Jun Falkenstein. Sometimes animation director and writer, othertimes animation storyboard artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I really haven’t had any crazier jobs than animation! I pretty much jumped right from school into a job at Warner Brothers. Although one summer I did teach art to kids. Not very crazy.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Rather say some of my favorite people that I am proud to have worked with (too many to list). Animation projects can be great or terrible, but all of the ones created in large studio settings are not usually very personal, as there are a lot of people having their say with the project. And when they aren’t personal works of art, pride becomes a two-edged feeling…you are proud that the thing was completed, but always thinking of how it could have been better had you gotten to do it differently. So by this criteria, probably I’m proudest of my short film Kyle + Rosemary, done with Frederator and Nickelodeon, because it was the closest to a pure vision than any big budget feature I was ever a part of.
How did you become interested in animation?
There never was a time when I wasn’t interested in animation. So I guess I was born interested.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Laguna Beach, California. Not that far away from Hollywood, plus I went to school at USC in film which was even closer to Hollywood. I got my first job the ‘simple’ way – I applied, took a drawing test, and got the job. This was a character layout position on Tazmania, a Warner Brothers TV show.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? It depends on what I am doing! There is no typical day. I can say that in either story or directing positions, the job mostly involves a ton of thinking, planning, discussing, things like that.
What part of your job do you like best? Why? Directing: Working with artists and directing voice actors, coming up with story ideas and solving story problems in interesting ways. Story: Working with fellow story artists, coming up with fun ideas.
What part of your job do you like least? Why? Directing: Working with closed-minded or inexperienced executives. Story: Re-doing the same scene over and over….
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business? Everyone wants to direct, but there are only so many projects and it is very difficult to convince studios you should handle their multi-million dollar project for them. Staying in the director’s chair after getting the job is also difficult – sometimes inexperienced executives don’t give you enough time to explain or show your vision, or you are forced to work with incompatible partners or supervisors – either situation can get you fired. The best thing to do is to just keep your vision for the project strong, because if you try to please too many people you can also get fired for being too weak!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
As a story artist, mainly Cintiqs running things like Photoshop.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness? My great uncle was the Disney story artist Joe Grant, and I used to go to his house when I was young and ooh and aah at his massive collection of art and sculpture from films like Snow White, Dumbo, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, etc. He was always kind and introduced me to other fellow artists like Jack Kinney – I got to bang on his Firehouse Five drum kit!
Describe a tough situation you had in life. There have been a couple of times where I was in the director’s chair of a feature film, but due to circumstances mostly beyond my control, I was removed. I have often beat myself up about what I could have done better to keep the job, but in each case I have to believe that I did my best and sometimes things don’t work out and you have to move on. It it very difficult for me, though, to walk away from an unfinished project.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I’m trying my hand at a graphic novel. It’s a pretty tough sell as an animated film, so I thought I’d set it down in print. It’s a sci-fi story that I’ve kicked around for at least ten years. Also I have been creating ‘machinima’ films for the last 6 years, mainly using the game World of Warcraft.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I feel as though the business has entirely changed from when I first entered it! I’m not sure what to advise that they haven’t heard already, except maybe one thing – watch lots of movies. Make sure you know what kinds of films are currently being made, and what kinds of styles of animation the studios are working on, so your portfolio feels current. Make sure you also know the history of the business, so you know how to build on it. Also – stay versatile! Take any job, even if it’s not a position you think you want – you might surprise yourself. I originally thought I was going to become an animator, but ended up in story – and love it so much better.