What is your name and your current occupation?
Stephen Brooks, freelance animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Worked at a Saw Mill in Alaska, Vacuum Cleaner salesman in Florida, and Ski Instructor in New York.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Moshi Monsters, I did all the character animation for Furi & Luvli. It was great to be apart of the beginning of the game and see it explode the way it has. I also did a teaser spot for Nate Quarry’s comic Zombie Cagefighter where I got to choreograph a fight AND animate a zombie attack simultaneously… which is just special.
How did you become interested in animation?
On a trip to Disney World (or Land… one of them) I saw a demo of someone animating Mickey Mouse. That blew my mind a little. That’s pretty much the whole story. I think my obsessive nature just took over after that and I just never let go of that fascination.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from New York. When I went to college it was the turn of the millennium and Disney was virtually closing up shop here in the States so instead of going into the Arts (Animation) I went to the Sciences (Chemistry). I still kept pursuing animation on my own and after doing animated shorts that started to get noticed I got offered work. After school I decided to jump into freelancing head first and I’ve been plummeting deeper and deeper into the animation abyss ever since (bad analogy…?).
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
First thing I do is answer emails and do the social networking thing. Then I start working on a freelance project (or personal one if there’s no freelance gigs on my table at the time). I have any meetings for the day around lunch and then go back to another gig. After dinner if I’m not going out and having a life that night I do some work on any personal project I have going on and make a to-do list for the next day (very short, on a sticky note)
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Just animating. That’s the best part. I think a lot of people are amazed how much of my day-to-day is spent doing things other than actually animating. Pre-vis, scripting, contracts, meetings and, of course, social networking all keep about 50% of my attention. I might go all Multiplicity and just clone myself so at least ONE of me gets to just animate.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Business. I just don’t like the business stuff. It’s necessary but so cold and the exact polar opposite of the mentality I want to be in when animating. It’s like a creativity cold shower.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
PC, Cintiq and Flash. That’s pretty much it. I’m doing more work on Toon Boom Animate lately but still the #1 thing requested by clients is Flash… specifically… by name.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part of being in the business is not letting the fact that it’s a business affect my work. Creativity, or at least mine, seems to be easily sapped by “business Stephen” so I try to keep a (mental) wall between all the money/contract stuff and the sketching/coloring stuff.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
If your referring to people, yes! Most notably every time I go to the CTN Animation Expo out in Burbank I talk to someone who’s work and career I respect greatly. Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg, Bill Plympton, Brenda Chapman, Ryan Woodward, Michel Gagne, Nancy Beiman… should I keep going?
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
What person didn’t have a tough situation in 2009? At the end of 2008, all my jobs were put on permanent hiatus because of the economic collapse, putting me and my career in limbo. One of the biggest regrets in my personal creativity was taking what was supposed to be an almost 5 minute short down to a 2 minute test short (“Three’s Horrible”) because I got worried that if I didn’t focus on salvaging gigs at the end of 2008 I might not have a career anymore. 2009 turned out to be tough anyway and my short had already been butchered… by me, by my fear.
Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m kind of doing a lot of stuff I don’t get paid for actually. Video reviews, VLOGs, Tip videos, minishorts (10-20 second long cartoons) are all stuff I put up periodically. I’ve been uploading a new video every Wednesday. But the big one is my Easter Bunny short (still unnamed) which is the one I chronicle in my production VLOGs which should be done by the end of March.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I don’t know, I play the bass and go rock climbing. I also have an unhealthy obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that’s not unusual… is it? Is it?!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
My advice is kind of two-fold: first, always to try to take a path that makes sense for you. You’ll read, hear or see a lot of advice from people and they’re always giving it to you from their perspective colored by their own experiences. I, myself, didn’t go to school for animation… you could actually say I LEFT school for animation. I kind of jumped into a business that didn’t necessarily need or want me and just dug in like a tick. And it worked. So if I were talking to a younger me I’d just reassure him to be like a tick… SPOOOOOON (please google that reference, children). I just wanted to clarify that first bit before I say this second bit. There are a LOT of people who ask something like “how do I do this… how do I get into animation” and I think the phrasing there is already pretty defeatist. The question should be more like “how did YOU do this” because that’s really all I can tell you with any truth and fact anyway. It’s up to the person to piece together this information into something that makes sense to them in their own life.