It has been six years since I’ve released any music but today I am pleased to announce you can stream or download Summer Took You. This summer themed album is full of upbeat melodies, power-pop distortion, and Beach-Boys inspired harmonies. There is even a cover of Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) from Pet Sounds.
I started this album at the same time I was working on my first animation Wormholes and never expected that leaving music behind would lead to so many wonderful opportunities. What I’ve learned during all my time as a songwriter, such as composition, dynamics, melody, harmony, emotion, and the various timbre of sounds, translated directly into my films. Because of this I am very grateful for all the failures or “practice” along the way.
During the creation of my films as well as music videos for other artists, these songs stayed in the back of my mind as regrets. I really dislike quitting things that I have started and felt proud of the work and experience we all had during those original sessions. We decided to slowly chip away at these songs for a few hours every Friday night until they were done. It was a good excuse to get together and in a way a souvenir of the fun we had.
Years later, those three hours a week led to this.
Summer Took You was recorded at Electric Canyon Studios with Dale Price as well as my home studio (now my animation studio), and Jay Darden’s home studio. Some of the songs we initially recorded didn’t make the final cut but maybe they can be reworked down the road.
It features Jay Darden on electric guitar, and bass guitar on the opening track California. Jay also had a major impact on engineering in our later stages.
My brother Jordan Funk played drums, Dana Hocking helped engineer two songs, Ken Lovgren (deathstar) wrote the bass guitar for Kill Me So Good, and John Peters mixed Kill Me So Good and In the End. Along with tracking the majority of the instruments at Electric Canyon Studios, Dale Price mixed the remaining songs and mastered the album.
You can stream or download the album right now through Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, Amazon Music, Facebook, Google Music Store, YouTube Music, and more.
On Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th of April I premiered my short fantasy/thriller short film 3 Keys at The Museum of Northern California Art along with puppets and props from the film, a short behind the scenes video, and a Q&A with the other artists, actors, and contributors who made this film possible. The event exceeded my expectations and our opening night required all the extra chairs that the museum had. We even had fun handing out free skeleton keys as people came in (my wife's great idea).
Watching the film in front of an audience for the first time was nerve wracking but they reacted exactly how I would have hoped. An unexpected outcome was the eagerness of certain audience members to try and solve a puzzle that is a main component of the film. This lead to great conversations, and varying theories...however, I'm keeping the true answer a secret (you'll have to see the film to understand this puzzle).
My films are very sculptural and so I displayed as many of the puppets and props as I could but unfortunately some didn't survive production. Many of the questions from the audience evolved around the process of stop-motion animation and the visual effects as well as a specific in camera visual effect that shows Brigette Funk falling into a dream.
Here are some photos from the 2 day premiere:
Here is a behind the scenes short video that shows the process behind my latest film 3 KEYS. We just premiered it the last two nights at The Museum of Northern California Art and now I'm sending it off to film festivals around the world.
This film was created over the last three years in-between my jobs as a freelancer and teacher with the help of so many talented people; actors, crew, puppet makers, concept artists, reference models for the animations, voice over actors, visual effects, interns, and more.
The music you hear was created for the film by composer Barbara De Biasi.
Feel free to leave me questions or comments.
Tomorrow marks my 3rd year as a full-time artist. It has not been easy, and despite all of my intentions I am now on a completely different path than the one I started on. This yearly check-in with the world is mostly for myself so that I can process where I’ve been, and imagine where I am going. However, if you’ve stumbled upon this blog and are thinking of pursuing a career in the Arts I hope there is something here to help you on your journey.
To see my previous Blogs on this subject click the links below:
How did 2017 go?
Well…I’m exhausted but now starting to find a workflow that is efficient, learning to trust my gut instincts with creative decisions, and finally charging what I’m worth (most of the time). These were all issues that slowed me down or caused unneeded stress in my first year (Yay for learning things!). It seems more often than not that I have too much going on at once, usually with two long-term projects, a personal project, and many smaller ones in the mix, but on days when I feel overwhelmed I remember how far I’ve come, take a breath, and just keep going.
