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Interview With Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke- Creators of 'The Bruvs'.

The Bruvs (usually stylised as TheBruvs, without the gap) is a British adult animated comedy created by Ian Brown and award-winning animator Eoin Clarke. The series features Doug and Den, two gangster brothers from London's East-End who move to Essex with their family and attempt to "go straight". However, they find that's much easier said than done. As the catchy theme song says "being naughty comes so naturally." It's classic fish-out-of-water comedy, where these career criminals struggle to make sense of the modern world, with often hilarious consequences.

With more than 20 episodes produced so far, some even getting broadcast on UK TV channel Dave, the series has built up a following. AFA got the chance to talk to Ian and Eoin and find out more!

AFA: Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds? I know that Eoin has 
an animation background but Ian comes from outside the animation world. What brought you together?

EOIN CLARKE – I’m an animation director. I studied art and design – and then gained a BA Hons in graphic design. Then I attended the Royal College of Art gaining an MA in animation. While there, I won a bursary to go to Amsterdam to make a film about drug abuse. The film – Buzz – won the Golden Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival. In 1995 I was selected by Channel 4 to be animator in residence at the Museum of the Moving Image. Channel 4 commissioned me to complete a film I started there called Deviant. That film went on to win various awards. Thereafter I have been associated with various animation companies and made a film about the pitfalls of advertising for Saatchi and Saatchi. I was lucky enough to work for Ray Harryhausen as storyboard artist and designer on the commercial Dino Time. I won another commission from Channel 4 to make the animated short 1300cc which won awards round the world. I did some work on the cult series Monkey Dust. Other more recent work includes animation for a Go Compare commercial, storyboarding for movies, opening titles for Harry Hill’s You’ve Been Framed and animation for CBBC. In recent years – in between all that – TheBruvs insist I work on them.

IAN BROWN: I started out as a journalist working my way on to national papers. Then into TV news and current affairs as a reporter and researcher. Then I moved into entertainment programmes. I became writer on the big red book tribute show This Is Your Life, presented by Michael Aspel. I produced for Jeremy Clarkson on his solo projects and on several Top Gear specials. I’ve written or produced for comedy shows, panel shows, game shows and the South Bank Show. In my time I’ve written or produced for the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, Charlton Heston, Liam Neeson, Bruce Forsyth, Jason Statham, Homer Simpson, Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec, Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, YouTubers Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee, Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Scorsese, Harrison Ford, Geri Halliwell, Keeley Hawes, Emma Bunton, Sharon Stone, Ian Wright, Martin Kemp, Ross Kemp and many more.

We came together because Ian had come up with the idea of TheBruvs and was looking for character design and some storyboarding to be able to take the idea to production companies and TV channels.

AFA: How did The Bruvs come to be?

IB: I thought these villains trying to go straight – and failing all the time – was funny and had potential to appeal to a wide audience. I wrote some scripts and took them to a company for artwork and was introduced to Eoin. He did some designs and when I saw what he had done I knew this was right. He knew who Doug and Den were. Then it was a matter of trying to sell them. But, as we know, animation is an expensive and slow process. In between other work, I would show them to different people and, while the project excited them, I just could not get a commission. This went on for a few years and in that time Online content had grown – and there seemed to be a way to make money from sites like YouTube. I was lucky enough to do a script for Homer Simpson – to be used on a tribute show to Simon Cowell. Al Jean and the team at The Simpsons liked my script and they specially animated Homer doing my lines. That made me more determined to bring TheBruvs to life. So, Eoin and I talked and we agreed to give it a go teaming with our amazing sound and editing wiz Paul Richmond – and later on our brilliant musicians Stig Winslet and Pete Harbour. It was and still is a passion project.  A tiny team, working in between other projects. We did the first film Dentist and put it on YouTube and we got favourable feedback. So we did another – Parachute. Now we have more than 20 films on Youtube and other sites, we’re on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and we now do short sketch comedy podcasts with the characters on SoundCloud – where we also have our original music and songs.

AFA:  What are the biggest inspirations behind The Bruvs- animated or 

EC: I was briefed a bit by Ian initially but then he left me to it. I had a few people in mind from pubs near where I live and some other “characters” in the London gangster world.

IB: I was always thinking about blokes who would sit outside cafes round my way who parked flash cars on the pavement. They had tattoos, lots of bling and all looked alike – but never seemed to do any actual work. Plus, of course, certain real-life villains. The format – if there is one – is a mix of Angry Kid and Simon’s Cat... short, funny films aimed at an online audience.

