Studio Profiles Stephen Fagan
12th Apr 2018
In this first in a series of profile features we'll be taking a look into the inner workings of Treehouse Republic and getting to know the creative minds who work there. In this post we'll be focusing on the history of Treehouse Republic. Managing director and founding member Stephen Fagan spoke out about how individuality was and is still one of the cornerstones of Treehouse Republic, and how the company came to be based around that ideal.
Stephen has been involved in animation since 1996, where he attended an animation course in Ballyfermot. His start in Ballyfermot was the beginning of his involvement in the animation industry but his passion for animation stems from early in his life. It was his ' interest in comic books, that sparked his love for visual storytelling, which he described as "a natural progression to animation". Talking about his experiences in animation courses, he recalled his time in Ballyfermot. He described the course as "great for building the practical and fundamental skills needed in animation: understanding how to animate, how to draw". Besides Ballyfermot he also attended animation courses in Colaiste Dhulaigh and Wolverhampton. "Colaiste Dhulaigh was more focused on the technical end of things, learning how to use the tools provided to us." He describes the education environment around animation as having changed drastically over the years, with many more resources having been made available to aspiring animators.
While Stephen today has moved to a managerial and strategic role within the company as of 2010, his passion for animation hasn't changed in the slightest. "I still watch Saturday morning cartoons, I'm a big kid at heart. I'm just genuinely interested in telling genuinely good stories. Animation's great because you're not bound by the laws of physics or the laws of nature. You can make anything happen. And that's what really attracted me to animation, you have complete freedom to bring your ideas to life."
As for the how Treehouse Republic came to be and how it continues to develop? "We'd like to think there was a grand plan, but... nothing's linear really. We decided to go into business on our own and the reason we wanted to set up on our own was, back in the early noughties there was no real animation work in Ireland. There were about 90 people working in animation in Ireland. Nothing was really specified: you could be doing backgrounds one week, doing design and illustration the next week, and doing actual animation months after that. There were no solid roles."
"Myself and Dave went to Australia for a while, and when we came back we decided that we had to make the jobs for ourselves, so that's where we started. We wanted to make more jobs and make things better for the industry over here. There were already some business and companies here, but we decided we had to do it for ourselves, to get some control over our lives, otherwise we would've had to go abroad. That was how Treehouse Republic really got started: we had to do something to make our lives better here. Essentially when we started off myself and Dale were a partnership called Box Creative. We were just two glorified animators essentially, under a company brand. Treehouse Republic was the next step from Box Creative, Kevin and Graham joined us after that. So in essence, the reason we set up the company was to give ourselves a job and to be creative, to be masters of our own destiny."
"The plan really only came to be in year three, where we had a group of about 54 people, and for a while the business was thriving. We had loads of really great and talented people, but we were lacking structure.. It was the toughest year of our lives, but it was also an important learning experience. It was when we started wondering who we were, where we were going, what we wanted to do and how to use our creative talents to visualise what we wanted to be."
"Since then we've focused on developing the company, developing our skills, evolving to become what we are now: an authentic Treehouse Republic that no-one else can be. We love doing what we're doing, we've got great people here, and we're all about creating the best environment and studio to work in, that people will want to work in. That's what we want to be. The general plan comes from knowing who we are, and striving towards becoming the best version of our ourselves and the company. And through that things start to happen."