So where did I go wrong this year?
I’m still struggling to find a balance between my home life and work life. Working from home can be troublesome even if you have a dedicated space or studio. The working part isn’t my problem and social media or TV doesn't generally distract me. I keep my lunches to a minimum of 30 minutes and usually eat while standing up because I’m sitting so much throughout the day. My main issue is taking care of the daily things like keeping the house in order, bringing the car in for repairs, and dealing with the unexpected parts of life that like to cause trouble when I’m on a creative roll. When I’m working, I feel guilty for not spending enough time with my family. When I’m with my family, I feel the stress of the work that is waiting for me. I hope in the coming year, I can become better at enjoying the moment, shutting down my brain from time to time, and…doing the laundry before I run out of clothes.
Where did I go right?
Last year I decided to say yes to opportunities more often…even if they scared me, got in the way of a deadline, or didn’t directly benefit me. That strategy has actually been extremely helpful. If I’m asked to give a talk to a school I say yes. If there is a cool opportunity to collaborate with another artist I say yes. If someone wants to know how I created something I say yes. I try to find time for anyone doing something positive with their lives or the lives of others. By doing so, I’ve met so many great people in this country and my community, helped a few of them connect with each other, and hopefully inspired someone to go make their thing. It would take too long to go into the specifics but each time I say yes to helping others, it seems to lead to unexpectedly great places.
Here are some of the projects I was fortunate enough to work on this year:
I was asked to submit a short film for the Shared Visions Exhibition at the Chico Art Center. The idea of the exhibition was to encourage creative activities for children by having artists collaborate with their own children. With only 10 days to make this short film with my 2 year old son, I had no time to second guess my decisions. I filmed him playing with the old, broken toys from my childhood. The decisions he made determined what I would animate. After the month long exhibition at Chico Art Center, it also screened at New York Film Screenings (New York,NY), the Symi International Film Festival (Symi, Greece), Woodengate International Film Festival (Maramures, Romania), and even took home the Award of Merit: Film Short at The Accolade Global Film Competition.
After finishing a personal project last year with my good friend Dana Hocking called Monsters Project we reached out to our local radio station KZFR about giving away some books during their fund drive. We really hit it off with the General Manager and he asked us to create a few animated commercials for the station. After the commercials we pitched him an idea for a video game for iOS and Android that he loved. The concept of the game is that you get to fight Zombies who have taken over the town of Chico, CA and only good radio (KZFR) can save everyone. I illustrated the backgrounds of my hometown including downtown Chico, 1-mile, and the KZFR building, and Dana created the animations and coded the game. Watch the game trailer now.
Graphic Design is something I don’t advertise but I still have my steady clients who approach me from time to time. Over the year I created many flyers for the University of Alabama, events around town, and smaller design jobs that popped up. These kinds of projects are always welcome as a quick break between my long-term work and give me a chance to keep up to date on new design trends.
Beatles Tribute Concert Animations
I made a 2-minute animation for the Beatles song Sun King as well as 7 background motion graphic animations themed to songs from Abbey Road. They were projected onto the screen and backdrops at Laxson Auditorium for two sold out nights as musicians and dancers performed the songs live. It was fun collaborating on a project like this where I could sit in the audience and experience the show without the stress of having to perform each night.
Recently I wrote an article for Videomaker Magazine about how to plan for stop-motion effects in your film. I also supplied them with a lot of behind the scenes photos from various projects. Keep a look out for the issue… the last I heard it might come out in December.
Mystery TV project
I was hired to create a sculpture for a TV show pilot. They asked if I knew how to do something very specific (which I’d never done) and I figured it out (Luckily). I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to talk about this in length but the show is so unique and is going to be amazing when it finally airs!
Involvement in the Community
Over the past year I participated in the Chico High Digital Arts Pathway; a program designed to help students prepare to work in the arts right out of High School or be a step ahead going into College. I also mentored a High School student as she created her first animation for her senior project, participated in the Chico Unified School District Advisory Board, and Co-Directed the International Animation Festival Animation Chico.