AFA:  Was The Bruvs always intended to be an online series? Or did you 
ever consider (or even pitch to) a more traditional TV format/broadcaster?

IB: As said before, it was always intended to go to TV as that was my main line of work. We got close a few times but cost and the risk of animation did for us. The UK just doesn’t seem to go for animation like the US or some other countries. It would be great to take on US juggernauts like Family Guy, Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty South Park or The Simpsons. I’m not saying we are that, by any means – but we feel TheBruvs has potential to be more than it is currently. In 2017 we did have a result when UKTV acquired 10 episodes for their channel Dave. They went out a bit randomly late night. The shows now sit on their VoD UKTVplay as well as our YouTube channel. It was great to see the films on TV. We’d like to see more of that.

AFA: How do you find working on an online series differs from working in 
more traditional media? Are there particular challenges or advantages 
over earlier formats?

EC: The way we work is quite relaxed. We have no real deadlines and we only answer to each other. Because it is all done between other paid work, we work at our own pace. We also like to get things right. So, when a film is ready, it’s ready.

IB: It is very different for me. Mainly as it is a very small team, but because we all trust each other – I hope – and we all know what is wanted and needed, we get the results we’re looking for. We’re not answering to executives or a channel and we don’t have to submit scripts or ideas for approval or work to a budget. We would love to have a budget... But this is a passion project still. The other plus in online is the response and reactions we receive. It is like playing to a theatre audience almost. You get feedback in the comments or via social media and that is the first time I have experienced that at all. On TV shows it was always down to a review in a newspaper to get any sort of response.

AFA: Being an online series means you reach an international audience. The 
humour in the series is distinctly British, but have you found that 
international audiences have reacted well too?

IB: It has been amazing – one of the greatest surprises and joys of doing TheBruvs. Some of our biggest and most loyal fans are non-UK. In the US we have hit a goldmine of obsessives. They quote lines back to us, buy the T-shirts, interact – it is most rewarding. We also have some big fans in Germany, France and in Australia. So, these London villains running amok in Essex seem to travel OK.

AFA [To Ian] How do you find working in animation compares to working in 

IB: I’ve always been a great animation fan and this is a dream come true .. but boy is it slow! That is the main difference I guess. Eoin is fast when he works but it still takes a long time to make the magic happen. But it is so worth it when I see the films at the other end. We have other issues too in that because we are not funded, we try to work out scenarios that can be re-used in other episodes so we can make the most of them – and make some films a bit more quickly. So writing the scripts involves some practical consideration too – remembering what we can do in a reasonable timeframe.

AFA [To Eoin] Even though the series is produced digitally, the character animation has a wonderful hand-drawn look. Can you explain how 
this is created?

EC: When we started out I did hand draw on to paper and scan the work in. But now I use a Cintiq. I sequence in Adobe After Effects and the After Effects 3D camera is used to composite the moving animated sequences with the still background elements, allowing three-dimensional environments to be created. The edit of sound and visuals is also done in Adobe After Effects.

AFA: What are your ambitions for the future of The Bruvs? Are there any 
plans for any longer-form content at some point?

IB: Fortunately we keep on growing. It is steady and we also keep getting great feedback. The aim is to keep at it, build our following and gradually lengthen the films. We show what that might look like in a couple of compilation episodes we have put together. It is a rough guide to what 10 – 15 minute episodes might look like. They look OK to us. We’d love to have some mainstream screen time. It was great last year to win Best Animation at the Romford Film Festival – where better for TheBruvs to triumph? And we are also showing how much potential TheBruvs have by doing our sketch podcasts which feature all the characters doing even more Bruvs stuff. Sound only is a lot quicker to make than the animations.

AFA: Do you have any advice for any of our readers who want to get into creating animation themselves?

: You will need to have a thick skin and some measure of luck to get in. But if you are prepared to work hard then go for it.

IB: I would say start putting your work online as soon as possible. Start building a following. Show the process, share your ideas. There is a good community out there online supporting animation and animators. The big issue is how to make money at it. Of course, there are things like Kickstarter and Indiegogo but then your project has to stand out. We certainly wish future animators well.
Thanks for talking to us.

Thanks so much to Ian and Eoin for chatting with us!

TheBruvs is written by Ian Brown. Animation Director is Eoin Clarke. Sound/Editing is by Paul Richmond and Stig Winslet and Pete Harbour provide the music

Find TheBruvs Online

•  Twitter
•  Facebook
•  Soundcloud