Cars are in Stefan Marjoram’s blood. In this interview, he speaks about this passion, his influences and why he decided to leave an Oscar-winning studio to join the Bloodhound SSC Team, and document the building of a 1000 mph land speed record car.
About Stefan Marjoram:
I live not far from Bristol (the one in the UK) where I’ve worked for the past 20 years. I first came to help a friend with an animated film, did computer games for a while and then spent five years doing computer animation – mostly for natural history documentaries. Gradually I realised that I’d rather make funny films and joined Aardman Animations as a Creative Director where I worked on commercials, tv idents and occasionally short films. It’s been terrific fun and I’ve worked with some amazingly talented people on some wonderful projects.
As well as animation I’ve long had a passion for cars and I’ve regularly gone off on weekends to various events such as Goodwood or Le Mans to take photos of the cars I dreamed about when I was younger. This lead to occasional professional work for magazines and websites. More recently I’ve been putting down the camera and sketching instead and it’s amazing how it changes the experience. As a photographer you hide behind your viewfinder and observe the whole weekend through that little spy-hole, hardly interacting with anyone. As an artist you perhaps don’t get to view as much but the bits you do see you study in much more detail – and you get to meet and chat to loads of people, finding out about the history of the cars along the way. You return home having felt much more a part of the event.
Do you remember the moment when you decided, this is it, I want to do this for the rest of my life?
Do I have to pick just one thing?! I’m not sure I could and I certainly haven’t decided what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m always learning, being given new challenges and meeting new people. I know I want to draw, take photos and make films and I’m happy to just see where that takes me.
The EJ200 Eurofighter engine. It was used for testing so most of the external cabling is for test sensors.
You recently joined Bloodhound SSC Land Speed Record team as their Filmmaker, photographer and artist. How did that come about? And can you tell us about the Bloodhound SSC Team?
Sometimes I feel embarrassed about how these things seem to fall at my feet. There I am in my terrific job making cartoons for an Oscar-winning studio when Richard Noble decides to build a 1000mph Land Speed Record car in the building next-door! I got in touch and offered my services as a photographer and illustrator. I thought it would be great to make a diary of the build, it would make a nice book at the end and they might also be able to sell a few prints to help raise a bit of extra cash.
Richard really liked the work but had much grander plans – he needed a film maker. He explained how in the past TV crews had turned up at the end of a project, just to film the final runs and make a documentary on the (hopefully) successful event. This served no use to the team as by then, everyone had packed up and gone home to their old jobs. What he needed was someone to make films throughout the project, to let people know what was going on, to entice new sponsors and to help with the educational aspects.
The first goal of Bloodhound SSC is surprisingly not to travel at 1000mph but to inspire a new generation to become scientists and engineers. Bloodhound is a great vehicle for this as it encompasses so many mind-boggling challenges and disciplines and we now have over 5,000 schools signed up for the education programme. Everything is totally open-source, you can download the CAD model and build your own car if you like – but the students need to know what is there for them and how to understand it – which is where my new job comes in. Thanks to our sponsors Cisco I’m now on-board full-time.
Here's a quick sketch of what's in the workshop at the moment. It's the test-rig that will be connected to the biggest rocket ever fired in Britain. The huge 1000L tank will be filled with HTP and pumped into the rocket by the Cosworth formula 1 engine in just 20 seconds.
The team are an amazing bunch of people. Many have backgrounds in aerospace and motor racing and several have been on LSR teams before – It’s a real treat to interview them as part of my film making. I’m also finding it fascinating to travel out to the various manufacturers who are helping to make parts for the car.
You do a bit of everything, filmmaker, photographer, traditional art. What’s that like?
Well I never get bored. The downside is that when I focus on one of those the others get a bit neglected. I find myself taking lots of photos for a while and then I’m really rusty when it comes to drawing again. Or while I’m making films and drawing a pile of untreated photos is building up on my hard drive.
“When I was at school I always wanted to be a car designer. I was told I wasn’t good enough at maths for that so I put it out of my mind and just enjoyed looking at cars instead. It’s still the design that I’m drawn to.”
– stefan marjoram
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