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Olivia Hylton animated – Bath Spa University

Bath Spa graduate illustrates what it is to be Black, female and animated

Friday, 13 October, 2023

Bath Spa graduate Olivia Hylton has found her place among the Moomins, working in the animation industry. On 16 October 2023, she will return to Bath Spa as a guest speaker.  

Her session titled Black, Female and Animated: Breaking Barriers in the Animation Industry is part of the University’s lineup of events to celebrate Black History Month. To coincide with this year’s theme of Celebrating Our Sisters, Olivia will be highlighting the achievements of black women in animation. Her talk focuses on what the industry looks like for black women today, and how they can overcome challenges. 

Olivia started out wanting to be in front of the camera as a performer, trying her hand at ballet, jazz, tap and acting. Even then, she was conscious of the lack of representation there was for people who looked like her.  

“I wasn’t passionate enough about performing to pursue it professionally, so I thought I’d fit in behind the camera instead!” she said. “I’ve always been a big Baz Luhrmann fan, and it was Moulin Rouge that really got me obsessed with ‘behind the scenes’ magic. When I was 16, I decided I wanted to work in film.”  

After graduating with a First Class BA (Hons) in Film, Television and Digital Production and working a few jobs in live action, Olivia realised that the magic had begun to fade. Landing a job at the famous Aardman Animations studio helped her to find her love of animation.  

“Towards the end of my first year in live action, I was offered the job at Aardman. I worked hard, was offered a promotion in my first year and soon realised animation is where my passion lies.” 

Olivia has capitalised on that opportunity and now works as a Story Coordinator at Gutsy Animations, which produces the animated show Moominvalley. Alongside regular meetings, planning and troubleshooting, she spends her time immersed in review sessions, watching animated story boards known as ‘animatics’ and preparing resources for artists.  

“It’s a big jigsaw puzzle, and my job is to make sure the story department is fitting its pieces together,” she said. 

Olivia credits her course at Bath Spa with giving her production-based skills and confidence, which has helped her in her career. Talking about the experience she gained, Olivia said: 

“The course gave me a good understanding of roles that I wasn’t too familiar with before. We’ve all heard of the title ‘producer’ – but what does one actually do? I was able to try out more production-based roles and found I really excelled at it. My confidence working in groups improved greatly; communication and being able to adapt to different people is one thing that will get you far!” 

Olivia’s work also allows her to affect the kind of change she wants to see within the industry and the media it produces, particularly for the next generation. Talking about what inspires her, she said: 

“Although I don’t have any of my own, children inspire me every day. I think the work I do now is all in aid of healing my inner child, making sure she is heard. Whether we like it or not, media is going to be consumed by children and young people and it has a huge influence on their wellbeing and development. Representation is still important to me and is my main driving force.” 

That driving force is also one of the reasons why Olivia wanted to be part of Bath Spa’s Black History Month events. Reflecting on this, she said: 

“I wanted to come back to Bath Spa and give a talk because when I was a student, a lot of the material was white centric, the demographic of my course was mostly white and I was often the only woman in a lot of smaller group projects. To me, this evidenced why there is such a lack of diversity within the industry. I hope my talk can be understood by everyone, and they can take away something productive from it.” 

Black, Female and Animated: Breaking Barriers in the Animation Industry is on Monday 16 October at 3:00pm. The event will also be streamed online.

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