What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Tad Butler and I am a freelance storyboard artist and illustrator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I guess the craziest job would be operating a cigarette tax stamping machine for a wholesale food and tobacco product distributor. I have also worked as a route salesman for a health and beauty aids distributor, an assistant web press operator, a bus driver and a retail sales associate to name a few.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I am very proud to have been a part of making the film, Alone Yet Not Alone. It is a period film set during the French and Indian and tells the remarkable true story of one young girl’s faith, courage and determination to reunite her family that has been torn apart by the war.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from the great state of Virginia. I reside there in a little hamlet nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains know as Boston. I got into the animation business by persistently looking for opportunities to work as a storyboard artist on independent film projects until I finally landed a job on a feature film. My storyboard work led to my involvement in pre-visualizing some short CG-animated segments for a film and producing animatics for story pitches, which I love doing. Working on the animatics fueled my desire to look for opportunities to work on animated film projects.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My day usually starts at 8:30 AM by taking care of my e-mail correspondence, communicating with clients and making job inquiries. By 9:00 AM I am in the studio. I work until noon, eat lunch, check my e-mails. Then it’s back in the studio until 5:00 PM. At 5:00 I stop to have dinner with my wife and daughter and enjoy a few hours of family time with them. Sometimes, if I am really pressed by a deadline, I will go back into the studio to work a couple of more hours after my family goes to bed at night.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love to draw. I love the challenge of taking a script and translating those words into images, giving the story and the characters in it life and substance. That is the fun part.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Stress. I hate the stress associated with deadlines, which can lead to long, exhausting 12 and 15-hour days. All that tension and fatigue. That part is not fun.
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?
I work with my Mac a lot. Everything from scanning art, to illustrating, to designing promotional materials to advertise my services. The advent of the Wacom tablet has changed the way I draw and stream-lined the production process for me. Now I can render art digitally, directly on the computer, which saves time, effort and material costs.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The disappointment of rejection. It’s very hard to not take that personally, try as I might.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Sadly no, I have not had the pleasure of actually meeting any of my animation heroes. The closest I have managed to come is to connect with a few of them on LinkedIn. I am still hopeful, though. It could happen.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The day my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Seeing her suffer with that has been tough. She is a trooper though, the most remarkable and inspiring person I have ever had the pleasure to know. She is my hero.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am very excited about a project that I am currently putting together an animatic trailer for. The trailer will be used as a promotional tool for raising funds to produce a graphic novel of the story, Funds raised from the sale of the graphic novel will be used to help finance phase two of the project, which will be the production of a feature-length film. This will be a period film, set primarily in ancient Egypt. It has everything … action, adventure, intrigue and romance.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
No. Nothing cool like that. Just boring stuff, like sculpting, wood carving and playing the drums.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw constantly! Carry a sketch book with you everywhere you go and draw, draw, draw. Read every book you can find on the subject. Focal Press has some great books on animation, storyboarding and every other phase of film production. Study cinematography and learn the terminology, principles and techniques that are applied. Study human anatomy and really work at honing your life drawing skills and having a firm grasp of the fundamentals (perspective, proportion). Go to a good art school and get your degree. Look for opportunities to apprentice. Studios like Disney, PIXAR and Dreamworks all have summer internship programs. Take advantage of them! Most of all, hang in there. Be persistent and don’t give up.