Frank Detrano

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What is your name and occupation?
Frank Detrano. Storyboard Artist & Character Designer for Finetoon Animation

What have been some of the crazier jobs you’ve had before getting into animation?
I think I’ve had a more interesting and varied past than most artists in the field, having been a professional opera singer, a teacher of ancient history and a personal trainer.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Mostly all of the shows have found a personal niche in me. However, if I had to choose one it would be Clifford Puppy Days. It was educational and entertaining at the same time. Plus I would draw dogs frolicking and playing all day and always came home in a great mood.

How did you become interested in animation?
I could always draw, even from an early age and did comic art, funny editorial cartoons and illustrations. But I think seeing my drawings “move” really..hooked me and was the definitive reason I got involved in the field.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up mostly on the North Shore of Long island. I was taking a class in Storyboards at the School of Visual Arts while working as a trainer at a local sports club. My teacher saw my potential and waltzed me into an interview at MTV Networks for Daria. I’ve since relocated to LA because many of the major studios are here and I’ve always wanted to live on the west coast. No shoveling snow…enough said?

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I like to start my day early and am usually up around 6:00am. Then it’s out the door walking our dog Bonnie, that first cup of coffee (very important), checking my emails and
getting down to business drawing all day. Food, sleep and traveling are in there somewhere.

What part of your job do you like the best? Why?
I never tire of creating. Whether it be characters or storyboards filled with action or drama. That spark of imagination still burns just as bright no matter how long you do something.

What part of your job do you like the least? Why?
The promotional business end of the industry. As an artist, you realize you have to deal with marketing your talent and putting together a website, cards, etc. that reflects who you are.
It’s an integral part of getting work. And there’s also all that social networking. I have become better at this, however, thanks to large part to my wife. She’s a people magnet.

What’s the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Sometimes, a person will review a website or portfolio and see a particular style (which is usually your own) and assume that’s the only style you can do. It’s a pigeon hole mentality and that can be frustrating. I believe storyboard artists, by nature and design, are versatile and can produce many different styles.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
A lot of artists, including myself, have had to hit the ground running with all the latest software and make the transition from paper and pencil to digital. Now, I work predominately on a computer and use Photoshop, Flash, Toon Boom, After Effects among others.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
On a number of occasions, I’ve pitched both animation and live action projects to major studios and come very close each time, however someone keeps moving the carrot. Still, I like to brush up against animation greatness every once in a while and have enjoyed meeting celebrities at the Annies or at Comic Con.

Describe a tough situation in your life?
Losing a loved one before their time or seeing a cherished dream fall by the wayside is always tough to handle.

Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Currently, I’m working on several sizzle reels for animation projects for both TV and feature film. There’s also a screenplay for a live action movie and all are in varying degrees of development. You can get an idea of the styles and themes from the artwork I’ve included to accompany this interview.

Any unusual talents or hobbies?
Unfortunately, cherry stem twirling and metallurgy are out of my league. However, I do enjoy lifting weights, can still sing an aria or two in the shower, and have been known to do a very good Darth Vader impression. Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Well, for one thing, get as much feedback on your artwork (both positive and negative) from your peers as you possibly can. Yes, the negative will sting a bit but couch that criticism in the context it was given and the person who gave it to you. Secondly, develop your own style and don’t copy someone else. And third, talent alone will get you only so far. You’ll need perseverance, dedication and an intangible called “luck”. Not to sound cliche’, but one of my favorite quotes is from Rocky, I think number 19 (only kidding Sly if you’re reading this). Life will always hit harder than you, that’s not the point. What matters is how many hits you can take and still get up off that canvas and go on. In the end, that will determine your success.

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