The third annual Animation Chico Festival will be held December 9th at Chico Theater Company. Read more about the event here.
Scissors Gonna Cut Ya
I collaborated with the band Severance Package to create a fun, retro feeling music video made from paper cut outs of the band performing along with backup dancers and menacing black-gloved hands. The video won The Award of Merit Special Mention: Music Video at the Accolade Global Film Competition and screened at the local music video night at the Pageant Theatre. Watch it now!
I am so close to finishing this film! (Can you sense my frustration?) To be honest it’s kind of killing me but every time I finish a shot I am more energized to keep going. I set out to make a short film that pushed my abilities and gave me a chance to try important things I had never attempted as a Director. Because of various commission work and opportunities throughout the year this film has been delayed but now I am in the final stretch. My last short film, The Spaceman only had two puppets, this film has around 15. My goal is to submit it to festivals and competitions, hold a premiere, and hopefully meet some other great filmmakers and artists during my time traveling to these events. Watch the trailer here!
I was asked to fill in for one of my former Professors at California State University Chico while she traveled internationally. At the time I had no experience teaching but thinking of my new rule (Say yes to opporunities…even if they scare you) I did my best and figured it out along the way. I ended up teaching an Introduction to Digital Media Course, and a Stop-Motion Animation course. Both were extremely fun and challenging. Figuring out what the students’ goals were, how to motivate them individually, and customizing the lessons to their interests whenever possible were my favorite parts. By the end of the semester, I was hooked. I even held a mini film festival for the Stop-Motion animation final and we invited their family and friends. During the screening we displayed their puppets, students answered questions from the audience, and everyone seemed to have a great time. By the end of it I recognized that teaching forced me to be a better artist and kept me up to date with programs I seldom use in my professional work. This experience definitely influenced my art in a positive way.
Where am I going next?
Oh boy… well, after reevaluating my goals I have decided to simultaneously work on two paths that compliment one another. The first is to continue my work as a filmmaker and eventually direct my first feature film that will mix live-action with stop-motion. Once I wrap up 3 Keys, I will begin writing this screenplay, looking for producers and investors.
My new and surprising second path is to teach at a University. I enjoyed teaching so much that over the summer I researched Grad Schools to pursue my M.F.A. After talking with former alumni, directors, and advisors, my top choice was a Low-Residency program in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Lesley University College of Art and Design. This program will allow me to continue working as a freelancer from home while traveling to the Boston area twice a year. On top of that I get to work with Artist Mentors in the Bay Area. I’m pleased to announce that last month I was notified of my acceptance in the program and will travel to Cambridge in early January. These are exciting times and I look forward to every moment.
If you’ve made it this far into the blog congratulations! I would digitally high-five you if that was a thing…(is that a thing?)
Until next year….
Have questions? Leave them in the comments below.
I had been grueling away at the small visual effects in my upcoming film 3 Keys when I was approached to participate in the Shared Visions Exhibition at Chico Art Center. I knew I shouldn't have said yes but the idea was so great - artists collaborating with children to inspire the community to be more creative with their kids. This would be an opportunity to work with my two year old son Jonah on something special that we can always look back on. It also fits in well with some of the themes I've been exploring in my films and illustrations. The catch... I'd only have 10 days to finish it. This kind of pressure was really a gift and has reenergized me to trust my creative instincts, push aside the "what if's" and just let things happen how they will happen.
First I created some very basic storyboards and developed a concept that used what I already had available in my studio. A big challenge was figuring out how to film Jonah efficiently and effectively so it was an enjoyable experience for him that allowed him to collaborate and contribute.
I created a small box full of old, broken action-figure pieces from my childhood. The box was full of colorful lights, and objects that I could later animate. I prepped all of the lighting and discreetly set up the camera, allowing me to capture his natural reaction to seeing these toys for the first time. I then had to direct him in order to get some connecting shots. Throughout the week we filmed four times in small sessions. I then took the action figures he was playing with, animated them, and built the story around it.
