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.