What is your name and your current occupation?
Christian De Vita and currently I work for TeamTo in Paris as storyboard supervisor of an 11 minuteX52 episode 3D animation comedy series.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Not many crazy jobs before animation to be honest. I went straight from college into animation. As a student I worked as a waiter back in Italy for a while to save a little money for when I moved to the UK. But it wasn’t a crazy restaurant and I definitely wasn’t a crazy waiter.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The two main films I worked on in the past 4 years: Fantastic Mr Fox, where I was Lead Story Artist, and recently Frankenweenie, as I had always been a fan of Tim’s work.
How did you become interested in animation?
I originally wanted to be a comic book artist. I studied animation in Rome at the Roberto Rossellini institute for Film and Television as I’d read that one of my favourite Italian comic book artists had gone there to learn to draw in a cinematic way and better his dynamic posing. I thought I’d do the same, but when I moved to London I got my first job in animation and the rest, as they say, is history… And I still haven’t drawn any comics yet!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I guess I answered this one in me previous answer.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Right now I make my way into to the studio around 8.30. I’m currently in Paris and I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to work as it’s not too far. I take advantage of the early start to either write notes on storyboards that need retakes, or address emails that need my attention, before the rest of the team fills the studio. My day is then split between storyboarding my own episode, checking other artists’ work and making amends where necessary, and thumbnailing some ideas for an episode I’ve penned in for another artist. These thumbnails, along with other reference materials, I’ll use at the briefing session where we direct each artist on ideas and notes for each episode. I’m also directing the pilot for a new series in development so aside from constant tweaks and adjustments to this storyboard, I’m managing the character designs and 3D models’ team, as well as supervising lay-outs to send to animation, which will then need to be checked and approved. We usually wind down around 8pm sometimes later depending on our deadlines.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I enjoy the very head of the creative process. At the start of working a storyboard or developing the story, where we quickly sketch ideas out, discuss the plot and character points, have an open discussion about all the points within the script, the problems, how to solve them. These brainstorming sessions form the basis of many storyboard passes, and I always feel that with each pass the work gets stronger, but it’s at the beginning that it feels very raw, impulsive, spontaneous.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Reworking a scene to death. I think that after many takes on the same scene the work simply becomes stagnant and could always need a fresh pair of eyes… Or many pairs!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Mostly I storyboard using ToonBoom Storyboard Pro 2, although for a more polished look I go to Photoshop as the drawing tools are better. I always starts my work on paper though. Sketchbooks mostly where I can thumbnail out my ideas for a scene, work out the staging and compositions of my master shots.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Being away from home and my family for lengthy periods is tough. Not every job is close to home so traveling becomes necessary if you want to stay in constant work.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Sure. Obviosuly recently having worked with Tim Burton, but I have done the festival circuit a few times giving lectures and presentations and have come across some ‘greats’. Yet my favourite acquaintaince is stll Bob Godfrey. Back in my first few years in London I was introduced by a colleague and friend to Bob, famous in the UK for Henry’s Cat and Roobarb & Custard, and for winning an Academy Award for his short Great. He was nominated a further 3 times I think. Bob’s a great animator, and a great guy… Funny raconteur. We shared many evenings drinking English beer, and several Christmas lunches between his studio and mine, usually in lovely quaint London pubs overlooking the Thames. He once gave me a signed Roobarb drawing which he’d done and framed for me as a Christmas gift.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I always walk on the sunny side of the street… Nothing’s been too tough so far to really moan about it, and fingers crossed I hope it’ll stay this way.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m always working on side projects. I have 2 which I’m developing with my business partner at One Hand Clapping with Disney. I’m also directing a short film based on the book Wittgenstein’s Poker, with the voice talents of Richard E. Grant, Brian Cox and Karl Markovics.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
At night I don my spandex outfit and swing from skyscraper to skyscraper looking for criminals to bring to justice with my spider powers!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be driven. Be motivated. Be persistant.