South African animation studio Triggerfish is expanding with the opening of a new studio in Ireland to access large tax credits and talent in the European Union. It marks the first time the prodco behind Mama K’s Team 4 (pictured) has set up operations outside its home country.
“I’ve seen the industry in South Africa grow in the last 25 years. But the industry is still young, and we have lots of productions that could benefit from access to the deeply talented artists in Ireland and the EU,” says CEO Stuart Forrest.
Ireland was a natural choice, he says. The similar time zones make communicating between offices easier. The country also has a large talent pool, and the expansion gives Triggerfish access to generous tax credits that can’t be matched in South Africa, Forrest adds. The Irish tax credit covers up to 37% of production for film, TV and animation projects, and those that are substantially produced in the region also benefit from an additional 5% boost.
The new studio will include a unit focused on animation for big-budget games initially, but an expansion into TV and film production is expected to follow at a later point. The new location is supported by the Irish government through foreign direct investment management agency IDA Ireland. Triggerfish plans to hire 60 new people for the space over the next three years.
Producer Andy Wonnacott heads up the Irish office, and has begun hiring new talent. The studio’s first employee joined yesterday, but is working remotely in Spain on the gaming division side. Hiring for the TV and features teams will start next year as projects in development gear up for production, says Wonnacott. Once the pandemic passes, most of the studio’s new hires will largely be working out of the new office, he adds.
Expanding during COVID-19 has been tricky because the team hasn’t been able to travel to Ireland for months, says Forrest. But as an animation studio, Triggerfish has been able to pivot to working remotely without much impact on productivity. The lockdown in Ireland eased last month, and the studio can now open up, though the government is still advising that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so if possible. To comply, the company plans to keep its teams working remotely for the near future, adds Forrest.
The South African animation studio has seen a surge in demand for its work recently. Triggerfish is in production on Mama K’s Team 4 for Netflix—the SVOD’s first original African animated TV series—as well as its third feature film, action/comedy Seal Team. Taking advantage of a location where there is already a booming animation industry will help the studio keep up with its current workload, and save money by not having to outsource the work to other studios, adds Forrest.
Beyond its own IPs, Triggerfish has also been doing service work on a number of feature films produced by London-based Magic Light Pictures, including International Emmy-winning Zog, The Snail and the Whale and The Highway Rat.
“We have a lot of work and not enough people to do it,” he says. “There’s a culture of creativity in Ireland that seeps through the country’s animation, and we want to tap into that. We’ve been focused on broadening and getting into games, TV and movies, and this has opened us up to many creators in South Africa. The hope is we can replicate that in Ireland. We have a lot of work, and we’re ready to grow production.”