North Boy South is Simon Robson, a freelance director hailing from Wakefield West Yorkshire now living and working way down south in Sydney.
Originally making a name for himself with his distinctive animation and motion graphics work, Simon’s creative curiosity has seen him branch out into mixed-media, and live-action mediums. Throughout his almost 20 year career, Simon has worked in commercials, TV, interaction-design and projections, short and long-form film and political-arts projects. Simon’s film and commercial work has brought him many awards and accolades over the last two decades, but nothing makes him so happy as simply falling in love with a new idea and bringing it to life.
Starting out as a freelance animator in London in the early 2000s, Simon quickly felt the need to to use his new found skills to communicate beyond the selling of products for big brands. So in June of 2003, he decided to record his neighbour and resident political-thinker Barry McNamara talking about the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq and what Barry called ‘War Corporatism’. Simon then spent 8 months bringing Barry’s words to life in his trademark constructivist typographic style and his first short film ‘What Barry Says’ was born. To Simon’s surprise, the film was a major hit. Launching at the much acclaimed onedotzero moving-image festival in London, it toured the world with Resfest and played at more festivals than Simon ever kept track of, winning best animation at The London Portobello Film Festival and The Brooklyn International Film Festival. It also earned Simon a death-threat from a company of US Marine cadets.
Signing to Nexus Productions as an animation director in 2005, Simon was flung into the world of advertising. The approach Simon had developed for ‘What Barry Says’ was soon co-opted by Nike, Adidas and other major brands. The work was good but the soul was running dry. So in the Summer of 2006 when Chris Atkins, the UK’s ‘enfant terrible’ of the documentary scene reached out to Simon to direct the animation of his upcoming feature documentary ‘Taking Liberties’, Simon jumped at the chance. ‘Taking Liberties’ aimed to lift the lid on the Blair government’s decimation of civil liberties in the UK. Simon partnered with Nexus Productions and a crack team of freelance animators to bring to life points of history illustrating how civil liberties had been eroded throughout the ages. A great success, the film had a major theatrical release playing nationwide at over 100 venues. Taking Liberties was nominated for a BAFTA in 2008 for the Carl Foreman award for best film by a first time director.
2007 saw Simon’s second foray down south, the time a little bit further than London as he and his wife ventured to the southern hemisphere to set up home in Sydney.
Travel means new relationships and during Simon’s first year in Sydney he was lucky enough to meet Tim Rayner, a philosopher and writer teaching ‘Philosophy for change’, a course with had a strong environmental thread running through it. Simon & Tim’s first meeting revealed an immediate synergy and the two started writing the script for what would become ‘Coalition of The Willing’.
Fast forward to April 2009. Armed with a few motion tests and a heap of ideas on swarm theory, Tim & Simon pitched their concept for a collaborative animated film on global warming to 1000 fellow designers and motion artists at the first F5 festival in New York. Soon enough a network of 24 artists and studios from around the world came on board to help create the film. Together Simon and his collaborators turned Tim Rayner’s words into a rich visual tapestry using varied and eclectic film making techniques. The film took on a life of its own, becoming something much greater and more varied than Simon and Tim had ever imagined. Launching on The Guardian newspaper website in 2010, the film began it’s 3 year tour of film-festivals worldwide. Coalition of The Willing won best animation awards at Flickerfest, San Francisco Green Film Festival and Animation at The Hamptons. Coalition also placed in the top 5 at The Vimeo Film Festival and was part of the Design of The Year exhibition at The London Design Museum. Ron Garan the NASA astronaut became
a firm fan of the film.
Sydney and Australia have now become Simon’s permanent home. North Boy is well and truly South. Since living in Sydney Simon has been fortunate enough to hold creative director positions at Engine Productions, Animal Logic and Sixty40 directing a plethora of highly acclaimed national campaigns. Stand-out work includes spots for Taubmans, Chartered Accountants ANZ (D&AD winner 2017), Coca-Cola, Kmart, The Iconic and Mount Franklin.
Simon is always keen to make new relationships and discuss new projects. To speak to Simon about something exciting, something altruistic or hopefully both, say hello at:
Representation Europe, UK, USA:
EP: Duncan Gaman
(+44) 788 697 2305