Published 24th November 2023

Spotlight Series: Yasmina El-Khatib & Amy Smith - Creative Interns

This week, we're shining the spotlight on Creative Interns, Yasmina El-Khatib and Amy Smith, who each completed three months at Aardman through our partnership with Bristol Creative Industries.

Tell us about your role at Aardman – describe a typical day:

Amy: This question is really hard because my role as an intern here at Aardman varies from department to department. I am constantly changing week to week from where I am. One minute I could be shadowing a production manager on the new Wallace & Gromit film, and the next day I could be creating some fast edits for promo material for the Very Small Creatures.

What did you think your internship at Aardman would be like?

Yasmina: More than anything I expected it to be fun. I’d visited the building with my uni a few months prior and the place itself is so colourful and full of character that working there could only be fun. And speaking to [Talent and Production Manager] Celia before the start of the internship confirmed that I would get to work in the areas that interest me the most so I knew that I would have a good three months.

Amy: Nothing like what it has been! It has been even better than I thought. I wasn't expecting to be working/ exploring multiple departments across the company and learning about each role.

What is your biggest take-away from the internship at Aardman and how will you use this to further your career?

Yasmina: I would say my biggest take-away was on a personal level. Working on these projects and getting to make things as a job made me realise that this is where I’m happiest and that I want to keep doing it every day. At university I was still just experimenting with different stages of film making in stop-motion but this internship solidified that fabrication is where I belong. Because of this I want to take a more specialised modelmaking course in the near future where I can expand my skillset and gain more experience.

Amy: My biggest takeaway from this internship has been “Don’t let anything hold you back”.  Being diagnosed with an auto immune disease in the past couple of years I didn't expect to be where I am now. I knew I wanted to give this internship my full commitment to prove to myself that I am able and have the skills to work in the creative industries regardless of my auto immune disease being what I thought was a setback. Especially with the support, understanding and encouragement that Aardman has given me whilst I've been here, I know that I can defy previous negative bias suggesting that I needed to reconsider my career choices. The Aardman ED&I policy on boarding process helped me accommodate any working patterns hours and adjustments I needed so I have been able to really fulfil my aspirations and progress whilst I have been here.

Did your time at Aardman meet your expectations?

Amy: Aardman has exceeded my expectations from the support all the way through to being placed on multiple exciting projects. Such as the new Wallace & Gromit film. Shadowing various key roles within the production team, especially sitting in on story development and voice recordings. I have also been able to learn, develop and reflect on multiple skillsets that I already have.

So far, what’s your favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?

Yasmina: Working on the upcoming Wallace & Gromit film was beyond amazing. I spent a few weeks in the puppet department as well as the art department, and making props and moulds for the film was very fun. It was also great to get to do this in a professional setting and find out what goes into making a stop-motion film as opposed to just working on smaller projects at uni.

Amy: The Very Small Creatures. I helped edit some promo material for the second series, working alongside Senior Content Creative Howie Clarke. I found it empowering that he trusted me with an initial creative task. He gave me minimal feedback and asked me to take full responsibility to complete the whole job from start to finish. I am excited to be receiving some feedback from Lucy Izzard who is the director of this series on the work that I have created. I have especially just loved creating content for these awesome little creatures. If you haven't seen them go give them a look, they're cute, adorable and funny!

To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?

Yasmina: It’s got to be working on the Wallace and Gromit film. I hadn’t even graduated from uni when I did that!

Amy: Well really this whole internship and actually ending up at Aardman has been my biggest achievement to date! But precisely whilst I've been here, I would have to say creating social media content that will actually be used and posted out to the public.

Name three people/things who inspire you and why?

Yasmina: First one is an artist: Derek Riggs, who designed the album and single covers for Iron Maiden in the 80s. His work inspires me so much (which admittedly originally started out due to my love of the band), I would spend countless hours at school attempting to recreate his depictions of Eddie (Iron Maiden mascot), trying to capture all the details and textures. I would do this in different mediums (pencil, paint…) and it greatly improved my drawing skills and attention to detail. Even now when I’m trying out a new art form (CG modelling for example) I’ll try an Eddie because I’ve become so familiar with the character and I find it helps me catch on quicker.

Second inspiration is a film: Coraline. When I first watched it at around aged six I had nightmares for weeks, but when I decided to give it another go years later I fell in love with the movie and watched it over and over again. The story, the visuals, the music, the atmosphere, everything about it is flawless in my opinion, and learning more about it is what drew me into the world of stop-motion and made me want to be a part of it.

Third inspiration is a band: Swedish metal band Avatar. They almost have their own little dark universe within their music which makes it so enticing to me. The storytelling in their songs as well as the characters they’ve created of themselves are very inspiring to me and always gets my creative juices flowing. I often listen to their song Puppet Show while working on my own puppets! It is a secret dream of mine to one day somehow get to work on a music video for them as I find their whole style would lend itself so well to stop-motion animation.

Amy: My first ever mentor Bex Rose gave me an eye opener into the film industry. She was my mentor when I took part in the BFI Film Academy back in 2019. She encouraged me and pushed me to do my absolute best. 

The two lovely ladies at Black Bark Films, Jo Barker and Holly Black. They are both Bristol-based documentary filmmakers. I will always look up to these two. They've taught me massive amounts about the industry and how to be within the world.

Celia Hunt, CGI Production Talent Manager here at Aardman. She has been my mentor and more! From conducting this internship, helping me make connections, listening and understanding what I would like to achieve whilst I am here. But also, just being an incredible role model that I will always look up to and keep in contact with for the rest of my career and my life really!

There are so many people that I could mention - Holly Churches, Howie Clarke, Neil Warwick, Sophie Jackson, Lucy Izzard honestly the list goes on. I have met so many incredible people whilst I have been here!

A big inspiration as well would be taking some time out for myself. Going for a walk, exercising. This time really helps me to reflect and also always more ideas and inspiration come to the forefront of my mind.

Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?

Yasmina: It has to be Feathers McGraw. He’s just too iconic. I even designed a black metal inspired t-shirt of him during my internship.

Amy: The Nina Simone music video “My Baby Just Cares for me” that Aardman did at the very start. The cat in this video. I was just mesmerized by it when I was a kid. I remember constantly having it repeat! To then find myself working here - words can't describe how amazed I am and grateful.

How has the internship programme including your time at Aardman shaped your future goals in the creative industries?

Yasmina: This internship programme has solidified my goal of specialising in making for film and stop motion animation. It’s given me guidance and tools to take the next steps to achieve this goal. Its also made me discover that I really enjoy digital 3D sculpting which is something I can see myself getting further into.

Amy: I now feel like I am able to get stuck into the industry in a job. It has made me realise that production management is the career path I want to follow. I know I’ll be applying for production management assistant roles.

What are you planning to do next?

Yasmina: My goal is to undertake a more specialised course in the world of fabrication so that I gain more experience and expand my skillset.

Amy: I am extremely excited to be working here at Aardman as a Production Runner on an upcoming project.