When Claire Matz left Tokyo last August after completing a three-month internship at Yapiko Animation, she figured she wouldn’t be able to return until she’d paid off her student loans.
Now, the 2019 graduate of French animation school Gobelins is packing her bags much sooner than expected. Last month, at the Annecy International Animation Festival, Matz won the inaugural Netflix Animation Fellowship, an initiative between the SVOD and Gobelins that awards one graduate the opportunity to work alongside Netflix Japan’s burgeoning animation team. The year-long program will see Matz developing original anime titles and strengthening her technical and creative skills.
The fellowship comes as demand for anime is growing worldwide, particularly in the US on streaming services. According to the Association of Japanese Animation’s 2018 Anime Industry Report, the Japanese anime market reported US$19.1 billion in revenue in 2017 due largely to content deals with US SVOD platforms. And overseas anime sales—including box office, television rights, remake rights, home entertainment sales and merchandising—jumped 30% to US$8.81 billion in 2017.
With the growth, Netflix US continues to expand its original anime development slate with new series including Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045—a 3D CG-animated co-production with Tokyo’s Production I.G—and a yet-to-be-named tween-skewing Pacific Rim spin-off from Legendary Entertainment (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu).
Netflix Japan, meanwhile, announced its first original anime, Eden. The four x 22-minute sci-fi series features an international creative team led by series creator and Qubic Pictures CEO Justin Leach (Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Japanese animator Yasuhiro Irie (Cowboy Bebop) is directing, while French-born Japan-based animator Christophe Ferreira is lead concept designer.
For the new Netflix Animation Fellowship, which begins August 1, Matz knows she’ll be doing visual development—everything from character and background design to props and storyboarding—but she’s yet to find out the projects she’ll be working on or who she’ll be working with under Netflix Japan’s head of content John Derderian.
“It is kind of a jump into the unknown,” says Matz, who fell in love with anime as a tween.
To apply, Gobelins students were required to submit a portfolio, a demo reel and a cover letter in English. Then Skype interviews were held with Netflix and three applicants were shortlisted, with Matz coming out on top. Getting to work for a large foreign company was one of Matz’ long-term goals when she entered Gobelins four years ago.
“It’s a unique opportunity. I’m really interested to discover how the projects are built because I’ve never worked for a company as big as Netflix,” she says. “I’ve only done visual development for myself and my school projects.”
With a passion for managing teams and creating projects, Matz also aspires to become a director and learn from established industry talent. “I hope to get a job as an assistant director and get to know the job under a talented director that I love, like Cartoon Saloon’s Nora Twomey or French director Rémi Chayé,” she says.
Despite many unknowns, Matz says her transition to professional animation will be made easier by her internship/freelance experience at Yapiko. “It was a good test for living and working in Tokyo and because a small team of French artists were there with me, I was able to feel more comfortable.”
As Matz prepares for her new professional education, she says up-and-coming animators should always maintain a strong work ethic, meet a lot of people and be friendly.
“Be nice to everyone because you never know what could happen,” she says. “And if you want to work for companies abroad and offer something, it’s important to know that inspiration comes from everywhere. While I’m inspired by Shin’Ichiro Watanabe, the Japanese director of Cowboy Bebop, I also love movies like Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.”