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, had to be a carpenter/roofer. I worked with a bunch of super manly, blue collar dudes, who’s life mission was to win concert tickets on the radio, and win 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?
In 2007, when I was lead animator at AUGENBLICK STUDIOS, there was a stint of 3 projects that completely blew my mind. It started with the web series called GOLDEN AGE, which was a documentary style narrative of obscure cartoon characters from different time periods. From there we went on to animate a 4 minute cartoon for the feature film THE TEN, in a segment called THE LYING RHINO. Right after that we started animating the first episode of SUPERJAIL! It was really lightning in a bottle for the whole studio, we had a super tight team of very talented artist, pumping on all cylinders… It actually paved the way for the studio to go all the way to the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. THE TEN, and all the webisodes of GOLDEN AGE where proudly featured there. It was very surreal, as an animator, going into theaters and seeing your work so big with an audience.
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, being it was so close. I interned at a bunch of Animation studios, 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 called SHORTIES WATCHIN’ SHORTIES, where we animated stand up routines, from various comedians.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
As owner of brand new studio now, I find my mornings doing books, writing emails, and searching for on-going 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 4 months, I can go to bed very satisfied and super happy. Right now, we are animating a web series called TRANSFURTER, which follows the adventures of a gender confused hot dog, who deals out poor sexual advice. We also have been managing 4 websites, starting a blog, and are self funding 3 animated shorts.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Storyboards and animating hands down. 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, you know, when you really nail a scene, and can watch it a month later and still feel like your watching it for the first time, it 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 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 FX, and FINAL CUT. Each new version of the programs come with a bit of a learning curve, but I find if you stay on top of all the latest, figuring out the programs become second nature. It’s only impacted the studio in a positive way, we now have clients in Paris and L.A. where a few years ago an East Coast Studio, couldn’t of been 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?
Every day I worked at AUGENBLICK STUDIOS, I was surrounded by the very best, Aaron Augenblick, Jeremy Jusay, Kris Wollinger, Chester Kneble, Barbara Benas, Katie Wendt, and so many others. Such a talented crew, who give it their all, and in my opinion, don’t get much better.
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?
We have 3 animated shorts the studio is working on right now. (see attached art work)
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I enjoy renovating my Jersey City Condo, though to call anything I’m doing there a real “talent” would be a stretch.
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.