What is your name and your current occupation?
Brian Mac Moyer, freelance artist and prop designer
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I worked in a textiles plant, converting colored designs into black negative plates for color printing. I was a Romita’s Raider in the Marvel Bullpen and I operated a porcelain press that separated porcelain clay out of a mud called “slip” used for making electric insulators.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Megas XLR, I was there from its’ infancy, I helped with the pre-pilot and was hired on as a prop designer when it finally got greenlit by Cartoon Network. That show is the reason I moved to California. Beavis and Butthead Do America was my first big break. I showed the art director my portfolio and he like what he saw so he had me do a BG test over the weekend. With test finished, I came in on Monday and he wanted to hire me on the spot but the producer said I had to take a layout test. I had no clue how to do layouts but learned while I took the test and got the job.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Up-state NY, 30 minutes east of Rochester in a little town called Palmyra. I got into animation via the comic industry. John Romita was my supervisor at Marvel Comics and in 1994 the industry was in a nose dive. One day out of the blue, John said I need to diversify, he explained only the very few make a career from one industry and that one had to be able to use ones talent in any career, so when I was let go from Marvel a few months later, I took my portfolio to the local commercial studios and got lucky, one was doing a Spiderman Spaghettios commercial and they needed someone to animate the webs on his costume. I was hired and worked in small commercial houses for about a year until the Mtv gig.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Right now it’s looking for work as I produce more work for my portfolio. As a freelance artist, you have to be continually upgrading your portfolio and pumping your contacts for information and help. It’s a thin line between asking for information/help and being annoying. I’m not sure if anyone ever figures it out perfectly but it takes practice, discipline and patience.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the constant change, no two shows are the same and every episode brings a new challenge. In any job, there’s fun and there’s boredom and the change helps mitigate the boredom. Even in Prop Design, you’ll have to design a phone and or a toaster or any number on mundane items but then that six wheel drive assault vehicle with Vulcan machine guns that turns into a 50’ tall robot hits your desk and then its game on!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The constant self-promotion and marketing gets to me sometimes. With a stream of new people always flooding into the business, it’s tough to remain relevant in a producer’s mind. While producers are looking at budgets and trying to cut costs, as an artist, you are offering experience and superior craftsmanship which costs money. It’s difficult to keep yourself a candidate for a job when competing against younger artists that are sometimes promising to do two times the work for half the pay.
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 exclusively on a Cintiq now. I use Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop to produce rough and final art. I have to say that my output increased by 25-50% and I no longer need to spend money on reams of paper, inking pens, boxes of pencils or erasers anymore. Nothing matches the feel or accuracy of a pencil to paper but the digital setup gets rid of 95% of the mess that I used to have to deal with in terms of tools cluttering my work space.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding and making the time to do the self-marketing and promotion. Looking for the next job while finishing the one you’re on because the end of a job is always the busiest time.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would
you do it?
Huh, interesting question. It would be extremely vain of me to think that I might have a better way to run this industry but if I could, I would get rid of submitting online portfolios. It’s too easy now to dismiss an artist simply because a producer/director doesn’t know them, they flipped through the website in under 10 seconds or it was left up to an intern to make a decision if someone’s work was up to standard. I prefer a face to face meet when applying for a job. That way the employer and the applicant can get a feel for each other and can determine if the job is a good fit for both of them.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have met so many people in this industry that I would consider animation “greats,” that I would be hard pressed to name them all, but for any one that would be considered a superstar? The only two that I could name would be Joseph Barbera and Roy Disney.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I was 22 and sitting in my apartment up to my nose in debt with only a bag of frozen vegetables to last me a week for food. I was 3 years out of high school and failed out of community college after majoring in foosball. Soon after failing out of college, I moved out of my parent’s house and took a heavy industrial job that paid well. Unfortunately, I threw out my back after working there for 9 months. As a result I ended up having to work 3 minimum wage jobs to make ends barely meet. So, there I am with only a bowl of mixed vegetables to eat, a car on its last leg, a bad back, no education and 3 jobs that weren’t paying the bills in an apartment that was used more for storage than for living in. Something had to change or I was going to be living on the streets. I guess you could say that was the night I finally grew up. I swallowed my pride, called my dad and told him I needed help to get into school. He let me move back home to save money towards tuition and in the first year he helped pay the other half of my tuition to go to the Joe Kubert School. The following two years I was able to get student loans and grants and I was able to pay for it all myself and my life as an adult finally started.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
A few years back, a partner and I were shopping a title around that I came up with called Diesel Punk. We had a treatment and art and we had a cool twist on how to produce it. It actually got some traction and notice but then the mortgage bubble burst and all new project budgets withered and died on the vine. I still dabble and play around with it. It might be time to do something with it again.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I paint 28mm war gaming figures and build houses, bunkers and terrain for it.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
In my opinion, I have 2 major things they need to consider when getting into this business.
1: Network, network, network… who you know and who your friends are will determine where you get 95% of your jobs, regardless of talent (unfortunately.) I have seen some bad artists get work because they knew someone who worked on the production. I have also seen great portfolios ignored because the director didn’t know the submitter. Get to know as many people as you can and keep them on your good side. The intern you just met at the copier may be the assistant producer looking at your portfolio 2 years from now. 2: Become the best draftsman you possibly can. I tell every young artist I can to learn to draw basic shapes in perspective above all else. No matter what discipline you end up in, solid basic drawing skills are always the foundation for most of the work you do and if you need to take a job in another industry, you can always fall back on those skills to make up for your lack of experience.