David Fain

What is your name and your current occupation? David Fain, I’m currently work for Hasbro Studios as an animatic editor on “Transformers Prime”. I also do freelance stop-motion, Flash animation, and writing and directing for animation when the opportunity arises.   What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? After high school I worked a couple of summers in a fish packing plant in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Also worked the counter in a bowling alley in Rhode Island after undergraduate school. That sucked big time. What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of? My hands down favorite was “Action League Now!” which was a segment of the old Nickelodeon anthology series “Kablam!”. I started as a stop-motion animator on the series and eventually got to write some episodes and direct the final 13. I also was a staff writer on “SpongeBob” way back in the day before it was very well known. I created a couple of original web shorts while at Warner Bros. Online divison called “Slim Chance: Intergalactic Zoologist”. Working on “G.I. Joe Renegades” and “Transformers Prime” has been a ball because they are my first action/adventure shows and let me reference my love of live action continuity cutting a bit more than comedies.   How did you become interested in animation? Like most baby boomers, I grew up watching a lot of TV. In the New England region there was a woman named Yvonne Andersen who ran an animation workshop where she helped kids make animated films. Sometimes those films where shown on local TV. I remember seeing one as a kid and thinking how cool it was. Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business? I grew up in Massachusetts and attended Brown University for undergraduate school. I got interested in film production while there but they didn’t have many classes in filmmaking at that time. Fortunately for me, The Rhode Island School of Design was right next door so I started taking animation classes there. Eventually I transferred and got my degree from RISD. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach there for a few years after graduating.  Several years later I went back to graduate school at Cal Arts. Up until this time my focus was on teaching and making weird independent animated shorts. While attending Cal Arts I got my first professional job creating some animated sequences (along with my wife who was also a Cal Arts student at the time) for a feature film called “Closetland”.  After we graduated from Cal Arts we moved back east to Philadelphia where my wife had a full time teaching position. After 5 years there a Cal Arts friend called me about a stop-motion job that was for a short to go in front of the Nickelodeon feature film “Good Burger”. That short was the Action League Now! episode that had the band Kiss as guest stars. When the next season of “Kablam!” started I was offered a job on ALN! I moved back to LA and have been working in the industry (off and on) ever since.  So I got a bit of a late start actually getting into the “animation business” although I had been working in animation for over 10 years before coming out to LA for good. What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? Right now, working as an animatic editor, a typical day might include reading the script, assembling a rough cut of the episode to the recorded dialogue track using Final Cut Pro, tweaking the timing, adding sound effects and music, sitting with the director/producer(s) and implementing notes. What part of your job do you like best? Why? When the animatic for the episode is completely assembled and the crew who worked on it finally get a peak of how it’s working. There are some fairly complicated ideas that need to be expressed and it is a much different thing to have the images flashed before your eyes sequentially than to have the storyboard laid out so you can study it over time. Sometimes just rearranging the order of the shots makes a big difference. What part of your job do you like least? Why? The down time when you are waiting for notes can get boring. Usually there’s another episode to jump on right away so it doesn’t happen very often. What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis? Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Soundtrack Pro, (iStopmotion or Dragonframe if I’m working a freelance stop-motion gig). What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business? The business of Television animation is in general project by project. If you are lucky enough to get onto a show that lasts for a few seasons you have some job security, otherwise you are constantly looking for another gig. Sometimes the studios are good about trying to keep their employees by moving them to a different production when the one they were hired for ends. Sometimes they just cut you loose. In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness? When I worked at Warner Bros. Online division I got to meet some classic voice talent including June Foray and Tom Kenny. While attending a film festival in Spain I shared a train ride with the Brothers Quay. Describe a tough situation you had in life. My wife and I were once mistaken for escaped convicts in Colorado. The cops pulled us over with their guns drawn. Oh, did you mean an animation situation?   Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of? I just finished my first independent short film in quite awhile. It’s a stop-motion music video called “Choreography for Plastic Army Men” featuring a music track by the band Pink Martini. I’m just sending it out on the festival circuit now so I’m keeping it off the internet for the time being. I’m also currently trying to develop a script to revisit the ALN! characters in the present day with another former crew member from the show. Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy? I’m into collecting strange films from other countries. I have a selection of Chinese Vampire comedies that are really bizarre and hilarious. Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? The main thing is to enjoy what you are doing. This is not something to get into strictly for the money. Although you can make a good salary there are usually down times when you’ll need to use the money you earned on the previous job to live until you find the next one. Also, be willing to learn new skills and software as necessary. I made optical printing films in undergraduate school (a technology that is pretty obsolete these days) then got into stop-motion. When I couldn’t find stop-motion work I learned Flash. Now I’m applying film editing skills I learned cutting 16mm in the digital realm. Most animation professionals have to continue to grow and develop as artists to stay competitive. The learning never stops.

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  1. The film I mentioned in the interview above Choreography for Plastic Army Men, is now available online at:

    http://vimeo.com/26645299

    David Fain

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