Interview No. 23
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is getting to be a known person through the Internet. You may have known him here on Newgrounds for his works on Slowloft, the True MapleStory, Another Maple Story, and The Last Maple Story. He is now getting praise for his latest flash The Only Thing I Know. He is none other than Brian Schmoyer also known as @CirrusEpix.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: In 2003 I was working for a small studio as an animator on a small sketch series for VH1, and though being an animator was my dream job the show sketch topics were not. (The first thing I had to animate was Gary Busey sniffing crack...) So! I found ways to distract myself like playing Unreal 2004 and wasting time watching stuff on Newgrounds as much as possible (for some reason, I never got fired). Sometime around then I decided being part of NG was a good idea, but up till that point all of my films were .avi, so it wasn't until 2004 that I finally got to upload one of my own.
Q: Your first flash submission is entitled Hiro Shitaku. What was the process in creating this flash, what is the best way to describe what this flash is, and are you still proud of it to this day?
A: Hiro Shitaku pretty much sums up my work ethic. It was originally a 1 week school assignment were we had to write and present a report on a fake animator using real historical facts. So rather than take an hour to type up some junk, I spent all week making a film. The version on NG is not the original, but a recreated version made 2 years later. Its a funny film, and its 1/2 animated, 1/2 still image documentary style has continued to echo in my more recent Questings series on Youtube, and again in "The Only Thing I Know."
Q: Slowloft would be your flash to win an award, the Daily Feature. You state it's a satire, perhaps you could go into this a little bit deeper and tell us what tied in with the flash in other words from your mind what is it that is shown in the flash that we may have missed?
A: For those who don't know the history, Slowloft (a powerful mind altering drug) was originally advertised with a series of overly cute cartoon commercials. Historically, it was also one of the first prescription-only drugs to be mass-marketed this way. I guess the intention was to help ease depression, but it just seemed to me like "if your life sucks (and it does!) take our PILL!" I've always been amazed at the power of advertising in US culture, and I made Slowloft to comment on something that I saw as just plain crazy.
Q: Slowloft: Overdose would be the sequel to Slowloft. What is the difference between Slowloft and it's sequel, and what does the sequel tell us that the first one did not?
A: While most people saw that Slowloft was poking fun at drug companies advertisements, few saw that Slowloft: Overdose was originally intended to parody Newground's Madness series and it's clones. I've always loved NG and the internet in general, but I endlessly wonder why when given such powerful tools to connect with people all over the world and share our opinions and creative endeavors, we always end up with porn and overly violent cartoons? Now don't get me wrong, I love the occasional Madness toon, but Overdose was my attempt to question internet violence with cute cartoon blobs =)
Q: You received a Daily 2nd Award for your flash the True MapleStory. an interesting little parody, one that a lot of people enjoy. What is the story behind the creation of this parody and what were the steps you took in creating it?
A: This series will haunt me till I die... Basically, I've always wanted to make a huge epic film like Brackenwood, but I'm such an artistic pessimist that it has never really happened. Rather than doing something deep and creative with my skills, the Maple Story series was quick and easy. Contrary to popular believe, I only really played the game for a week or two before realizing how BAD it was. Even after testing out other MMOs, 99% of their gameplay is 1. Go here, 2. Kill so many of these (for no reason.) This first film was really just a cute commentary on online games in general and at the beginning just a simple joke that I didn't intend to do anything more with.
Q: Another Maple Story and The Last Maple Story would become your next parody masterpieces in the world of Maple Story. Tell me when it comes to why you would do these is it the same reason as the first Maple Story or is it just for the fans? Also how did you come about creating these flash movies as well?
A: To be honest, I never intended to make these two films just like I never intended a sequel to Slowloft. But something about The True Maple Story clicked not only with my audience here at NG, but also deep inside my head. For one, I really liked the characters. If I have an avatar, its Michea - a Woody Allen-like clueless but good-hearted fool. The other half of my psyche however feels more like Kaolyne, a sarcastic game-hater who still plays for some odd reason.
After the release of "The Only Thing I Know" I had a lot of people email me confused as to how the animator of "that Maple Story series" could do a complete 180 and now rail on games. But for those who really watched my Maple Story series, you'll see that the theme through the three films was, "Why do we play these boring repetitive games?!" Even in the "Questing" review series I did for Youtube afterwords, I constantly tried to find the right MMO to "dedicate my precious time to."
In the end, "The Last Maple Story" was really less about videogames, and more about the people who play them. Each character reacts differently to the change in the world, either with sarcasm, joy, or whatever. It also gave me a chance to try out several different styles of animation that I had always wanted to do but not devote a whole film too. Some Machinma, some sprite, all experimental! Of course, it could have just been that I had the characters already drawn, and it was easier than making new ones =)
Q: The Only Thing I Know is an interesting flash movie. Talking about video games. You stated it won the 2010 Gamer's Resolution Competition. It has also been referenced by ScrewAttack's The Game OverThinker in his episode entitled Building A Better Gamer. There is a lot here to say and I want to know everything. What is this flash about? How do you feel about winning this award? How does it feel to be referenced? And how did you come about with the idea of this flash and it's creation?
