Success is a big word, and to creatives (which makes up the entirety of our team) the word is often overlooked. Success, to us, is the dream working in a big studio on projects with the likes of Disney or Industrial Light & Magic.
The point being, as ambitious creatives we all have our sights set on reaching up to the stars. So, rarely we award ourselves the acknowledgement of the success we have already achieved.
The Team at Aura Digital Studios are no different.
This week we were given the opportunity by Ulster University (UU) to introduce ourselves to the world. UU reached out to a few of our business advisors, asking if we would be up for appearing in an article about setting up a business during Covid19.
The Article (Including a video by my lovely self) can be seen here!
At first we thought “Amazing!” that would be a great way to get our name out there, establish our brand and spread the word about our work! To us, initially, the article was more of a means to an end than a celebration of what we have overcome this year.
Aura Digital Studios, as stated in the ‘We Got This’ video, was conceived around march of 2020.
To set the scene; Covid19 was on everybody’s tongue, We still weren't aware of just how bad things were going to get and there were only a few cases of covid19 in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile Dónal and myself were sitting around Eva’s coffee table, sipping District coffee and panicking about placement. We had applied to the NI Screen placement scheme that was provided through our University and were awaiting results/interviews when we decided we needed something to fall back on.
(Our directors left to right - Josh McAvoy, Creative and Technical Director - Dónal Rainey, Art Director and 2D Specialist - Eva Robinson, Director of Operations and Creative Producer)
Placement options were looking bleak even before Covid19 hit, with one of the largest animation companies in the country laying off around 60 of their staff. In addition, only around 5 or 6 places were available through the placement scheme and some actually dropped out of the running later on.
So while sipping our overpriced coffee and eating slices of buttered madeira cake, we decided, “Right, if we’re out of options, it’s time to create our own.” and that is the oversimplified history of how Aura Digital was founded.
Since then, Aura has worked with some amazing people and a few big names. We applied to enter our business idea into the running with the Enterprise scheme at Ulster University and actually got in. Our first big success. We were paired up with a mentor called Chris Shannon who guided us through setting up our service, got us in touch with a lot of really awesome people and pointed us in the directions he thought would be best for us to take.
We started working with UUSU very quickly on translating their already existing ‘Student voice’ brand over to work in video format and they quickly became our first repeat clients.
Chris’s input led us to apply to enter the Belfast Enterprise Academy. From there we were given specialist industry level mentorship and were introduced to a handful of major marketing agencies, one of which being Digital24. Their Director, Niamh, has been a great help to us in terms of mentorship and we have formed a close relationship with them as a company, working with a few of their clients.
This year our team also pitched a 30 second sting to ‘Dingle Animation Film Festival’ or ‘Dingle’ for short. Dingle is one of the top animation festivals in Europe so we were quite excited when we found out our pitch was successful! Through this we have been entered into the running for a ‘YouTube Kids’ Award [last years winners] and our sting will be screened to the audience when the festival takes place.
We are also working alongside two other local companies on a ‘Future Screens NI’ funded project. We are working to produce an augmented reality short animation that will be exhibited at the peace walls in Belfast.
For a team of artists with no real prior interest in business, we’ve taken to it like a high poly duck to a pool of accurately simulated water.
So when you’re doing all this stuff, your mind always seems to be in the ‘on’ position. If you’re doing work for a client, you’re thinking about getting finished on time and if your work is of good enough quality. When you’re not working you’re thinking about sourcing your next contract, or coming up with ideas for blog posts you won’t get around to posting.
That headspace leaves little room for reflection. Of course you reflect on stuff you’ve learned and things you might want to do differently. But giving ourselves the time to sit back and look at how far we’ve come in the span of only a year, tends not to enter the picture. So we’re grateful that Ulster University has done the work for us on that front!
We’d like to say a big thank you to all the mentors who have gotten us to where we are today. Chris Shannon and Naomi Browne from the enterprise scheme, Nancy and Deirdre from the Belfast Enterprise Academy, and many others along the way. Now it’s our job to keep our noses to the grindstone and keep creating killer content!
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