Some days I found myself grabbing anything I could find to cobble together a set. After collecting random objects, miniatures, pieces of plastic, and cardboard over the years it wasn't hard to do.
One of the final steps was composing music that felt like childlike wonder. I decided to use a toy music box, and two different ukuleles with digital instruments of a flute and clarinet to create the playful but sentimental score.
After many late nights and long days TOY BOX is now finished and will be premiering on August 11th at the Chico Art Center in Chico, CA. Until then, here are some behind the scenes photos.
This paper stop-motion animated music video was created for the band Severance Package and their song "Scissors Gonna Cut Ya". It was created by filming the band and dancers, printing at 12 fps, cutting them out and compositing in the computer. Additional stop-motion animation of my hand, scissors, and scraps of paper were used, along with paper sets and a 3D printed retro TV. See the behind the scenes images below:
My criteria for an opportunity worth taking are:
1. I get to work with great people who are trying to do great and positive things with their lives and talents.
2. It pays well and when I’m done I’ll be proud to talk about it.
3. It doesn’t pay well, but it helps someone who is genuinely trying to make a difference, is a valuable learning experience, or a springboard into something new and exciting.
On November 15th, 2014 I left a steady job in a field I wasn’t passionate about to create art for a living. 2016 was my year of saying yes to every opportunity that came my way and if I was a little scared to work on a project due to fear of failure… I did it anyway. During this experiment I had coffee or phone conversations with more than 30 complete strangers from around the country. I listened to what they were passionate about and tried to help by using my talents. This was the first year in my life I felt a sense of community and understood how we are all connected. These are the highlights and struggles of my second year as a full-time artist.
In 2015 I released a short film called The Spaceman. This Kickstarter backed film gave me the confidence and support to quit my job and follow my dreams. Throughout 2015 it played in film festivals around the world and its final stop was in January at the Sundial Film Festival. My brother and I had a blast meeting other filmmakers and seeing some really inspiring films. To our surprise we walked away with two awards, Best Narrative Film, and Best of Festival. What a great way to start the year!
The year also started off strong with a very fun project for a New York sketch comedy web series called Lunch Specials. I was asked to create a quick, energetic, and raw, opening credits for their show along with titles for each episode using chalk on a chalkboard. This was the first time I’d animated using a chalkboard and it was a nice creative challenge. The creators of the show found my work through LinkedIn. It seems daunting to keep up with all the social networking sites but this is a great example of why it doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there.
Last year I began editing the horror film Dolly Deadly for director Heidi Moore after other editors left the project. I had already contributed stop-motion animation to a few scenes a year earlier but was reluctant to take on such a big editing job. I definitely underestimated the amount of time it would take to finish the film and it led into the first couple of months of 2016. This made my life temporarily chaotic as I was trying to juggle other projects as well. In the end, I’m glad I signed on to the film because I learned a lot of tricks along the way and I feel much more comfortable with the thought of making my own feature film someday. It was exciting to hear that Dolly Deadly was picked up for distribution by Legless Corpse Films, is already building a nice underground audience, and is currently touring the country as well as film festivals. You can buy a copy here.
Although I no longer seek out graphic design jobs, I continued to take them on when approached. This year I made 4 more posters for The University of Alabama. Designed logos, t-shirts, flyers, coupons, print advertisements, and created a fun website illustration for a new Northern California company (I can’t say what it is yet but its cool!).
During my downtime I worked on a new short fantasy/horror film called 3 Keys. My goal with the film was to challenge myself with narrative structure, cinematography, special effects, and editing. We just wrapped production with all live-actors and are prepping to animate stop-motion puppets and bring in a voice actor for a significant character. This is my biggest, most challenging film to date that has allowed me to collaborate with talented artists from around the world. I hope to have a trailer in a month.
