Interview No. 116
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest, is one who is quite possibly responsible for introducing a lot of us to Newgrounds. His movie Smile! was probably one of the first movies seen by many members of Newgrounds. Recently he has gotten quite the fame for his movie LUCKY DAY FOREVER. He is a brilliant animator with a lot to offer to this site. Please welcome, @Sarkazm.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: It's moments like those when you realize what an old fart you are - it's been at least eleven years ago and I honestly can't remember. I remember I stalked the portal for some time before I joined, and I joined because I wanted to upload my own stuff.
Q: When and how did you get into art and animation?
A: I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, and have drawings of mine that go beyond that. I guess that's when I got into art :) I'm not sure if the question's about professional, or actual beginnings. I could say I got into art when I studied art but that wouldn't be true. It's not much easier with animation - where did I "get into" it? When I was doing flipbooks in kindergarten? When I did horridly painful 3D animation at twelve or something, on trial software that wouldn't let me save so I left the computer on for days only to have it crash eventually? When made my first Flash animation, or was it when I showed my first Flash animation on the internets? I know I always wanted my pictures, be it in my mind or on paper, to move but I'm having a hard time trying to point the exact "when" to it.
Q: Your first two movies on Newgrounds are entitled Aura and Aura: story mode. You state in the description that it has been moved from Newgrounds. What can you tell us about Aura and why it was moved from Newgrounds?
A: Indeed. They can only be remembered by the most hardcore battle-bruised Newgrounds users. There is a pretty good story attached to Aura's departure from NG.
Aura was my first project posted on Newgrounds, my first completed animation ever published, anywhere. A dark dystopian black-and-white short with some odd humor to it. It was received well, well beyond my expectations. Tens of thousands of views may sound silly now in today's Internet, but in 2003's Newgrounds - with a frontpage feature and a flood of reviews - it was a big deal. It gave me big confidence, that using animation as a method of expression/storytelling could actually work for me, that people actually wanted to watch what I do. It was only confirmed with Aura: Story Mode.
A few months after the release of Aura: Story Mode I was approached by a LA-based producer, who more or less promised me Aura -an animated feature film, with me as writer and director. Here I was, barely 20, about to conquer the world in Hollywood with my very own animated feature! It was a kid's dream come true and I jumped all in. I removed the flashes from Newgrounds - and from everywhere - as requested and went on to write the script. I almost dropped studies just to work on the film full-time. I wrote several versions of the script, made hundreds of artworks, a new teaser trailer, but it never really moved from there. Years passed and the dream corroded. We couldn't go on until the script was good, and despite attempts it still wasn't good enough. I finally had a breakthrough with the script but by that time I was forced to drop Aura to dedicate myself fully to other, more urgent projects. The lessons I learned in writing turned out to be invaluable.
Today Aura is put on indefinite hold but I still really, REALLY hope to get back to it, in one way or the other. As ideas come and go Aura is still the one project I have greatest fondness for. And after almost 9 years (!!!) it's been offline, people still e-mail me about it! An awkward niche black-and-white flash from 2003/2004, non-existent and not viewable anywhere on the Internet for the last 9 years, and it still managed to stay in people's heads all this time. If anything has me convinced about the potential sleeping in Aura, it'd definitely be this.
Q: When I first came to Newgrounds, one movie that piqued my interests, was a dark little piece entitled Smile!. I as I'm sure others have had our own interpretations on this movie, perhaps you could fill in any possible blanks we might have. What can you tell us about the inspiration, story, and message of this movie and the three months work put into it?
A: I'll spoil everything if I just blurt out what I tried to do with it and why! Besides, I like the fact Smile! still gives birth to discussions, its message - whatever it may be -didn't age with it. It's a greatest compliment for a creator to see the message behind their work survive the test of time, and even outlive the work itself. Flash gets dated faster than any other animation medium I can think of, most flashes from the time Smile! was made make today's viewer cringe.
Q: We go from Smile! a dark movie, to something a bit more disturbing with Polsupah. It is interesting to take a shot at not only door to door salesmen, but products as well. Where did the inspiration come from to give this such a dark twisted nature?
A: Well television, of course!
Q: One movie I am quite curious about is Hanged Man's Elegy. I imagine that there is quite the story behind this movie. What all can you tell us about it and the process you went into making it?
A: It started as a retelling of an 18th century poem and went completely off track as I progressed. It became a story about things I wouldn't then imagine I had the courage to speak about, and I don't think I even realized this when I made it. But hey, I'm spoiling everything again.
