What is your name and your current occupation?
Chris Burns, Owner and Lead Animator of EXIT 73 STUDIOS (exit73studios.com).
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
The craziest job I ever had was as a carpenter/roofer. I worked with a bunch of super manly dudes whose life mission was to win concert tickets on the radio or Pick 4 lotto. The money was good, and you couldn’t beat the hours, but I knew pretty early on that I wanted to pursue a career in art.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Hands down my favorite project was Transfurter. We had a lot of freedom with the designs and story, and it was a very homegrown production. I often compare this project to how a garage band works – very DIY, gritty, and a fair amount of improvisation. And just like a Garage band, that unkempt feel translates into something beautiful when it all comes together in the end. It’s truly satisfying.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from eastern Long Island, which made my choice to go to SVA very easy. I interned at a bunch of Animation studios like B3, NOODLE SOUP, WORLD LEADERS, and 4KIDS ENTERTAINMENT. NOODLE SOUP, provided me with a job opportunity on the pilot episode of VENTURE BROTHERS. After school ended, I had my first full-time gig working as an animator for the COMEDY CENTRAL series SHORTIES WATCHIN’ SHORTIES. We animated stand up routines from various comedians.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
As owner of new studio, I find my mornings doing books, writing emails, and searching for gigs, where my afternoons to late late nights are spent doing storyboards and layout. It’s a constant struggle, trying to prioritize, but at the end of the day, when I see all the progress the studio has made in the last year, I can go to bed very satisfied and super happy. Right now, we are animating some shorts for Nickelodeon and putting the finishing touches on an animated short we’ll be submitting to festivals during the summer.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Easily storyboards and animating. I love seeing the foundation of an idea being built, and then when you bring it to life, it just takes it over the top. It’s like no other feeling when you really nail a scene, then watch it a month later and still feel like your watching it for the first time. It’s the best feeling. I can’t even describe another emotion that comes close.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Definitely doing the books and the banking, and I dislike them for all of the obvious reasons.
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?
Every day I use a WACOM CINTIQ 21″, It’s the most efficient way to animate, directly onto the screen, no middle man, no guess work, I suggest any animator invest in one. The studio uses FLASH, PHOTOSHOP, AFTER EFFECTS, and FINAL CUT. Each new version of the programs come with a bit of a learning curve, but I find that if you stay on top of all the latest, figuring out the programs becomes second nature. It’s only impacted the studio in a positive way, we now have clients in Paris and L.A. Whereas only a few years ago an East Coast Studio, couldn’t be part of their world.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
It’s the lack of financial security. Even “long” jobs don’t provide us with more then a year of work at most, but it’s also the reason we’re able to adapt.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve had the pleasure to work on projects with Aaron Augenblick, Jeremy Jusay, Kris Wollinger, Chester Kneble, Barbara Benas, Katie Wendt, Bob Fox and so many others. With Transfurter, I got to be side-by-side with amazing writers like Joe Croson and Dan Cordella, not to mention a super talented young sound engineer, Jake Grupp.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The hardest situation I had so far was, deciding to start a studio, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, just on the legal end of things. But I don’t regret a thing, like I mentioned earlier, I go to sleep each night feeling I’m doing something special.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
In addition to Transfurter, we currently have 2 animated shorts the studio, as well as a handful of pitches for Cartoon Network.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Right now I’m renovating a newly purchased house for my fiancé and it’s taking a lot longer then I expected due to the hours at the studio. But it’s nice to get to do some physical labor again.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The most important thing a student can do is, make sure to get an internship, you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with people you want to work with, it’ll provide you with ample opportunity to showcase your own work to people who could land you a job in the industry. Have a “true” reel, by that I mean have a reel of your work that shows exactly what you did. A lot of reels out there have the same animation on it, only to find out that the student might of only colored the cel, rather then animate it.