Category Archives: Profiles

MinnAnimate Profile: Tom Schroeder

tom_schroeder_director_marcel, king of tervuren
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your animation.

I have been making hand-drawn animated films since 1990.  My films have been broadcast on Independent Lens, the Sundance Channel, Canal + France and Spain, SBS in Australia and CBC in Canada and have screened at the American Cinematique in Los Angeles and Anthology Film Archives in New York.  The films have also played widely on the international festival circuit, including at Annecy, Rotterdam, Sundance, Ottawa, South by Southwest and Edinburgh, and have won over thirty festival awards.  I received Minnesota State Arts Board Grants in 1991, 1999 and 2006, Jerome Film and Video Grants in 2000 and 2004, McKnight Fellowships in 2006 and 2011, Bush Fellowships in 1997 and 2008 and a Rooftop Filmmakers Grant in 2013.  I have directed commercials for Kashi, Samsung and Hertz Car Rental and am currently represented as a director by Global Mechanic, Vancouver, Canada.

Why do you like animation?

Animation attracted me initially because it demands multi-disciplinary thinking. My educational background is in literature, so I first approach a film as a narrative form.  With a couple of exceptions my films are adaptations of short stories.  The stories are, of course, communicated through the language of film, translated into visual staging and sound design.  And because the films are conceived and executed one frame at a time, one really gets to explore the expressive relationship between the style of the animation and the content of the story.

Tell us about your short in this year’s festival.

Marcel is a rooster who belongs to a friend, Ann Berckmoes, in Tervuren, a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. During a bird flu scare in Europe a few years ago, the provincial government issued a requirement that domestically kept fowl be killed.  Ann initially tried to put Marcel to sleep with increasingly large doses of sedatives in his food, but every morning he was in his tree at dawn, vigorously calling out “cuculurucoo!”  She failed in multiple timid attempts to kill Marcel, the order was lifted and she celebrated by obtaining three chickens for Marcel.  He had a son who, when he grew, became territorial and fought his father.  Marcel was blinded in one eye and fled his kingdom.  He returned eventually, fought and killed his son to regain his territory.  Most recently, he survived an attack by a fox.  Marcel simply refuses to die.

During May of 2011 Ann visited my wife and me in St. Paul and I took the opportunity to record her telling Marcel’s story. She recorded the story in English, Dutch and French.   I licensed a piece of music composed by Phil Kline and recorded by the string quartet Ethel.  After editing the different language versions of the story to the music, as I’ve done with my other “documentary” animation projects (for example “Bike Race”), I then analyzed the audio track frame by frame and drew to this structure. Technically, it’s the first film I drew directly into the computer with a Cintiq, a computer screen upon which one can draw with a stylus.  And, somewhat ironically, the loose, painterly style of the film developed from working digitally rather than drawing on paper.  The animation was about half rotoscoping from live action footage I shot and half traditional character animation.

As for the abstract transitional sections, these came about as a formal expression of the main theme of the film.  When I initially heard Ann telling Marcel’s story, I though “ah, Greek tragedy enacted by Belgian roosters,” but I also remembered a line from Camus’ essay on Sisyphus.  I’m paraphrasing now, but it’s something to the effect “There is no fate that cannot be overcome by scorn.”  I wanted to give Marcel this willful defiance, but I also wanted to find a visual equivalent to his dilemma.  And so, as Marcel fights to stay alive, his representation in the film struggles to fight against the forms breaking into an abstraction of line and color.  Form and abstraction, life and death, matter and energy, etc.  I’ve always felt that the most successful animated films have an awareness of the relationship between the technical aspects of the production and the narrative content.

Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?

I play and record music and that has led to doing the sound design for my films myself.  It’s pretty fun after working many long months on the animation for the film, at a point when the material has become a little bit dead to you, to bring it to life again with the sound.
Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?
Initially, Norman McClaren, Caroline Leaf and the Brothers Quay.  Recently, I’ve been really impressed by films from Daniel Sousa, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, Rosto and Jeremy Clapin.
Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?

I’ve lived in Minneapolis for 25 years or so and it’s been great for me.  Lots of arts grants available, relatively cheap to live.  Between Mn Film Arts, the festivals, the Walker Art Center, the Trylon, Landmark Cinema there are plenty of opportunities to see good independent/world films projected large in the dark.  I’ve been able to support myself through a combination of teaching and commercial work.  It’s worked well for me as an independent animator.  Obviously, if you want to work in mainstream television or movies, you probably don’t want to stay in Minneapolis.

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MinnAnimate Profile: Lora Madjar

lora madjar

About me and my animation

 

In 1998 after I finished math high school where I specialized in French, computer graphics and basic programing, I came to America to pursue “the dream.” I followed my foolish passion for all things art, literature, and philosophy. By 2007 I have completed my Bachelors (Boise State University, Boise, ID) and Masters degrees in Fine Arts Studio Painting and Drawing. You may ask yourselves, how this hardcore oil painter, in love with technology and all things moving, turned into an animator? I am immensely grateful to the Fine Arts Program at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN) that nurtured my new venture. My films would never have been materialized had I missed the opportunity to take all at the same time “Puppetry in Theater” class with Michael Sommers, “Narrative Video” with Lynn Lucas, and “Sound Art” workshop with Abinadi Meza.

