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Fiona McLaughlin is the co-founder of Taunt Studios, an animation and VFX company who creates thoughtful and interactive imagery. The aim to deliver effective visuals and progressive content for a global audience.

We chatted to Fiona about her process and offered some advice for those looking to start a business within a similar field.

Tell a bit about Taunt and how you started it.

Taunt makes beautiful Animation, realistic VFX and thoughtful Interactive image. The studio is made up of Tom Getty and myself. We love to work on forward thinking projects to deliver effective visuals and progressive content for a global audience.

Tom and I started Taunt as a bit of a pipe dream. Thinking that someday, it would be cool to run our own studio and make the work that really excites us as artists. Having worked together for a short while, we knew that we had a great creative partnership and were bursting with ideas.

That being said, Taunt nearly didn't happen at all. Tom started freelancing and I moved to Berlin. Eventually, I decided to move back to Belfast and it felt like a now or never moment for us both to start the studio. 

How did you get into the industry? What did you study?

Like many bright-eyed enthusiastic young creatives, I left school with a portfolio and applied for a foundation year of study at Ulster University's Belfast School of Art. Would you believe I wanted to do ceramics! 

I gravitated towards fine art print making and graphic design, eventually taking graphic design as my main field of study. It really wasn't until one of my lectures at the time prompted me to do the new animation course, that I had even thought about animation. 

I started to become aware and active in the animation industry through this course; and where I learned the value of working as a strong team, communicating effectively and discovering the excitement in taking a bold creative risk. It was some of the best times in my life!

What's your favourite part of the process for making this content?

Ah, this is such a difficult question! As a small studio, we have to cover all aspects of the process to create each body of work. Eventually, you fall in love with each stage of the project for different reasons. But if I had to pick, it's probably in the final stages of a project where you get to see the whole effort of the team coming together and paying off.

What's are your thoughts on the community of animation/VFX in Northern Ireland?

It's small, but mighty! NI Screen has been a massive support to the community of Animation/VFX in Northern Ireland; training and funding local talent to reach an international audience at an international standard. 

This goes hand-in-hand with the development of skills through Ulster University. All of which help the animation community grow and become more competitive with other creative hotspots for animation.

Any tips/advice for those looking to start their own business in this field?

We are a very new/small studio at the moment, so my advise may not be overly extensive -  but I'll definitely say three main things that we have found super helpful. 

1. Start with a solid team of people you can trust and work well with. Tom and I had built up an experience of working together through many projects before starting the studio. We know how each other cope under pressure and what our individual strengths are in the creative process. 
2. Never be afraid to ask for help. Whether its trying to find a solution to your buggy software in online forums, trying to find a way to reach more clients or asking another studio to collaborate on a big project. Maintaining a level of communication and understanding with the industry around you can really help you achieve over and above for your clients and business.
3. Lastly, don't be a dick. Sometimes the creative industries can be cut throat, but nobody likes to work with a dick. So cut the bullshit, be sound, help others and give back as much as you take. It will help in places you least expect it.