Paper Owl Films — creators of CBeebies animated hit series Pablo, uplifting TV movie Sol and RTS Ireland Television Award-nominated Ladybird & Bee — is launching its annual work placement scheme specifically aimed at aspiring animators who are on the autistic spectrum. Dubbed the ‘Pablo Academy’, the scheme is open to any neurodivergent person over 18 years of age in the U.K. and reflects the studio’s commitment to improving diversity in the industry.
The scheme also stems from the company’s experience working with autistic talent on two series of Pablo and a growing recognition that neurodiverse minds, although currently under-represented, offer a unique and highly creative approach to animation. Paper Owl Films’ aim is to change this situation, and it has timed the Pablo Academy’s launch to coincide with World Autism Acceptance Day on April 2.
“Paper Owl Films celebrates all kinds of minds,” commented Gavin Halpin, the studio’s MD. “We value neurodivergent talent and we want to attract it to our industry. The Pablo Academy is designed to make that first step — obtaining vital work experience — more accessible so we find and unlock people’s creativity which until now may have been suppressed due to barriers to entry.”
Out of the open applications, two suitable candidates will be offered six-week placements in May/June this year, working alongside production teams either at the company’s HQ in Belfast or remotely. Placements will be paid or unpaid depending on the individual’s personal circumstances, which will be assessed after the applicant has been appointed.
The recruitment process — often a barrier for many autistic people applying for jobs in any industry — has been designed to be as accessible as possible with a How to Apply session on Zoom (recorded and transcripted) and a simple application form.
The Pablo Academy is not just about work experience. Paper Owl Films is going one step further in helping neurodivergent minds enter the industry by guaranteeing each candidate who completes their six-week placement a job interview for an animation role on a broadcast production within 18 months of graduation.
The program is supported by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funding to ensure that each successful candidate benefits from experienced industry mentors throughout the placement. Paper Owl Films has also partnered with Specialisterne, an international organization providing guidance on ensuring equal opportunities within the labor market, to ensure each candidate gets the most out of their placement and that the company’s processes and systems are fully accessible to individual needs.
“The BFI are delighted to lend their support to the Pablo Academy,” said Jennifer Smith, Head of Inclusion at the BFI. “A great opportunity for aspiring animators who identify as neuro-divergent, but also recognises the importance of mentorship in supporting, nurturing and developing the next generation of talent joining our industry.”