What is your name and your current occupation?
Hi there, first of all, I’m super happy to share some of my life and experience so far! My name is Bruno Monteiro and right now I’m a lot at once! I’m supervisor animator at the super cool LittleZoo Studio, I have my own small online animation school called OnFire and I’m co directing an indie short!!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I’ve been doing animation since I’m 14 so I didn’t have other job in my life. But I played basketball for 6 years and I thought I would play professionally until I broke my leg and that was the end for me. Ah, and I made some real small money playing semi pro Warcraft 3 games.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I think that Rio 2096 was the paramount for me until now. Its a Brazilian feature that scored the Annecy’s Crystal Award in 2013 for best feature and the movie is about social clashes. Minority being murdered and its a mixture between Brazilian true story and syfy. Its a movie that has something to say, some important issue to touch and I think that animation, as any type of art form should address to the social needs of the people.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Brazil, and I started my journey in animation as a clean up artist. There wasn’t much studios in Brazil back there so jobs were few and no much opportunities. Until one day a small studio got the chance to do some animation for the “Asterix and the Vikings” feature, so I jumped in and was working 16-20 hours a day to prove myself, to get that chance and do the best I could. Turns out I worked in many other features from that point on, such as Brendan and the Secret of Kells, Friends Foverer, Bieito Dubidoso. All 2D animation…until one day that 2D just got shot! And all the budgets, all the projects went downhill so I decided that it was time to go to 3D world.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It starts taking my daughter to school 7 am, then I take a walk on the beach and get home by 9 am. Big cup of coffee and during the mornings I try to do my student’s critiques and some shots that pop from LittleZoo. In the afternoon its time to focus 100% on my shots. I take a break during the afternoon, go for a walk with my wife and daughter and then come back to work some more. After dinner, twice a week, I give classes, it keeps me working until 1 am. If I need to do some extra work for myself, like a new short or something of this sort, I work during the night. I have a tendency to sleep pretty late everyday. Go back to bed, rewind
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the fun of creating life. I never get tired of that. Looking into a kids eyes while they are watching a good story its priceless Bringing characters to life and animating with my daughter sitting close to me is amazing. We can talk about my little poney, black holes (yes, we are a nerd family!). Having my family around and working on great projects makes me smile at the end of the day. I think you can keep young for a long time if you let animation take over you, because you start seeing tiny magical moments everywhere. When my daughter smiles when she grabs a bug, what she is doing is fueling me with incredible references to add in my mental library. The world is full of these beautiful and singular moments that can add so much life into your work, because you are bringing stuff from the heart. Regarding the Studio, is the team. Jason Taylor, Little Zoo’s owner and my director is the best guy I’ve ever worked with, and that means a lot in a work where you need to be healthy, happy and focused. I dont even think about him as a boss but as a friend that helps me to make my work gets better all the time. We have fun destroying my shots and bringing them back to life. I think that when you feel that you are part of something and there is respect and honor involved in the process, you can feel really happy and accomplished.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
When coffee is over or the rigs are so huge that takes a long time to flip between poses. I’m a simple guy, I love what I do and the hard parts I take them as just part of the process.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Well, I saw my main field obliterated in front of my eyes in months. Technology is busy making everything better, faster and more intuitive. So I believe that we ll get more and more impact in all areas of animation. If you can think, technology ll, someday, deliver that. So I try to focus to be chasing the big changes so I can prepare myself for the next leap.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think that we can see what is happening with the fixing wages that became public. I think that sometimes we feel so good about getting the chance to animate in a project that we can be an easy prey for companies that ll suck all they can from artists and transform that into a lot of money for themselves. We let it happen, we easily forget that its a money business. There is much more money then art into what we do, and its not a problem at all. Disney would publicly say that, “Its not art, its business”. Salvador Dali made a lot of money thinking about business not just art-wise. We need to do it too! Artists often start their careers super young so money is not (most of the time) in the top priority. And that’s when we accept things that other professionals like layers, doctors, salesman wouldnt ever. And take a while to get the notion that you are a tool to make money and that your work ll awe people but its purely business. If you want art, you can just do short movies and indie projects. But mainstream projects are focused in money. Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t paint for fun or created stuff just for the sake of it, he was getting payed to do so!
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would
you do it?