For the last year I have been collaborating with my friend Dana Hocking on a children’s book and video game called Monsters Project. This was a new experience for me since I’d never been involved in the development of a game before. We spent many hours on the phone brainstorming ways to make it challenging, fun, and full of mysteries. This month we did our first book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Chico, CA and let kids play our game in the store. You can download the game for free here. The book is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Stop-Motion Music Videos
In 2015 I created my first stop-motion music video for the band Michelin Embers and after several months the video started to get some recognition within the Northern California music scene, and eventually winning Best Brief Film at the Shortz Film Festival in September. This video led to bands from around the country requesting quotes and now I hire freelancers for assistance when needed. I’m currently animating a music video for the band Severance Package and their song “Scissor’s Gonna Cut Ya.” This retro video has a punk edge to it and is mostly made from paper cut outs of the band. We are planning on releasing the video in February to coincide with their new album release.
On top of animating the Severance Package video, I am also creating a trippy background animation for a Beatles: Abbey Road Tribute Show to be held at Laxson Auditorium at Chico State University in February. This animation will be played during the Side B Medley as a live band performs on stage.
Animation Chico Festival
On December 10th I’ll be hosting the 2nd annual Animation Chico Festival, which showcases short international animations from around the globe. I’ve really enjoyed Co-Directing this festival because I’m able to meet other creative animators and illustrators who are on the same path as I am.
I was asked to teach two Art Classes next Semester at Chico State University for one of my former professors while she travels. I still remember sitting in her classes and knowing I had something to say as an artist but really struggling to figure out what that was or how to do it. The timing couldn’t be better because I finally know those answers. This is an exciting opportunity and I hope I can help students get a step closer to reaching or even understanding their goals as people and artists.
If you are discouraged with the rising wave of hate in this world, you can fight back by being an example. Make it your goal to help and understand others before helping yourself. If you enjoy creating, go out and make something. If you see someone doing something great with his or her life, ask how you can help. Every day is still a struggle, its uncomfortable, exciting, nerve-wracking, emotional, and wonderful… but it is all worth it.
A few years ago I heard about a Kickstarter project looking to fund a horror movie called Dolly Deadly. The movie was to be in the style of the classic Troma films; very disturbing, lots of blood, and lots of fun. I had seen Director Heidi Moore's previous short films and decided to contribute to the campaign.
Lucky for me, she contacted me the next day because she had seen my previous stop-motion short film Wormholes and wanted me to be involved in adding some classic stop-motion effects to her film. Over the next few years I animated doll parts, guts, eyeballs, and a scarecrow. The movie is now touring the country and being distributed through Legless Corpse Films.
Check out the video below to see some of my stop-motion highlights from the movie:
This is my creative space, also known as my "play room." It is a place where I can build, destroy, and alter objects to suit whatever project I'm working on. When I'm at my busiest, it is a giant pile of props and materials causing me to trip with each step. When I finish a film, or music video, I spend days cleaning and reorganizing, reflecting on the time I spent creating and getting excited for what is to come.
I wanted to share the evolution of my studio with you so you can see how chaotic the art process really is. These photos are like time capsules for me and as I look at them I'm reminded of what music or podcast I was listening to while creating, the fun times collaborating with friends and family, and how I discovered what I'm capable of when I don't worry about failing and just keep pushing through.
These photos were taken during the productions of The Spaceman, Wormholes, Diggin' On, Animation Chico Promo, Three Notes, Dolly Deadly, Sinful: A Graphic Novel, The Last Foxhole, Farewell Letter, 3 Keys, Grusum, and Breathe.
Special Thanks to those pictured below and to those who have contributed to these projects : Joe Batt, Jenny Funk, Dave Hoppe, Jay Darden, Jordan Funk, Dan Reinhard, Brenden Price, Michelin Embers, Richard Whillock, Heather Bennett, Rickie Barnett, Dustin Eggleston, Devon Blenkush, Wayne Houchin, Dana Hocking, & Ryan Sanders. (Sorry if I left someone out!)
