I started animating stuff back in 2001. I was working at a shop that needed a Flash developer to accompany their Director developer (software for making CD-ROMS). I liked Flash’s drawing interface, and I was able to quickly get a grip on ActionScript. When the iPhone came out, Flash lost favor and marketshare, and I stopped working with it. Flash finally died last year.
In 2016, I began animating again in earnest, this time using a DSLR on a camera stand to make stop motion. Sometimes, I drew on an iPad. I decided to focus my graduate school efforts on pursuing animation. I’m still putting down roots as an animator, and finding my way.
In 2020, I made eight animated films. They are all “shorts,” and they all took a long time to make. On more than several occasions, I would glance at the clock and see it was 2:00am, and I would wonder why I decided to undertake such a long, protracted project that asks for so much patience, concentration and focus.
Then, I’d finish the project, edit it, and publish the video. Soon, I’d forget all about what it took to make the film, and I’d start thinking about the next one.
A colleague warned me that it’s difficult to find festivals to show work. The competition is thick. Most festivals charge an application fee, which violates my rule of never paying to enter work for a show. It can get expensive. My pal Martha Colburn advised me to just keep working on dioramas. Lucky for me, I ignored that advice.
I’ve had some luck. I checked a big item off my bucket list by having not one but two films in 2020’s Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival. I’ve had a few other screenings, too.
So, animation is expensive, both in terms of my time, and trying to find an audience. And what I’m doing is not likely to make money.
Why do it?
First, I don’t make art to make money. It’s delightful when someone buys something, for sure. But having other income lets me make the art I want to make, without the consideration of living off the proceeds of sales.
Second, I’m a storyteller, at heart. Animation has been a lovely addition to my artistic pursuits. I get to combine and incorporate many things I love into a single work: drawing, storytellings, puppets, writing, costumes, decor and sets, music and sound. Animators invent both technical and narrative solutions, while completing projects. There’s a kind of magic in thinking of something, giving it form in the world, and creating the illusion of life. Like Dr. Frankenstein. It’s challenging and rewarding.
While I was watching other animations at Sweaty Eyeballs, and listening to some of the animators talk, I was struck by the idea that animation is a lovely labor of love. Independent animation is a form where the animator has the complete freedom to make lots of decisions and choices about what to do. The end result can be a singular piece of work reflecting its creator in a way other forms do not, and it’s a form that, to me, inspires wonder.