What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Corey M. Barnes, and I’m a storyboard artist. I just wrapped up my gig as storyboard supervisor on China, IL at Titmouse, Inc., and am currently storyboarding season 3 of Superjail!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
When I was a teen I worked at JC Penney. I was one of the guys who folded clothes that people threw on the floor or just didn’t put back properly. I remember I found two children, one being a baby, hiding under a rack of clothes with no parents around. I thought they were lost or forgotten. Two minutes later the dad comes running up to me and starts accusing me of thinking because the kids were black that they were stealing stuff, all the while his wife is trying to calm him down. He called me a nigger and complained to the head of our department, who pretty much shrugged it off as “What an asshole.”
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I was really excited when I got hired to storyboard for Archer. I’m a big fan of Adam Reed’s work, so it was a privilege to work on his newest show. I was hired for season two, and the show had just barely survived after season one. Thankfully FX gives its shows some time to breathe and build an audience. Right now I’m having fun working on Brad Neely’s new series, China, IL. With a few weeks left on Archer, I was asked by Titmouse to take a test for a new show called The Professor Brothers. I thought it was the stupidest looking thing, but I did the test, and I thought I did an awful job on it. I was surprised when I got the call saying they wanted to hire me, so I left Archer a week-and-a-half early and began boarding on the show whose name would later be changed to China, IL. Adult Swim didn’t want two shows with “The ______ Brothers” as the title. I’m lucky enough to where I’ve liked every show I’ve been a part of. Many people in the animation world take jobs on shows that are filled with behind the scenes drama, and that certainly can’t produce a good show.
How did you become interested in animation?
I watched cartoons a lot as a kid. I mean a LOT. I’m pretty much an encyclopedia of cartoons from 1989 onward. It gets fuzzier after 2002. When I was a kid I would use our giant VHS camcorder to videotape movies starring popsicle sticks with eyes glued on them, as they live in towns made of things like Legos and Jenga blocks. Later that turned into taping my MS Paint drawings and notebook sketches, while I did crappy voices over them. Soon I got a much better PC and discovered Macromedia Flash, and began animating more. I think it was around college I realized I mainly wanted to be a storyboard artist. I was studying comics at the time, and I liked telling stories with pictures.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, lived in many other places, but spent a lot of time in South Florida before returning to Georgia in 2003. When I got out of SCAD, I tried to find work around Atlanta, but pickings were slim and I had a sequential art degree as opposed to an animation degree and some sort of student film. I got hired to do some animated shorts for XM Satellite Radio, based on The Opie and Anthony Show, which they showed as part of a comedy tour. I did each short over the course of 2-5 days. The idea was to do each one as quickly as possible since the pay was rather small. I didn’t have a Cintiq or even a tablet at the time. I drew all the artwork with a mouse.
In 2007 I decided that it wasn’t worth staying in Atlanta to find work, so I took a risk, packed my clothes and all my money, and drove all the way across the country to live in Los Angeles. At first I stayed in two shitty hotels for a couple weeks, then I spent a few days in the car once hotel money ran out, and I found a place in Sherman Oaks. While there I did some animation for a webseries called Pansy Warrior Princess, but my foot-in-the-door came when I took a King of the Hill storyboard test, and got hired onto The Goode Family over at Film Roman.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I leave my Glendale apartment and take my occasionally-pain-in-the-ass commute to the studio compound in Hollywood. I get to my workstation, check some news websites, and get to work. A work day can be short, or it can go past 10 PM, or I could end up working weekends. I recently bought my own copy of SB Pro 2, so I can easily work from home if need be.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the storyboard meetings with the director and creator/writers. We watch the Quicktimes, brainstorm new ideas, and throw post-it notes at each other like ninja stars. The Titmouse conference room looks like a crime scene when we finish.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Schedule crunches. When there’s less time at the front to finesse stuff, it creates more problems down the line, and they end up fixing more stuff at the end that could’ve been prevented. It also sucks when you make friends with a co-worker, and one day come in to find out he/she’s been fired.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
|The rollercoaster of no work and too much work. In 2009, I had to search far and wide to find work. Now I’m too busy and have to turn down other job offers.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use a Cintiq and Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 2 to board out my scenes. Our production line is a bit different since everything is in-house. We don’t print storyboards on paper, but rather we time them in SB Pro to the radioplay, and export them as Quicktime files for layout and animation to watch. For layout, I use Adobe Flash. For notes and scribbles, the good ol’ 16:9 post-it will do the job.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
When I got the job at Film Roman, I got to work with Wes Archer, who has been directing cartoons since I was a little kid. My first director was John Rice, another talented industry veteran. On the same show I worked with Frank Molieri, Curt Geda, Kevin Altieri, and Ki Hyun Ryu. I hadn’t heard of Ryu before, but I soon learned why people respected him so much. At various conventions I’ve met animation greats like John Kricfalusi, Ralph Bakshi, Genndy Tartakovsky, Steven E. Gordon, Chris Bailey, Sam Liu, Victor Cook, and Greg Weisman. Also, when I got to Los Angeles, C.H. Greenblatt gave me a tour of Cartoon Network Studios.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I thought of answering with a personal situation, but it’s probably best to not re-open those and leave them be. Any tough professional situations I’ve had are all first world problems not worth anyone’s pity.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I wish I had a side project I was working on. Lately I’ve been doing freelance storyboards at night and on weekends. I have an idea for a comic, and another for an animated short film. If I get around to making that film, I definitely want to collaborate with others I’ve worked with.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can drink beer before liquor and not feel sicker/throw up quicker.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Echoing others’ “draw draw draw” and “draw from life” sentiments. If you’re just starting out and you want an animation job, figure out what job you can do best, and focus on that to get your foot in the door. Many aspiring animation workers will submit portfolios filled with backgrounds, character designs, storyboards, while applying for a job that only cares about one of those, so nothing really stands out. You have to learn to adapt to others’ designs. If you can’t draw in a variety of styles, you won’t get much work. Observe drawing styles, figure out their foundations and construction process, and practice. Also, do your homework when applying at a certain studio. You probably won’t get hired at Fox Television Animation with your portfolio of Disney style artwork. Look up the studio’s website, their IMDb, see what they’ve done and what they’re currently doing. After that, you can craft a portfolio that gives you a better chance of being hired. Also, once you’ve made it in and are gaining the respect of others, don’t ever think that you’ve learned enough. You don’t ever stop learning. Maybe you can draw every back muscle, but that doesn’t mean you should quit life drawing. Keep exploring and experimenting. You may stumble onto some techniques no one else thought of.
Corey M. Barnes
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