 

Finding (A)way­’s story is not far from the themes of my paintings. My work stems from my life experiences and the stories we share with each other every day – the ones full of joy and the ones we find ourselves wallowing in sorrow – yearning, dreaming, hoping, remembering, and indulging in bouts nostalgia.

 

The world of animation I found to be a great place to tell a story. I don’t think of the work as animation as much as a series of moving paintings, rich in color and textures. The importance of mark making and surface (mis)treatment is evident in my paintings. I try to translate that tactile experience in the flatness of the digital projections.

 

Why do you like animation?

 

Making things move that other wisely are static is magical. Anything becomes possible. Art making, creating, bringing things to life – what else is there?

 

Other arts I do that inform my animation?

 

I will always will be a painter and that is why color and texture and very important elements in my films. I don’t perform in figure theater, although what I learned in shadow puppetry finds its way in the picture as well. I grew up around puppeteers, actors, filmmakers, and artists of all kinds, so I take advantage of any chance I have to see live theater and art in person. I am an avid reader and for the last few years I have been experimenting with writing; have been very self-conscious about my “words” but that is an element I want to add to my animations to strengthen the story. Before I was introduced to oil painting, I worked extensively with dry and wet media, collage, pastels, incorporating fabrics, found objects, and sand so there is a connection between that experience and building the sets, painting them, sculpting heads and dressing the puppets. Plus I always wanted to have a doll house as a kid and perhaps creating all these environments is making up for it.

 

 

About my short

 

Finding (A)way tells a story about a female character that escapes her oppressive home country to find herself in a similar version of her past hell in the land of her dreams. In the begging she is gutting fish and when she lands in her new world she ends up selling that fish, working in a fast food fish shack. There is a next chapter in the works. Ending on a nihilistic note was bugging me so I have plans to continue working on the film by adding spoken and written word along the new ending.

 

Animators:

Jan Švankmajer, The Brothers Quay, Jirí Barta (Toys in the Attic), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Team America), Donyo Donev along with other Bulgarian animators, the artists behind Madame Tutli-Putli, Peter and the Wolf. Along with raising my little boys I am constantly exposed to the latest animation on Sprout network where life footage, computer animation often blends such as the work by the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio.

 

Minnesota and Animation

 

I am not part of the professional animation world so the answer to this question comes from the point of view of a young mother – all I need to animate is free time and enough sleep. Minnesota has great schools and more financial support for artists than other places. Big part of this short has been supported by an Artist Initiative State Arts Board Grant. My film studio is in my basement so I will stick around these lands for a bit longer because of the above reasons. I would love to also connect with other local film/animating creatives in my area, talk shop and learn more.

 

 

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MinnAnimate Profile: Dane Cree

dcree_octostill_2013

Why do you like animation?

 

It allows us to show the audience multiple versions of compositions that could stand alone.

Moving imagery + sound = more sensory stimulation

Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?

 

Painting, video, performance, installation always in an experimental fashion.

Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?

Ryan Larkin, Allison Schulnik, Andreas Hykade

 

Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?

 

More screens and projectors running animations publicly around the twin cities (on loop).

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MinnAnimate Profile: Scott Wenner

Mysterious_Letter_still

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your animation.

 

I’ve been working in animation and motion graphics for about 12 years. Right now, I’m the Creative Director at motion504 in Minneapolis. 

 

Why do you like animation?

 

I’ve been drawing and painting for as a long as I can remember. Making those drawings or ideas come to life is like nothing else.

Once you’ve animated something, it’s hard to go back to making static pieces.

 

Tell us about your short in this year’s festival.

 

I’m showing two pieces that are very different in style, but are both based on poems. French Movie is an all CG mood piece that uses the camera as protagonist. The poem runs through various familiar or even clichéd french film vignettes and I tried to illustrate those ideas using only environment and props.  Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter is a character driven piece about that moment when, for a split second, you think you see a loved one who has passed away long ago.

 

Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?

 

I’m an active painter and I also try to get involved in live action filmmaking now and then by lending visual effects help

to filmmaker friends.

 

Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?

 

I get inspired by a pretty diverse crowd. I grew up on Looney Tunes, so definitely Chuck Jones. I’m also a big Don Bluth fan. Ken Anderson, who art directed 101 Dalmations. And there are so many super talented people out there making great stuff lately like Ben Hibbon, the teams at Buck and Giant Ant, Scott Benson, Art & Graft, the list could go on and on.

 

Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?

 

  The market in Minnesota is very, very small. It can be challenging to get started and sometimes feels like a roller coaster. That said, the beauty of animation is that you can do it anywhere and there are so many platforms online to get your work seen. The majority of my clients are not local. You definitely don’t have to live in LA to have an animation career anymore, but you might have to hustle a little bit more.

