Keynote: Don’t Waste Talented People on Boring Stuff, Warns Nicolaï Troshinsky

Russian-born filmmaker Nicolaï Troshinsky studied illustration in Spain, Italy and France. He has experience as a freelance illustrator and independent video game developer. His game Loop Raccord has been presented at numerous festivals and exhibitions. His short film Astigmatismo,  released in 2013, was screened at Sundance, Annecy, Sitges and other festivals, receiving multiple awards. Since 2009 he has participated as a tutor at workshops, talks and animation schools, sharing his various experiences in different fields.

His largest project so far is Card Shark, a video game currently under development that focuses on the history of card games, specifically the professional cheaters of 18th century France. Inspired by Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, as “no work comes from nowhere and every idea has a background”, Troshinsky and his team have worked on the game for 3 years already.

During that time, he invented his visual style, based on handmade mono-printed stamped illustrations. He uploads his black and white prints and uses animation programs to color them and put them together. “I like combining traditional with digital in all the ways I see fit. The tool must work for you, not you for the tool,” as he puts it. But he also warns that overuse of computer programs can sometimes make things harder. “Learn tricks that enable you to do as little work as necessary for the desired effect. Remember that the dumb solution is sometimes the best one. Doing it by hand is always the most foolproof way to go. And sometimes, surprisingly, it is faster to draw than to try to program too much complex stuff” Troshinsky believes every project needs its own approach. “I don’t care about having a consistent style. I want the project to have the style it needs.

He also warns that a product as large as a computer game requires discovering ways to make the work easier. The same goes for film. His key advice is “Establish your simplifications early, make them part of the style and you can save yourself a lot of trouble. The ways that perspective, shapes and movement work don’t need to be realistic, they just need to look good. Time management is crucial because things can get out of hand quickly and, besides, irregularities are often perceived as beautiful. People really appreciate when games look different.

When you make a big, complicated project like this, you learn a lot of things,” he maintains. “And video games have a lot to give and to teach animators and illustrators.” One can also learn from past mistakes. Forest of Sleep was a failed project, based on Eastern European folk tales, that swallowed three years. “It was very complicated and the failure devastated us, but I learned what I could and could not do with the medium,“ he claims.

Troshinsky also cares a lot about co-operation with others. He tries to capture the essence of every single artist he works with: how much work can they do, what are their strengths. “There is a lot of boring work that brings little immediate satisfaction to a creative person. It is questionable to use a highly talented artist for mechanical work. It can burn through their talent and dedication. I advise not making talented people do what anybody can do.” This kind of labor can be offered to fresh graduate students without experience, who will be glad to make some money and have the opportunity to learn from others.

“If I ever do a project as big as this one again, I will try to get every single person to understand the meaning behind the work. I have learned that everyone needs to work conscientiously, with a goal and reason, so everyone feels fulfilled,” concludes Troshinsky.

The event was part of the CEE Animation Experience series and took place in co-operation with the Primanima World Festival of First Animation 2022. Now, you can watch the entire session here.

CEE Animation Experience is supported by Creative Europe MEDIA and the International Visegrad Fund.


CEE Animation is supported by the Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union and co-funded by state funds and foundations and professional organisations from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

More info