What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I worked at a KFC/Taco Bell (yes they are out there) right around when that freaky Doubledown sandwich came out. That sandwich made me fear for humanity and anyone bold or fool-hearty enough to order it. Oh, I also worked as a cashier/cook a Sheetz gas station up until recently. Not crazy, but they truly have some of the best food you could possibly get at a gas station.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I haven’t gotten to be involved with too many projects yet. But I did get to work on a Halo motion comic when I interned at MoreFrames Animation, which was pretty cool. My favorite project I’ve done myself would probably my current project “Summer Rec” since it’s coming closer to what I’ve envisioned than any other project I’ve ever worked on.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve been interested in animation as long as I can remember. I used to watch so many cartoons when I was little. Well, I still do so I guess not much has changed, same shows too. I used to draw comics and I tried to animate with MS Paint and Movie Maker when I was little. I wanted to be an architect when I was in elementary school, but I dropped it when I learned how much math was involved. In conclusion, I hate math.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Baltimore, MD and lived in Dundalk near the Key Bridge for the bulk of my childhood. Then I later moved to a small town in northern Pennsylvania called Sayre, where I first got to start animating in Flash early in high school. I don’t really have an answer of how I got into the industry since I still feel I’m making my way there. So far all my experience has been high school animation competitions, interning, freelancing and just animating for the fun of it.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My day usually starts whenever I roll out of bed, some times there are some false starts but I’m usually awake during the day. Typically I put on clothes or just work on freelance or my own stuff in my pajamas since I work at home. I dunno, a lot of it’s not that appealing haha. But I usually work on freelance half of the week, and my own personal projects the rest of the time. Well, that’s what I try to do. Some of the days this summer have been sweltering and my apartment doesn’t have AC so I’ve only been working when it’s cool outside (and therefore inside). When I do get down to work, it’s not uncommon for me to just sit and work half a day straight.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
My favorite part of my job is the flexibility of my hours, I work when I want to. My current client lives in Germany so I tend to work late at night due to the time difference. 2am here is breakfast time over there so it works out.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I got to say, the freedom of being a freelancer does have its pluses, but it doesn’t work out for everybody. Ever since I decided to focus on freelancing, my days don’t have a lot of structure. I’m fresh out of college, and I’ve never really been that great with being proactive about my own schedule. I wouldn’t be arsed to do a lot of things during my day if it weren’t for my friends and family.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
My technology hasn’t changed that much in a really long time. I use Flash 8, and I’ve been using it since high school. I like using Macromedia Flash 8 since I’ve found it to be a lot more stable than any of the Adobe versions. I tried using CS5 for a project last year and files were getting corrupted left and right. I draw on one of those big Intuos 3s, I’ve always thought of it as being novelty-sized. The thing’s damn near indestructible! I’ve had it for all of college and used it a lot during high school (it was originally a school tablet but I was given one as a graduation gift), but yeah I dropped it in a puddle once, fully submerged, cord-and-all and it still works! I wouldn’t be surprised or even mind if it stopped working tomorrow. It’s had a good run. I’d like to get a Cintiq whenever this one craps out though. Other than rambling about a mistreated tablet, I only work on Windows computers since I’ve never been able to afford a Mac, I dunno, it might be cool to have one at some point. Oh, and I usually edit with Adobe Premiere or After Effects and I sometimes do backgrounds in Photoshop. I tend to usually do everything in Flash though.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Getting a studio job. It’d be sweet if I could work somewhere like Titmouse East.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few people. When I was 13, I got to go see “Hair High” by Bill Plympton at the Maryland Film Festival. I got to meet him, along with Patrick Smith, which was great. I still have Bill’s autograph and doodle of the Guard Dog in my room. Also, Dave Filoni, the director of Star Wars: Clone Wars is an alumni of the school I went to (Edinboro University of Pennsylvania). He came as a visiting artist and I got to meet him when I was freshman. I remember being exicited he worked on Mission Hill, which is one of my favorite one-season wonders. This year I got to meet Emily Hubley when she came as a visiting artist to the school and I got to have lunch with her and my professors. My girlfriend got to give an introduction for her at the screening of her film “The Toe Tactic” which I’m still super proud of her for getting to do. I’ve been lucky enough to be taught by some great people who have worked in the industry, such as Brad Pattullo, Jeremy Galante and Mike Genz. My animation instructors, Jeremy and Brad got to do a music video with David Cowles called “Baby, It’s You!” It got 2nd Place for Best Music Video at the ASIFA East Awards this year and I think it’s going to Ottawa. Everyone at school has been really excited for them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Fortunately I’ve been able to skirt disaster so far in my life. I’m hoping it lasts. Right now I feel I’m gearing up for what could be a rough time. I’m preparing to move to New York to find studio work and I’m hoping it doesn’t blow up in my face. I never really wanted to move to California, and New York has seen a really promising growth in animation opportunities over the last few years. Another kicker is I don’t have a college degree. I finished the animation curriculum at my university if that’s any consolation. So yeah, I’m hoping I can land a job more on my merits than my degree (or lack of). Hopefully I can get enough freelance work to tide me over during the transition.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently animating a pilot for a series I want to pitch called “Summer Rec”. It’s a workplace comedy about the incompetent college-aged staff at a dreary rec center. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to have an animated series so it feels great taking those first steps. It’s also been really encouraging hearing peoples’ enthusiasm for the project. As great as it’s been, it’s also been a grueling process. I’ve been animating it alone and it’s quite a lot to do. Not only the fact it’s 13 minutes long, but also the fact that there’s A LOT of pencil mileage to cover. It’s not like actually running a series would be any easier so it feels like time well spent.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, I have a ridiculously encyclopedic knowledge of my favorite shows and movies. I can’t go 10 seconds watching something without thinking of some trivia about it. Seriously, The Simpsons, I know that shit. All of it. Frankly, too much of it.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Hmm, I’m not really sure how much advice I can dispense at this point, being an aspiring animator. But I can say collaboration is super beneficial. If you’re working on a project, why not get your friends involved? It helps bring in new strengths and visions you might not have been capable of AND it gives you both something to put on your resume. It’ll also give you valuable skills in team-work for when you get to work in a studio setting. Oh, also network as much as possible. You never know what’ll come out of it! Facebook and LinkedIn are super beneficial for getting into contact with people in the industry.