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MinnAnimate Profile: Brian Barber

Keepaways Poster Frame

Why do you like animation?

I like pulling the pieces together – pictures, sound, scenes, angles, music, editing and pacing. With animation, you can emphasize and exaggerate some things and ignore other things.
Tell us about your short in this year’s festival.
This was a music video done for Duluth’s Homegrown festival. For 5 years, filmmakers have been given a random song from a local band and then they make a video for it. The first year, we only had a weekend, but after that the timeline has stretched to a couple of months. This is my 4th contribution to the Homegrown Music Video Festival. I’m lucky the Keepaways were willing to play along and have some fun with this, they really made it come together.
Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?
I am an illustrator, designer and I do some photography. I worked for 10 years as an advertising art director, and got involved with TV production for clients, and did animated solutions for many of them. I still do several animated commercials a year for my own clients now.
Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?

Too many to list, but John K., Daniels, Craig McCracken, Chip Waas, and countless people I’ve never heard of who put their work on Vimeo.

Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?
I think it’s pretty good, I manage to make a living from a combination of animation, design and illustration, so I feel really lucky. And people seem open and receptive to animation and different styles.

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MinnAnimate Profile: John Akre

John_Akre_head

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your animation.

 

Between the ages of 10 and 17 or so I made many super 8 animated shorts with clay characters and paper cut-outs, but slowed down in my late teens. Years later, I decided that I was really missing out, that animation was something I really should have kept on doing, so I started teaching myself how to use some of the new-fangled animation software that is out today. I really love putting together the stop motion types of things I did when I was young with some of the technological wonders of the age. Mostly, I like to use animation to tell the little stories that I keep coming up with.

 

I also want to do animation in the public realm, so I have been experimenting by doing stop motion animation with random bystanders at some of the Open Streets events going on around Minneapolis.

Why do you like animation?

 

I like animation because it moves. That movement roots it in reality so the drawings, clay parts and collages I make seem almost real, but are exaggerated and simplified, visibly not real. I also like animation because I can create entire worlds and movies all by myself.

Tell us about your short in this year’s festival.

 

“Unpop: The Story of Lenny Holwar,” is one of a series of histories I have been making. These histories usually feature famous people who you have never heard about. I am also showing some animation I created with people on the street at the Central Open Streets event. I set up a little station to create stop motion animation and ask people to pose or come up with some action that we can animate then and there on the street.

Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?

 

I like to draw and make music and write stories and poetry. It all ends up in my animation work, which is maybe why I like animation so much, because it is the art that puts together all the arts.

Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?

 

Some of my favorites are Otto Mesmer, who made Felix the Cat one of the greatest stars of the 1920’s, Norman McLaren, who made animation out of everything, Quirino Cristiani, who made some of the earliest animated features and wasn’t afraid to put politics into his cartoons, Gene Deitch, who continues to reinvent animation and to find ways to do the work he wants to do and make a living doing it, and Bill Scott, who was the voice, pen, and genius behind Bullwinkle the Moose.

Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?

 

Minnesota is a good place. I want to do animation here and meet other people doing animation here, which is why I organized MinnAnimate. I think there’s a growing animation scene here, and I think it will continue growing into the future. I know this because I have been teaching animation camps in the summer and teaching other animation classes to young people, and see how many teens there are interested in animating things.


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MinnAnimate Profile: Emily Fritze

emily fritze profilePic

Probably everyone in the business has heard the saying that animators are shy actors, and I think that’s true in my case. I like telling stories but not public speaking, so animation is perfect for me.

Tell us about your short in this year’s festival.
Nate Sipes of the bluegrass band Pert Near Sandstone wrote this cool song called “Ship of Fools” that recalls this mythic custom originating in Renaissance times of putting all the town crazies on a boat, and sending them down the coast, picking up lunatics until they ran out of places to go, just aimlessly floating and being in a situation that becomes more and more surreal and mad. Kind of like a party bus, but with scurvy and death. This animation illustrates that concept, and was inspired by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch.

Do you do other kinds of art that inform your animation work?
I like to sketch in ballpoint, and I also do digital illustrations that sometimes end up being concept paintings for animations I’d like to do. My sketchbooks are full of weird characters, and I come up with ideas for stories by building plots around those characters.

Who are some of your favorite/inspirational animators?
My new favorite is the short “Bee and Puppycat” by Natasha Allegri, who was a writer and art director on Adventure Time. Another AT person, Rebecca Sugar, does great work and is on the verge of being the first woman to helm her very own show on Cartoon Network, Steven Universe, so she’s a hero of mine. Stylistically I admire the scratchy art of Heidi Smith, who worked on Paranorman, and Carter Goodrich.

Is Minnesota a good place to do animation? And what do we need here to make it a better place for animation?
Coming from South Dakota, MN is a great place for animation! I really think there’s a solid network of like-minded people in the area, but we need to be more prominent in the film/arts community.

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