A: First off, the award has been the biggest surprise and I am glad to have been given the opportunity to donate it completely to a worthy charity on behalf of the students that I teach. Yet, to me all that has been completely overshadowed in my mind by all the heartfelt stories and messages I have received in the last few weeks since.
To be honest, I knew "The Only Thing I Know" would upset, confuse, and dumbfound my viewers, but the history of why I made this film goes way back nearly 25 years ago when a small boy made a simple decision: he picked videogames over ___________. While the blank would later by filled in with things like sports, other hobbies, friends, romance, & school - last year I was finally forced into a crossroads where I had to ask myself what did I earn from giving unwavering loyalty to gaming? The answer was hard for me to hear. But was true.
The irony behind the film is that I always considered myself a "moderate" gamer. In fact, for the last few years I only really gamed a few hours a week, and contrary to popular belief, I never really played much Warcraft (only getting to level 30.) The problem was, the damage of years of doing nothing but gaming had taken its toll, and as an adult and teacher, I saw hordes of children running down the same path I took, but to make things even worse: were spend more time playing and were more addicted than I could ever dream of.
I wrestled with the idea of making this film and ended up recording nearly 5 versions of it. Each version approached the topic differently, and in one version, I never even mentioned my own personal story. Ultimately, I felt the film worked best with a "this is what happened to me and why..." tone, and thus the film came together rather quickly. Although it took me nearly 4 months to write, the animation took about 2 weeks. It's funny that the Overthinker mentioned me, because the film's intelligent tone was in-part inspired by his work =)
As the film uploaded to NG and Youtube, I prepared myself for the uproar that I thought was coming. It is in a gamer's nature to be defensive, against the nagging mothers, friends and Jack Thompson's of the world. Yet, what surprised me the most was how many people have come forward with praise and kind words. Yes... I have people cursing my name, telling me it is my problem - but I have had so many people share their own pain and stories with me in the last few weeks that I am certain that it was a problem of choice, but it is a problem that effects a lot of us from all over the world.
"The Only Thing I Know." is probably the only film I will make on this subject, but I am glad that I did. In the end, the film was really to help me - but I am more than happy if I can inspire and touch just a few.
Q: When it comes to comedic writing, every comedian does their's differently. What are the steps you take in writing a parody? What is your recipe for comedy?
A: It's hard to say that I'm a humor animator. While my Maple Story series is meant to be funny, I feel my timing is way way off and I could definitely improve. To me, timing is everything, and it is also what sets apart skills and amateur animators here on NG. I sometimes like to watch films with scores of 2.0 and under to see why some films do well while others don't. What I normally find is that low scoring films often drag on with long pauses or awkward pacing, or zip past without giving time for reflection. I think that is why Cyanide and Happiness's "Barbershop Quartet" kept me laughing more than any other film recently. It is just timed so well.
Q: As an animator, what advice can you give other animators out there?
A: Have a purpose in your animation. If you are going to spend days, weeks or months animating a film, have it be more than person A battles person B. In all my films, I try to tie in a moral or lesson that I hope to pass along. It doesn't need to be "There She Is" or "The Only Thing I Know" deep, but enough to leave a viewer with something to think about after the film is done.
Q: "One Wish" is a flash project you have been working on for quite some time now. What can you tell us about it? What is going on with it at the moment?
A: As I said in an earlier question, since college I've always struggled with making creative and meaningful films - instead often focusing on easier and less complex projects. One Wish is meant to be an original, well-animated project that unfortunately lost traction after my wife and I separated. It's been languishing in animatic form on my hard drive for months, and I am finally feeling the urge to pull it up and get working again. I want to thank the wonderful voice actors who I worked with last year, and it is with a little bit of guilt that I apologize for not getting to it sooner =(
Q: What can we expect from CirrusEpix in the future?
A: Hearing back from people about "The Only Thing I Know" has been the most meaningful thing I've ever done. While it would seem easy to continue to ride that topic, I'm moving on. Currently I am hoping to get back into "One Wish" and make it that "worthy film" that I've been searching all these years for. I've also wanted to make a film based on my Adeshra characters. I've been working on the story for well over a decade now, but beyond the game, I've released very little. I have a short based-on that world written, and I hope to be able to make it soon.
If you've gotten this far, I really want to thank everyone here at Newgrounds for your past support, your kind words, and your future clicks =) Thanks!
Brian is a wonderful artist, animator, and just an overall great person. He has stated the he hopes to get paid to do what he does someday. Well, we all hope to get paid to do what we do, although I've interviewed others in the past who have, I can tell you this... Brian is not far off from doing so.