Nick Kempt & Emma Camden

Animation studio ZAC Toons has recently launched Mr Patel, a fantastic series of animation shorts created by Nick Kempt and Emma Camden.
The episodes revolve around an eccentric Indian convenience store owner, his love interest, and the local thugs. It’s an extremely well crafted, vibrant, and of course funny piece of work which is well worth checking out.

Hello Nick and Emma. First off, tell us a little about yourselves:
Nick: I’ve been doing all types of things within the creative field. I first trained in painting and fine art, but moved onto After Effects animation for corporate CD-ROM presentations, then 3D modeling and animation, then concept design for the games industry, and now I’m predominantly using Flash for character design and animation. Changing around keeps things interesting, but at the moment I’m finding 2D animation a lot of fun to produce because I’ve always been a cartoon fan.

Emma: I’ve had similar training to Nick, but chose to focus on design and illustration rather than animation and 3D work. After graduating from art college, I spent several years designing user interfaces for a company who specialized in creating corporate CD-ROM presentations. Working there gave me a good grasp on applications like Photoshop and Illustrator, but since then I’ve become more interested in cartoon character design and have discovered that I prefer using Flash for creating characters for animation. In my current role as one of the lead creatives at ZAC Toons I tend to spend most of my time using Flash for character design, and Photoshop for background design.

You have both been working on a series of mobile cartoons called “Mr. Patel”. How did you come up with the idea?
Nick: From the interesting characters in my family, plus our travels in India: a lot of the phrases and gestures we used were taken from the colourful characters we encountered over there. One great experience on a train in India involved a conversation with a group of men about the price of safety pins in Australia – totally odd. The visual inspiration came from the brownsploitation movies of Bollywood in the 70′s like Don (think of Shaft or Superfly but with an Indian aesthetic).

Emma: Since meeting Nick, I’ve enjoyed learning about Indian culture, and so I tend to read a lot of novels by Indian authors. I’ve gradually become familiar with some of the colloquial language and customary gestures used in India, which in the right context can be quite comical – we’d seen TV shows like Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 43 and were aware that both of these shows derive their humour from the same theme we wanted to explore.

You both have written as well as produced the series. How do you approach the creative process?
Nick: We bounce ideas off each other, because we seem to be less productive if one of us attempts to write anything alone. We start by trying to think up visuals gags and then see how they can be linked together into a story.

Emma: Yes, we try to work out a way of having each gag or ‘event’ lead to a certain outcome, and that outcome would somehow lead on to the next gag, and so on. Then we write the dialogue together, which is always fun. And Nick will then storyboard everything roughly, and we’ll work out how to break up the script into episodes: this step can be a bit of a challenge, because we have to keep in mind that all episodes must run for the same duration as well as each having a dramatic ending that will make the viewer want to see the next one.

What else have you guys been working on recently?
Emma: We do a lot of short, 30 second animated wallpapers, so at the moment we are trying to come up with some new concepts and characters for these. We’re also creating some animations for a TV network.

What is inspiring you in Australia at the moment?
Nick: Well, due to our recent move to the Perth hills, it would have to be nature. It’s very inspirational. And music.

Emma: Same for me, but I also get a lot of inspiration by looking at design blogs on the internet. Not necessarily Australian, but very inspiring. It’s a good way to keep up with what other designers and illustrators are creating without having to do all the searching myself – I leave all the hard work of discovering new talent and finding new inspirational websites to the bloggers.

What do you love about Australia?
Nick: The space, the landscape and the lizards.

Emma: The laid-back nature of people over here; the climate; and the fact that our population is a lot smaller than other developed nations.

What would you change?
Emma: I guess because we are a smaller country, we do miss out on a lot over here. Compared to the UK and US, we don’t get as many music & art events happening over here. And our galleries and museums are very small in comparison.


«Back to Features


  1. Hey Nick
    Ant and say hello

    Chris Painter, February 1st, 2009 at 7:19 pm
  2. Nick, Emma, Australian Edge:

    Mr. Patel is hardly fantastic, funny, or creative. Mr. Patel is merely the American minstrel show brought into the modern age – instead of lampooning blacks, now it is Indians. Instead of a live show, it is now done in animated shorts delivered to your laptop.

    Maybe therein lies your creativity – you’ve discovered how to modernize racism. Congrats Australia!

    Debasish Mishra, March 20th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

submit a comment