I'm continuously amazed with the kind of work artists have been putting into my new movie. Once again, I need to take the time to promote the work of one of these collaborators. Dustin Eggleston took my complicated idea for a scary door and made it look easy. This door weighs well over 100 pounds and could have come straight out of a nightmare. Check out how he made it in the images below.
First I drew designs that would be laser cut and welded onto the door. Dustin needed to simplify a few sections to make it work with the cutter.
Once again, I had the pleasure of working with the talented puppet maker Richard Whillock. This time he helped me create a stop-motion puppet as well as an identical rod-puppet so I can film in real time with the actress during some important shots. Check out the puppet photos below.
One of the best parts of filmmaking is the opportunity to collaborate with talented people in order to bring your vision to life. I'd like to take the opportunity to highlight the talented skills of Devon Blenkush, who took my simple instructions (which I can't say yet due to spoilers) and exceeded my expectations.
Here are photos of the small fairy tale door he created for my new film 3 Keys.
I met Devon when I was around 19 years old when we both worked at Kmart. Years later we bumped into each other and had a great talk about the things we were passionate about. In all the years I had worked with him I didn't know he had this secret passion for woodworking and especially had no idea how gifted he was at it. I'm so pleased to add and celebrate his creativity in my new film.
I'll add more photos as soon as we start filming with the door. Keep checking back for updates.
We had so much fun last night filming my new fantasy short film 3 Keys. Months of preparation went into organizing this first day because it involved designing and building a bed that falls backwards on a hinge for a trick shot. 7 people were needed to make a 15 second shot look convincing. Check out these behind the scenes photos and keep checking back for more updates.
Steve Martin wanted to be a magician and became the most famous comedian in the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to be the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived and became a movie star and governor. If you read enough biographies on successful people you will see a common thread that connects them all; they knew when to change their path.
I bought my first guitar in the sixth grade and by the time I was twelve I was playing Green Day and Weezer songs in front of my entire Junior High school. I was sure I had found my calling and it was to become a rock star. Fifteen years later I sounded and played better than ever but could no longer find the creative energy to pick the guitar up. This instrument that once brought me so much joy now sat in its case for months at a time until inspiration would find me… but eventually, inspiration stopped coming back.
I silently gave up on this dream in 2010 but didn’t realize it until two years later. There was no more enjoyment, there were no more songs in me, and although this may sound sad, it was a big sigh of relief. To fill the creative void I did something I’d always wanted to do and decided to create a stop-motion short film in my spare time. Wormholes became my new obsession. I spent every week for one-year building models, puppets, and learning how to animate in what used to be my home music studio. I mostly kept this to myself because I didn’t know how to explain it to my friends but it was incredibly fun. As I worked, memories started flooding back of my childhood and the hours I spent making films with my parent’s camcorder and my action figures. It felt like I had come home.
I decided to release Wormholes online and the feedback I received was far greater than anything I’d done in music. I think it was because I created it for the right reasons. It was simply made for fun and made for me. Over the next few years as I transitioned into becoming a filmmaker and animator, I saw many parallels with my experiences in music. It became evident that my failure at my first dream wasn’t a failure at all, but instead training and education.
With music I learned how to create flyers for my bands and spent years testing out different ways of promoting our shows. I learned how to create websites, logos, and CD covers, and work with printing presses. I figured out how to create buttons, and vinyl banners for our merch tables, and how to get interviews from the local papers and radio stations. My pursuits in music gave me the courage to approach venues about playing shows, and send my albums out to be reviewed.
I learned about the not so fun stuff like contracts and lawyers, copyright laws, and the disgusting habit of namedropping. I learned that every time I chased a trend, I would fail but when I created music or art that made me happy there was no downside. I learned that I’m not special and everyone in this world is capable of being great at something so I should not compare myself to others.
I learned that collaboration is extremely important and giving credit to those who contribute will lead to better work then doing everything on my own. I studied and observed everything with the music industry from the way a chord progression brought out emotions to how a band advertised their latest album. I learned to dissect why something worked and why it didn’t. When I decided to become a filmmaker, all of these lessons transferred over.
