We are Makers and Creators: Animation Lecturer, Jon Dunleavy

We are Makers and Creators: Animation Lecturer, Jon Dunleavy

Jon is an award-winning director and animator, he has a decade of industry experience in London and has seen his films screened at international festivals and by national broadcasters. Jon is passionate about raising awareness of mental health in the animation industry.

Alongside his commercial practice, Jon is found in the Monastery Building, instilling his industry exposure on both BA (Hons) Animation and BA (Hons) Animation and Visual Effects courses. 

As part of our Makers and Creators photo series, showcasing our talented staff, we meet Jon ahead of his new film release.

Jon Dunleavy BA Animation lecturer animates a bright character on an iPad
Close up of BA Animation Lecturer Jon Dunleavy designing his animation

What has been your journey to your role as a Lecturer now?

After graduating from NUA’s BA Animation and then completing an MA, I created my debut film The Technical Hitch which went on to win a British Animation Award. I was then signed by Tandem Films in London as a director and animator.

I worked on an array of projects and all animation techniques from CG to 2D and stop motion.

I balanced this with my personal practice, creating short films both with and without funding as a way to grow as a practitioner. This included a comedy about a stunt man in the age of CG, Crash Bang Wallow and the dark fairy tale Shadows and Dust.

I was invited back to NUA and enjoyed working with the range of ideas and voices that come from teaching. I fell in love with the energy and challenges presented by working in a University environment and Norwich is such a great city, that it was an easy choice to make the transition to lecture at NUA.

Tell us what you’re doing in your practice now

My work is less character based now, and more challenging as a response to the social and political climate we find ourselves in.

I’m also influenced by the intelligence and concerns of the creative community including students and colleagues. 

My latest short Everything Is Going To Be OK is a continued journey into the things that matter, with the idea being inspired by thoughts and concerns on mental wellbeing and the health of the world to create a musical and abstract journey.

What are the high points of your career so far?

I’m focussing on more than one high point, because the journey of a creative artist never ends, and takes many weird and beautiful side turns.

Making the transition from graduate to a director and animator in London was definitely a highlight, with the opportunity to work with and learn from a range of talented artists.

The fast pace of advertising was certainly eye opening and a great progression from student. Working on a large number of jobs meant I was always learning and growing both technically and artistically.

Another highlight is the opportunity to travel the world to visit festivals that screen my films. My last short The ALT Guide to Character Design was screened at Pictoplasma in Berlin and I’ve had work screened at Annecy Animation Festival in France.

These festivals are the lap of honour after a sometimes gruelling but creatively rewarding film making experience. 

Having films screened and funded by Channel 4 and BBC is very prestigious and rewarding but to travel and explore other cultures is for me the goal as an artist.

BA Animation Lecturer Jon Dunleavy sits in front of a computer, a cintix designing animations
BA Animation Lecturer Jon Dunleavy sat in front of his laptop and ipad in front of bright artwork

"My career highlight is working with creative artists at the beginning of their animation journey alongside balancing a personal practice of short film making. The two influence one another and I am well aware of the privilege it is to lecture and share my knowledge and experience with students."

Jon Dunleavy

What makes the animation industry unique?

An animator’s career can be so diverse and you never stop learning.

The role of an animator can be specific but can equally be very diverse, with the skills developed and tools used being appropriate from everything to films, tv, web animation, games and motion graphics.

The animation industry as I’ve experienced is a very open, friendly and sharing community. Even during the run up to deadlines as the pressure ramps up, everyone chips in and wants to see a project through to a successful conclusion. As important as your technical skills are the need to be collaborative and friendly are equally vital.

What’s next for your practice, any projects or plans?

I’ve just finished my new short which I will submit to festivals – remembering you tend to get more rejections than successes, just the way of the world and isn’t the definition of success or failure.

Alongside tinkering in AR and VR, I am formulating an idea which debates the value of art, how we should protect the arts and fight for its right to be a part of education and society.

It can feel like a luxury but I’m sure to most of us, let alone the community at NUA we feel it is a necessity, something we can’t live without.

And I want to try and capture that feeling in a film. It’s an ambitious idea but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to very much; I’m off to tinker and begin a new creative journey.

  • Photography by BA Photography graduate, Denisa Ilie
  • With thanks to Cinema City Norwich