Hynds first embarked on her degree, it was a sector that was in its infancy.
'My year was the very first year of the animation course in Northern Ireland, so we were taking quite a risk and when I started it, I probably did think I would have to move to Dublin or London to get a job once I graduated.
'Then loads of companies did come here like Paper Owl and Sixteen South has done so well, then Jam opened their office in Belfast when I was in my second year. From there it’s just continued to grow and it’s amazing how many people from my uni class are all working full-time in the industry across Northern Ireland.'
For such a young creative professional, Hynds boasts an incredible CV which is as broad as it is long. VFX artist, cinematographer, compositor and editor are a few of the job titles she has held.
Getting the opportunity to use the many facets of her skill set has afforded her the ability to find the niche she prefers.
'I tried a little bit of everything, and I honestly think that’s the best thing you can do after you leave uni. I just loved compositing so much while working on Pablo – I was so excited to get up and go do it every day, and I think that’s why I’m now at Jam doing the same thing. That is definitely the area I want to work in, so I am trying to push myself more in that direction now.
Having been passionate about storytelling and the narrative of film during university, Hynds now finds herself motivated by the challenge of perfecting the visual aesthetic.
'I’m still all about the story, but I think the narrative was more important to me at university because the projects were mine, so of course I had more creative input. Now, I think I’m more motivated by the look of something – looking at a shot and wondering how you’re going to make it beautiful, then getting to the end and thinking "Wow – that looks really good!" I think that’s what I like so much about VFX and compositing.'
Although she has allowed herself the freedom to try different aspects of the industry, she feels she has now found her niche.
'A lot of people will generalise for a couple of years until they find their ‘thing’ so I feel really lucky that I’ve managed to find what I enjoy at such an early stage in my career.'
Discover more of Rachel Hynds' work at www.rachelhynds.com.