What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Alan Foreman and I’m a freelance animator and director working out of Brooklyn, NY.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I don’t know if I would label any of my previous jobs as crazy. I got into animation right after graduating from college. Before that it was mostly your run-of-the-mill highschool jobs… working at a movie theater, a children’s museum, basic manual labor jobs… things like that.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There are a lot to choose from. Home Movies (Adult Swim) was a lot of fun. Directing Three Delivery (Nicktoons) was very challenging and satisfying. Recently I finished a music video for my band that is on the festival circuit that I’m very proud of. Doing that has gotten me excited about producing independent films again.
How did you become interested in animation?
All I ever wanted to do all my life was draw. While a freshman at the Rhode Island School of Design I had initially wanted to go into the illustration department. My adviser suggested the film department and so I switched majors and once in the film department I decided to concentrate in animation so that I could keep drawing. It was there that I really got interested in animation.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Kentucky but I’ve lived all over the east coast of the US. After graduating from the film / animation / video department at RISD, I was a little lost. I had no idea where to look for jobs. Thankfully my amazing degree project teachers recommended me for a job at Soup 2 Nuts Productions in Boston, MA. They hired me in November of 2000 as an assistant animator and I ended up working there for about 5 years. That really kicked things off for me.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Being a freelancer there are hardly any typical days. Lately I’ve had more than one job going at a time. Some days I’m animating, others I’m storyboarding, and sometimes I’m giving notes on animation and in conference calls going over designs. Some commercial jobs require me to be on-site but mostly I work out of my home office in Brooklyn.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I’d have to say being a freelancer has been very fulfilling. The best part of freelancing is that the projects you work on are typically short-term projects. You don’t really get sucked in to broadcast or feature production. Short term projects allow me to work in a wide variety of styles. I feel like it’s allowed me to explore and grow as an artist in ways that the studio system can’t compare.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The worst part of my job is actually finding jobs. Luckily I’ve been in the business for 12 years and have made some great connections here in the New York area. However, some years have been leaner than others. Last year (2011) I only had work for the first half of the year. So there was a lot of scrapping and saving in the second half of the year.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’m a traditional animator and I work on a Cintiq and mostly use Adobe Flash… although I think those days are numbered.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The hustle. I feel like I’m always hustling for work and therefore I’m always working. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work but sometimes I wish I had more time to focus on personal projects or go on vacation.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Have I rubbed shoulders with great animators? Absolutely. Have I been on the verge of becoming a giant in the animation industry? If so, I didn’t know about it. Although I still get a kick out of seeing something I worked on broadcast on TV. A series of web shorts that I did called “Cat Slap” has done pretty well on YouTube.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I went through a period of time where a lot of my family members passed away within a few years of each other. That was a very trying time. The first of which was my grandfather who was also an artist and who greatly influenced me. Losing him while I was still at RISD was very hard.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I always have too many side projects going on. I’ve got 2 or 3 short films that I’m slowly writing and developing (hoping to release a new short every couple of years if possible). I’m also pitching a lot right now so I have a bunch of pitches that I’m developing. I’m also the co-host of an animation podcast called the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum (www.ffafcast.com) where my co-host Joel Frenzer and I interview people in the animation industry. I also write and play music and am currently in 3 bands… so I’m playing a lot of guitar and bass and recording a lot (http://tenminuteturns.bandcamp.com/).
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I guess music is my hobby… writing, performing, recording. For a while it was my main artistic focus outside of my job.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I give a lot of talks to animation students at colleges around the northeast and here are a few things I tell them. Working in production is tough. The deadlines are tight and the budgets are tighter. It can be a really stressful but thoroughly satisfying experience. What I look for when hiring is strong drawing skills. Drawing skills trump animation technique any day of the week for me. Animation can be learned on the job. Being easy and good to work with helps tremendously. If you work fast, economically, and are easy to get along with you will be fine. Don’t get me wrong. You have to do good work. But being good to work with is very important. And here’s the big thing… the old saying “it’s who you know” is really true. There are very few places that will hire you right out of school. I was lucky (and lucky to get a recommendation). Since that first job, I’ve maybe gotten one job from a cold call. Every other job I’ve ever had in the business was through a connection… whether it be someone I knew directly or someone I was connected with through a friend. I’m not a huge fan of schmoozing, but networking is an important part of the business. Intern wherever you can while you’re still in school. You’ll learn a lot about the business and maybe more importantly you’ll meet people.
Another excellent interview, Mike! Keep them coming!