Maybe the way the money flows to the wrong hands so easily. I think that the artists should receive a small fraction of the tickets too, they are part of that work, and I think its just fair to do so. I also think that we need a pretty strong guild. Artists united would do great deal of good for all the artists around USA and that would reflect over the other countries too. When you see all the mess that is emerging around our business we can clearly see that nobody is protecting the artists interests and we need to fight for it.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I saw at Annecy one of my guru’s (in a way, because I never met him, but he is just awesome!!) Eric Goldberg. I think that he has such a great power of pantomime and acting. He can go straight to the heart and be true to the emotion. I didn’t have time to run to him but next time I ll surely do!!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I think we are too afraid now a days to stay together, to put the foot down and say enough is enough. I did it once. When I met my wife, I was working on this studio that would pay too little for the amount of work all the artists were doing. It was the only studio in town and in Brazil, it was the only studio that was doing features, so we just stood there, under paid, unhappy, but afraid not to work with the thing we love most. Then, one day, I proposed my wife and my dad told me something I ll never forget. He told me “-Son, is that the way you will give her a married life? no money, no savings. I know you love what you do, and that’s why people are using you. You need to step up and be brave. For you and for the life you want to have.” Well, that went deep, I ran into the office and demanded a raise, it worked, for a while. After 3 months, they decided to pay me less again, I just stood up and said “-It was nice working with you”. Turned away and never came back. I had no work, no money,no house (I couldn’t pay the rent) and a couple of weeks before, I got engaged. My life was upside down, I couldn’t find a place, I had to go and stay at my fiancee dad’s house. I moved to another city, got a one month gig, was eating cereal for lunch so I could save money for the wedding. I couldn’t think clearly, I was just too focused in getting my life back on track. After 2 months, I got a permanent job, as a storyboard artist, but the place was so messy that in 40 days I became director of the projects and I summoned a great team to work with me. Then, things started to work better, I was well paid and I was happy. After 1 year, I’ve got the chance to open my own studio, me and my partner got a 2D feature to work, things were great. Everything was in place. We moved to a bigger place, we got new projects, my wife was pregnant, nothing could go wrong. So I thought…in the week my wife delivered, my studio went bankrupt and I lost all the money I could save in those few years…So I got up again, now I was a dad, I was the one that should be strong and look for my family in that moment. I got a great lucky strike, a chance to animate some commercials to ReelFX, and in the week my daughter got home, I was animating to the company that kept me working for years.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Right now I’m working on a short that its about the woman side of the story when it comes to relationship. I think its important to talk about things that matter sometimes. Nice to have fun with humor but animation is not just for laughter.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
In my mind, I’m a pretty good dinosaur rider, but in real life I like to learn about science as much as I can, I spend a lot of time watching science debates in the internet. No cherry Steam
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
You need to love it, love it madly, that’t what ll keep you pushing forward, awake, studding. Animation is hard as hell and every single day the competition is getting better and better, so you need to keep your game high every time. And it ll happen, you ll have bad days, days that just wont work. Days that you are burned out and the last thing you wanna do is animate. That’s ok, that part of not being a machine! But for me, its how much I love what I do that keeps it fresh and interesting. I care too much and animation is always popping all over the world with new styles, new colors and stories. So watch as much as animation you can BUT live your life too, your references should be from your life not from a shot some other animator did, because that shot belongs to his personal little universe. Find your own little universe where the colors and the feelings grow and flow from all around you. Today I see so many artists using video reference not as reference anymore, people are using their reference and animating frame by frame over the footage. This is, for me, a grave danger for our industry. Think about it, why would I pay someone that is an amateur actor when I can pay a professional actor to do the video reference and then pay less for an animator just to “copy it” from the video. Sometimes I see that we are lowering our standards in the name of production and I’m not seeing the jump of quality or that flavor that makes animation unique. I tend to think that animation is not a mirror for reality, but a caricature of the reality, where you have to deform, extend timing, push more energy, not just add tiny cosmetic changes. I love Pixar’s style, now a days, for me, they are the major studio that works the shots with great poses, a lot of holds and you can see that there is reference, but its not copied frame by frame. I truly think that if we want to keep our place in animation, we need to do what we are best of, imagination! Use your imagination to be a better actor than you are physically. That is the power of the animator.