The title of this post is misleading because I didn’t give up on my dreams at all. I simply altered them based on my experiences and interests. I’m not the same as that twelve year old who first sang in front of an audience and I’m glad. I’ve evolved into someone else. Music is still a big part of my life and I enjoy composing for my movies, playing the guitar and piano in my spare time, and listening to what others are putting out into the world but I’m so thankful I gave up my dream because it made way for the new one and that’s just starting.
When I was 6 years old I rushed out of my bedroom to share a funny story with my mom. She was talking to her friend in the living room and the TV was quietly on providing just enough background noise to block out the chaos of us kids. I don’t remember what was so hilarious at the time to cause me to run to her, but I do remember the moment that followed. I remember it so vividly because it would traumatize me for the rest of my life.
Before I could say a word, something caught my attention on the TV and within 30 seconds I was curled up in a ball on the couch, clinging to my mother’s arm in utter terror. The show was Entertainment Tonight but the thing that would haunt my dreams for decades to come was the infamous doll Chucky.
The thought never even occurred to me that my beloved teddy bear or any other toy could possibly come to life and kill, but from that day forward I saw the world differently. Though I would never actually watch the Child’s Play movies until I was 19, those 30 seconds of footage along with the image of Chucky on the VHS tapes at the video rental stores, fueled my imagination with terror.
At first Chucky would appear in my nightmares each week until eventually he only showed up when I had internal turmoil. By the time I was in high school I figured out he represented whatever my current problem was and how well I was handling it. If I was running away from my problems in real life, I found myself running away from Chucky. If I was ready to tackle a problem head on, I found myself stabbing him, or setting him on fire. Eventually, we even became friends and would sit on the couch together watching TV… I still don’t know what that means.
Everything changed when my family took a trip to Universal Studios and I saw how movies were made. I’m not sure if it is in my imagination but I remember our tour bus driving past a glass case with chucky dolls on display and I became fascinated. By the time I was 9 years old, I began checking out books from our local library on film techniques and became fascinated with the practical effects in Star Wars, and Jaws.
In 2012 I started to focus my artistic exploration towards stop-motion animation, essentially building dolls to animate in my dark home studio. Last year it hit me… I was overcoming my fear of dolls by controlling them through my art. While doing research on animatronics for my movie The Spaceman, I watched the making of Child’s Play and found a new respect for these filmmakers who unknowingly tortured my childhood. The creativity and craftsmanship that went into making this classic horror film was remarkable.
Next month I will begin filming a new short film about Nightmares called 3 Keys. Through filmmaking I am exploring this concept more directly and have even commissioned a terrifying clown doll marionette along with other puppets to try and conquer this fear once and for all. Maybe that’s what the creators of Child’s Play were doing back in 1988 or maybe they just wanted to make the scariest movie possible. Either way I hope I don’t send another kid down the same terrifying path Chucky gave me.
I’ll be posting behind the scenes stills and concept art for my new movie soon. Keep checking back for updates.
Let’s pretend you’ve already lived your entire life and as you came to the end, you had the chance to live it again. How would you spend each day? What would you do differently? This kind of fantasy rattled around in my brain during restless nights and miserable days working in retail.
For years I knew I needed to change the direction my life was going and I found myself eight years into a profession that did not represent my goals, talents, and strengths. It seemed that the longer I stayed, the harder it became to leave and as more time passed, my confidence in fulfilling my dreams diminished. My dream was to be creative for a living.
One year ago today, with either courage or perhaps pure ignorance, I left being comfortable for the unknown. I could clearly visualize in my mind what life would be like if I didn’t try… I was already living it. I had the support of my wife (even with a baby on the way) and had enough experience to know where to start. After all, I went to school to study art and there wasn’t a valid enough excuse to give up before ever trying.
This is a summary of what I experienced in my first year as a full-time freelance artist and if you stumbled upon this because you want to change where you are in life, just remember I also google searched, “Should I quit my day job?” before starting my journey.
