Eamon Mullan: How I Succeeded in the Animation Industry
Eamon Mullan is an animator and graphic designer who has been in the game for some time. With the animation industry still new to Kenya and poorly understood, many locals don’t appreciate the dynamics of the creative process or why it is expensive.
Better known as the Great Mullan in the industry, Eamon Mullan shares his journey with Caroline Njoroge on how he, as a freelance host, managed to maneuver in the concert economy, his thoughts on the industry and its aspirations.
Why continue the animation?
I have been making pencil art since elementary school. I was inspired by a soccer comic, Super Strikers. From there, I started making my own comics. When I finished high school, I moved on to animation because it was more exciting to bring characters to life. I have a vivid imagination since my childhood, a penchant for imagining concepts. Animation is a tool that helps me express ideas and play with the passions of my soul.
So where did the journey start?
I am an alumnus of Shangtao Media Arts College. I started working with my laptop at home, playing around with ideas and honing my skills. If you don’t have a job yet, keep honing your skills.
I got a job at a TV station two years after I graduated. This opportunity lasted five months. Since 2017, I have been working on a project-to-project basis in the concert economy. Experience has taught me that networking is the greatest asset that can be harnessed in the concert economy.
How do you see the animation industry in Kenya?
The subject is not well understood, therefore not appreciated. However, this varies with the generational range and exposure. Millennials and Gen Z have embraced animation, but since the final decision-makers in most organizations are the older generation (some equate animation to cartooning for kids), there is little room for animation to develop an entity.
I have noticed that in companies where the marketing and communication departments are full of young people, the use of animated concepts is more important. But I have to admit, we’ve come a long way.
How can you get freelance work opportunities?
Most of my work comes from references. From experience, networking is a crucial skill to secure work today. I started a YouTube channel, Great Mullan, where I can post more content, express my gift, and grow my customer base.
How do you navigate the chapters of life marred by a lot of discouragement?
Patience is a gift with which I am endowed. Discouragement has never got the better of me, not because I have had a smooth run so far, but because I am convinced that no difficult chapter lasts forever. Pages end up turning as long as we keep working on what we have and making the most of every opportunity.
What was the most rewarding part of your trip?
See more people enjoy what I bring to the table. This has resulted in an expanding customer base, thanks to referrals.
What advice do you give to someone who is just starting out?
In the age of artificial intelligence (AI), people have the ability to create content based on models, with just a few clicks and they have what it would have taken hours for a content creator to design from zero. If your work isn’t better than what can be produced by AI, the system will reject it. You have to work on your craft, keep moving forward. The competition is increasingly fierce, not only against other content creators, but also against machines and software. Constant learning is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
What challenges have you encountered in the industry?
We are entering the big business system. Big companies have established relationships with other content creation companies, so even when there’s a bidding and quotation, the final decision has already been made. The downside is that no matter how amazing the ideas are, few are willing to listen. They prefer to go with the “sure pair of hands”. It is frustrating at times, but we keep moving forward to know that bigger doors will open even as we take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
Second, most people don’t understand what goes on in the creative process of converting ideas into something tangible. This results in a reluctance of some potential clients to offer compensation commensurate with the amount of work required to bring ideas to life.
Then there are those who see animation as a content creation tool for kids. In such cases, demonstrating how animation can be an asset to your business seems like a losing battle.
What about managing money as a freelance writer?
It is possible to earn nothing in a month and then land a big deal that makes up for months with no solid income. This requires discipline in spending as the flow of income can be erratic when one does not have long term contracts with specific clients.
It is just as important that you plan your growth according to your priorities. My current goal is to save for better machines that will allow me to build the kind of empire I want.
Knowing what you know now, what would you change in your trip?
If it was possible, I would have started learning animation much earlier – before high school. Time gives the advantage of honing one’s skills. Someone advised me to study animation after observing my strengths and interests; it was after high school. I hope I can identify my children’s gifts from an early age and enroll them in programs that equip them early on.
Where would you say the opportunities are?
There is still a lot of room to exploit the opportunities in the corporate world – animation is a great tool for communication, marketing and advertising. But the relevance of animation as a channel for content creation crosses all industries – it can be used in edutainment, entertainment, etc.
What is your dream for the industry?
I aspire to see more people believe in the industry and invest in improving what they do. Many animators have changed lanes along the way. I find it difficult to find someone who is still so passionate to take on the project. The job requires a lot of sacrifice and patience. It’s not a get-rich-quick affair, but it does have its rewards. I pray that one day we can partner up with Disney and create quality animated films that tell African stories.
What is your dream?
That I will someday watch animated films that are my own creation – to see my scripts and concepts come to life in the best possible production quality.
What is the salary range for a facilitator in Kenya?
There are a number of factors that determine the price of the services rendered. Animated graphic animation starts from 50,000 Sh depending on the finer details of the project. Infographics can range from 100,000 Sh depending on the output and the complexity of the ideas applied. Character animation ranges from hundreds of thousands to millions depending on the dimension of the animation applied, the length of the movie, the number of characters, etc.
To advise future animators?
Fall in love with the craft first, because if you only pursue animation for the money, you will be disappointed.