Irish Talent in the Spotlight - A Profile of JAM Media
21 March 2017

Irish Talent in the Spotlight - A Profile of JAM Media

Our profile series is a celebration of the very significant achievements and talents of the Irish companies and people who have been successful in their MEDIA funding applications. Since MEDIA came under the Creative Europe Programme in 2014, there have been fifteen Slate Funding Development awards given to twelve different Irish companies totalling over €2.4m.

THE COMPANY: JAM MEDIA 

We talk to JAM Media who have received two Slate Funding Development Awards and two TV Funding awards since 2006. JAM Media, with operations in both Ireland and the United Kingdom, is one of the leading creators and producers of multi-award winning animated and live action content for the children’s and pre-school audience. The company was founded in 2002 by animator friends John Rice, Alan Shannon, and Mark Cumberton.

JAM Media is a leading creator and distributor of children’s content. The company fully controls and exploits all commercial opportunities arising from its intellectual properties through strategic relationships with all parties including broadcasters, digital platforms, publishers, and licensing and merchandising partners across the globe.

The Dingle Animation Festival, a partnership between JAM Media and Dingle International Film Festival, is now in its 5th year and celebrates student creativity and excellence in Irish and International animation. This year the festival runs from 24-25 March; you can check out the nominations for the Irish Animation Awards here.

THE PEOPLE

John Rice is CEO & Co-Founder of JAM Media. John is currently Executive Producer on Becca’s Bunch for Nickelodeon, due to be released in late 2017, and Little Roy which is a joint commission from CBeebies and CBBC. The latter is a spin off series from the original Roy live-action/animation hybrid show, that won numerous international awards including a BAFTA, a Royal Television Society Award, and a Kidscreen Award. John has executive produced Baby Jake, Funky Fables, PICME, and Tilly & Friends. John has also directed the award winning short film Escape and co-produced the short film, Badly Drawn Roy.

Mark Cumberton is Chief Operations Officer & Co-founder of JAM Media since its inception in 2002. Prior to co-founding JAM Media, Mark worked with Walt Disney Feature animation on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules in Paris, and also with Don Bluth Studios in Ireland as a Special Effects Animator.

Mark is currently Producer on Becca’s Bunch and is also producing Little Roy. In 2016, he produced Zogcasts, Zig and Zag, and Roy for CBBC. He was also producer on the BAFTA award winning, Roy, Baby Jake, PICME, Tilly & Friends, and Funky Fables. Mark has also produced several award winning Irish Film Board funded short films such as Badly Drawn Roy and Escape.

MEDIA FUNDING AWARDS for JAM MEDIA

2006 TV Distribution Award for Twisted Tales

2010 TV Broadcasting Scheme for Tilly and Friends

2012 Slate Funding Award

2014 Slate Funding Award which included Becca’s Bunch and Jessy & Nessy

2016 TV Programming Award for Becca’s Bunch

THE QUESTIONS

1. JAM MEDIA has a very solid track record in receiving MEDIA funding. What was the very first project that was funded and how has MEDIA development funding helped your company?

Twisted Tales was our first project to receive MEDIA funding. This project was one of our early TV Series which was built on the success of our personalisation show, PICME. The MEDIA funding for this series gave us the confidence and ability to reach out to the international broadcast community, securing commissions/pre-buys which enabled us to plug the finance gaps in the budget. 

2. Are there specific animators or animation companies that have inspired you?

We have always been influenced by the great animators of the past including Chuck Jones, early Warner Bros shorts, and Ward Kimball and his Disney Feature animation. Don Bluth Studios was particularly influential and inspired a generation of Irish artists.

3. What MEDIA markets, networks or training programmes have helped JAM MEDIA over the years?

Cartoon Forum is a consistent platform for JAM to launch our new development shows and TV Series. JAM have a very successful hit rate at the Forum and the majority of our shows pitched have gone on to full production series so they have been particularly helpful. As you know, we also picked up the prestigious Producer of the Year award in 2012 which further added to JAM’s visibility on the European stage. We regularly attend MIPJunior and MIPCOM and participate in a lot of MEDIA Training programmes such as Screen Leaders and specific individual courses which help tremendously from Senior executive management level to the individual artists involved in production and development projects.   

4. How important are international Creative Europe supported markets and forums such as Cartoon Movie for Irish animation companies?
These markets are really important and have helped grow the industry here in Ireland. Obviously the internal market here in Ireland is small and companies based here must look outwardly to international territories in order to grow. These markets provide a platform for Irish companies and their projects to be recognised and compared to their European counterparts which is vital for further growth. We value these markets and have attended consistently to promote our company and have since gone on to host Markets here in Ireland including Cartoon Finance in both Dublin and Belfast.

5. Do you have any advice or tips for younger companies on what makes a good Slate Funding application?

Communication with your local MEDIA Desk office is probably the most important advice I would give. I absolutely recommend engaging as early as possible with your office. This should not wait until the date for applications is announced because that will probably be too late to have it ready in time! The application is a very involved process and requires a lot of information and time to prepare so I would set aside as much time as possible in advance. Establish the parameters of your application and the development projects clearly. Explain your project and ambitions with your contact so they can best help you. Also, allow time once your application is complete to have a final review with your local Creative Europe MEDIA Desk officer in Dublin or Galway.  

6. You recently had some great news about Becca’s Bunch which was included in your 2015 Slate application…

Becca’s Bunch was selected for MEDIA’s TV Programming Award following commitments from such key European broadcasters as Channel 5, France TV and KiKA, as well as Nickelodeon US. This hybrid TV series series is 52 X 11 minutes in duration and is currently in production. It was originally one of our Slate development projects and it is fantastic to have our show go through the full MEDIA Slate Development process and then become a fully funded production. The development process was extremely helpful allowing us the time to focus on the creation of a new process where we combined digital and traditional techniques resulting in a unique visual tactile style. The Slate Development Funding is very important for companies, such as ourselves, allowing us to explore, breath and grow the project before the rapid pace of production takes over. The Programming Award was hugely beneficial to our project, allowing us to bridge the financing gap and produce a show that competes with the best the international market has to offer. 

7. Tell us more about your involvement in Dingle Animation Festival and this year’s programme.

We founded Animation Dingle with the view to bridging the gap that existed between thrid level colleges and industry. We were unsure of the work that was being created in colleges and universities, and they were unaware of what was coming out of the sector in Ireland. Animation Dingle has since evolved into something that really celebrates both sides of the coin. The annual Animation Dingle Student Awards, the bi-annual Industry awards and conference attracts major international companies  such as Netflix, Amazon, BBC, Disney and Dreamworks, and makes for an event like no other. This coupled with workshops and screenings held in some very cool venues throughout the picturesque town of Dingle mean that Animation Dingle is now firmly placed on the map.

Thanks to JAM Media for a great interview! You can watch the JAM SHOW REEL here.

Orla Clancy from MEDIA Office Dublin will be at the Dingle Animation Festival which kicks off on Friday 25 March with an Industry Conference Day. Creative Europe Desk Ireland MEDIA will partner on a Broadcaster panel at 2.15pm on Friday 25 March, featuring speakers from RTÉ, Netflix, Amazon Studios, CBBC, and Milkshake

If you are an animation producer and would like some advice on applying for the next round of MEDIA Single Project Development funding, you can meet with Orla Clancy from the MEDIA Office who will be at the Festival from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 March. You can contact Orla by email at media@creativeeuropeireland.eu to arrange an appointment.