In 1987, Bill Plympton, now heralded as the “King of Indie Animation", was nominated for an Oscar for his debut hand-drawn animated short film YOUR FACE.
In 2017, on the 30th anniversary of that nomination, animators around the world came together to celebrate that historic milestone and Bill's worldwide influence.
Hey Ken, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
It's been a great return to the film fest circuit for me after my animated spoof of Dirty Harry films, Magnum Farce. My second directorial film is Your Face Global Jam, and the first film under the banner of my new production/publishing entity Bella Fe Media, LLC. The Jam has so far been accepted into 16 festivals, has been a finalist in five of those, and an award winner in two.
With this being your UK Premiere are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
Yes, there's always a bit of nerves ahead of the such a prestigious fests as Raindance. I know the "King of Indie Animation," Bill Plympton, to whom this film is an homage, has quite the UK following as he does throughout the EU and I hope the film is well received by those fans. The Animators from the Jam, Christophe Lopez-Huici (Brazil) and Amy Sutton (UK) who will be representing us are very excited.
What does it mean to be screening Your Face Global Jam at Raindance 2018?
Of course, Raindance is world-renowned for its illustrious history of premiering top-tier features like Memento, Pulp Fiction, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and being an Oscar Qualifying venue makes it a bit of a brass ring in and of itself. The quality of Raindance's accepted animated shorts like last Ryan Gillis's Palm Rot, Tomasz Popakul's Ziegenort and recently Vladimir Todorov's Flutter make this, needless to say, quite an honor to be included for me as Director/Producer/Animator, and to all the Jam's International Animators that contributed to the project.
Tell me a little bit about Your Face Global Jam, how did the film come about?
I, like many, was a Bill Plympton fan long before I knew his name. I knew him as "The Colored Pencil Guy" from MTV's pioneering days where his surreal hand-drawn images lead-in the music videos of the day, and saw many of his commercials for United Airlines, Taco Bell and others. Then I found out about the production of his Documentary bio "Adventures In Plymptoons" by Alexia Anastasio and was delighted to come on board as an Executive Producer.
What was it about Bill Plympton's work that inspired you so much to make this film?
Bill is ALWAYS animating, and that kind of passion and focus makes him admirable and has made him successful in the field of Independent Animation since the debut of his Oscar Nominated short Your Face in 1986. He has now completed nine hand-drawn animated feature films, and an extensive catalog of shorts, as well as commercials and music videos. He accomplishes all that while keeping in touch with the community and supporting other animators, artists, and filmmakers. I was talking to him at San Diego Comic-Con three years ago, and he lamented that he did not have time to helm this project himself, and I asked if I might take on the challenge. I had just barely finished my directorial debut, but he entrusted me with the project, which was a great opportunity and fit for me to be able to use my skills working with all these fabulous animators on such a special project.
Did you have any apprehensions about taking on such a bold, unique, and global film project like this?
I wrote, directed, and edited, Magnum Farce, which went on to win several few awards, but I wasn't at all sure I could integrate the work of so many talented animators including a director of The Simpsons and artists using the media of Clay, CG, Hand-drawn and mixed media animation. The whole thing could have ended up a train-wreck, but I learned a lot about communicating visually and setting parameters while allowing artists to express their own styles, and I think it worked out quite well.
Who was the first artist who signed onto the project?
Good question, I had to look that up. It was a 'phased open call' and the first artists to sign on were Brian McGinnis (UK), Domnic Polcino (US), Laura Fugliano (FR), and Fatima Yaserbi (IR).
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
Making sure that, first, no two similar styles were sequential, yet each segment integrated with the next. I wanted the lineup to reflect a marked change in tone, medium, and style while also having a strong 'hand-off continuity' where each distinct style still flowed harmoniously into the next. For that, I created a start and end frame of Bill's original film and marked three or four "targets" for animators to hit, any two of which they could choose; eye position, shoulder position, nose, and mouth, etc. Finally, I asked that at some point during each artist's segment they utilize the full widescreen area of this new film instead of the original aspect ratio common for animation in the 1980s.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I've always been a visual thinker and art creator (my B.F.A. is in Fine Arts, studio emphasis, from USC). My true passion for the film came from the narrative side when I discovered screenwriting, which is so 'pure' in its visual storytelling that it literally projects a movie in the mind of the reader (if done properly). From there, the merging of passions for painting and writing converged after meeting Bill.
How much has your style and the approach to your filmmaking changed since your debut?
This is, so far, a singular departure from the narrative for me. I found it freeing, and also incredibly energizing to work with so many talented creators who pushed the boundaries of what I had imagined. It has inspired me to begin formulating a new project in which I hope to work with a select few of these animators in the future.
"...this film honors both the creativity found in individual artists and the beauty of international collaboration."
How would you describe Your Face Global Jam in three words?
Visual Thrill Ride
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
Do it! And work on a couple of things at once, so that you can recharge your energies, and overcome blocks, from one project with an upcoming one, but DON'T work on a dozen things or nothing will get finished.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
In this very polarized world, this film honors both the creativity found in individual artists and the beauty of international collaboration. I hope the takeaway is that while solo work can be unique and wonderful, it can also become something elevated, and vibrant when worked collaboratively.