WHAT DID I ACCOMPLISH?
My plan was to make a living as an illustrator and take on graphic design projects on the side. I created a clear business plan and set out to make it happen but soon had to change course when the universe started pulling me in a different direction… filmmaking and animation.
At the time I left my day job, I was just finishing my second film, a black and white sci-fi short called The Spaceman. With a stop-motion animated monster as the villain, this Kickstarter funded project ended up opening all kinds of unexpected doors for me. I entered it in many film festivals and competitions, which resulted in winning 4 awards. It was seen by thousands of people around the world and has so far screened in California, Utah, New York, & Australia. Through this experience I was able to connect with other filmmakers and movie lovers and to better recognize my strengths and weaknesses.
Years ago, a friend taught me how to write press releases and by following his advice The Spaceman was featured in multiple regional newspaper articles including the Chico Enterprise Record, Chico News & Review, & the Orion. I appeared on two TV news shows, a podcast, did multiple radio interviews, and images from my film were used in a Videomaker Magazine article on Stop-Motion animation techniques. The movie was also featured on the websites Film Pulse, best-horror-movies, & sci-fi bloggers.
As traction grew for The Spaceman it also drew attention to my first animated short, Wormholes that ended up playing to over 700 people at Keeping Chico Weird. There were two people at this show who ended up hiring me to animate music videos. Other unexpected opportunities happened when I was asked to speak to classrooms at Butte College, Chico State University, and give a talk at the Museum of Northern California Art’s pop up event. These appearances led to getting the Art at the Matador Scholarship Room, where I showed my work to the public in a historic Chico, CA motel.
In between all of these events I worked on over 40 graphic design jobs including clients such as The University of Alabama, Georgia Southern University, and Innovate NorthState. I created a Kickstarter video for a clothing company, and an officially licensed Star Wars apparel teaser for DesignByHumans. Near the end of the year, a lot of my time shifted towards stop-motion animation including work in a feature horror film called Dolly Deadly, music videos for Norwegian songwriter Annie Woodward, and the band Michelin Embers.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
1. Charge What You Are Worth
I made many mistakes this year and I’d have to say my biggest is not charging what I’m worth. I was so fearful that I wouldn’t have any work that I ended up short changing myself. This was my most fulfilling and successful year and yet this year brought in one of the lowest incomes in my working life. Still, I wouldn’t change it for the world and I have a better understanding now of what my time is worth.
2. Plant Seeds
There were three months this year when I felt like a complete failure because either the money wasn’t coming in, or the projects were drying up. I made sure to spend those slow days updating my website, working on personal projects, and being thankful for what I’d already accomplished so far. I noticed the more I put myself out into the world, the more opportunities trickled in. Occasionally, I would meet with a potential client assuming our project wasn’t going to work out, but months later would hear back from them with the green light to start working. I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be creating in 2016 and this should scare me but as long as I put in the work and do my best something will always be around the corner.
3. Enjoy your work
Finally, you must enjoy your work, not the money, accolades, or success. The work must come first. If you’ve found something you love, make an honest commitment to it, and enjoy every moment. Set a specific time every day where you put away your phone and distractions and just go for it. You will be happiest and do your best work when you let yourself enjoy it.
On November 15th, 2014 I said my goodbyes and tried to never look back. These last twelve months have become pivotal for me as an artist and a person. I understand there is a long way to go but I am now dedicating myself full time to achieving it.
Here is a behind the scenes look of the drill being held by a rig. The drill was made from a steampunk eyepiece, airdry clay, and painted foam core. I later deleted the rig to make it appear like it was floating above the ground. These scenes were fun because I also animated dirt by pushing it around with my fingers.
This is the inside view of a hole that the drill was digging. It was created by gluing torn pieces of textured, packaging cardboard together. I then added some lights and filmed the set against green screen.
Here is a screen shot after the puppet was animated and composited in. This puppet was based on the illustrations of Rick Barnett who also created their album cover. The video will be online sometime next month. Keep checking back for updates.