Q: 1001 Tips.Zombie Holocaust gives us the first tip on how to survive the zombie holocaust. You say it is based on comics that you do occasionally entitled 1001 Tips: What to do in case of a Zombie Holocaust. You state on your website your method on drawing comics as thus...
"My methods remain more or less the same - I grab a pen, draw one empty box, fill it, then draw another. No sketches or pre-conceptualizing whatsoever. VERY rarely I know what's going to happen in the next frame. And, believe it or not, results often turn out so much more interesting than boring super-calculated panels of graphic-novel dullness."
What is it about planning out each panel that you find unappealing? What would you say is the difference between your comic writing and animation writing?
A: The spontaneity! Unpredictability! A planned, self-conscious effort can has incomparably higher potential to result in something great, meaningful, or just plain impressive, but I truly miss sitting down at the drawing board, drawing the first frame of some story and having absolutely no idea what will happen next. Animation - at least as a storytelling medium - doesn't really allow it. I think it's because everything takes so damn long. What's a single frame in a comic book is a at least a sequence of drawings in animation. The vision of i.e. a joke turning not-so-funny-as-you-initially-thought after 3 hours of work makes your pen freeze, think twice. It pushes you to take precautions, plan ahead, make sketches, story outlines, scripts. That creativity rush that got you started deflates like a sad balloon.
Most of my animations that are here Newgrounds have been done in this unpredictable manner - from Aura to Hanged Man's Elegy, when I started work I didn't know how it's going to end or how long it's going to take me. I only knew it will probably take me more than last time. As I learned the craft things took more time to get done instead of less. And it wasn't just the drawing. I also wanted the stories to be better, longer, with more dimensions to them. Ambition's a terrible thing. In a middle of this I had this outrageous idea I want to make a living from animating and each fucking second of my life suddenly started to cost money. I'm almost thirty and a family to feed, I can't spend time on an idea that can turn shitty, or worse - not turn a profit!! In effect, as a professional I create much less than I used to as an amateur.
In the world I'm in right now, I can't start animating without a script, budget, storyboards, a pitch and a hundred meetings with people I fooled into thinking my project's really cool.
But I got sidetracked
To answer the question short and sweet - I find my comic writing more fun, and my animation writing more thoughtful. "My" being the imperative word here, especially now there are really a lot of people who animate without a single thought in their mind and have absolutely no trouble with it. In my case, animating just takes more time and I can't help to think what I'm doing every now and then.
Q: Multfilm (Opa Novy God!) is an interesting collaboration. It reminds me of the old days of animation, when it was new and fascinating. As well as the experimental passion normally seen by animation students. How did you become a part of this collaboration and what was it like working with these different artists and animators?
A: See here, a good example of the "fun" way to do animation, obviously no script or budgeting was involved. I was approached by Andrei Bakhurin aka Scarydoll to join this collab and just come up with something small and handdrawn. I enjoyed it, although saying I "worked with" all these animators would be a bit much - I just worked on my bit and saw the result only in the finished product.
Q: We now come to what I believe is your best work. It started with a trailer and two years later you would present Newgrounds with LUCKY DAY FOREVER. With this movie I can see you took some elements from Smile! and really played with it. How long did it truly take to get this movie made? What was the inspiration behind it and your writing process? What is your overall reaction to the feedback and praise this movie has gotten?
A: I'll try to keep this relatively short not to bore both the dear readers and myself, as I already wrote about LDF quite a bit.
It took long, way too long. I started working on it sometime after Hanged Man's Elegy, the first piece of concept art's dated November 2006. Lucky Day Forever premiered in summer 2011. If one believed the math, that's almost 5 years in the making!
Even though luckily it wasn't the only thing I did with my life during these years, LDF still took a good chunk from it. It was really a big deal for me to make this film my true "pro" debut, not a silly flash done in mom's basement but a proper short film, done in an animation studio with a professional team, a project with scope!
I still made the film in a basement and a lot of sweat and blood was spilled to at least come close to the desired epic scope of my dream debut, but it was a good fight and I think the film turned out pretty ok eventually. The actual production - which took about a year - although challenging was rather straightforward, therefore simple. Real battles took place in development. The struggles! Paper used, crammed with pictures and text! Forms filled! Heated discussions with all kinds of people! Quests for financing, headhunting for the right people for the team! Mischievous twists of fate! It's a material for a whole different story of its own.
My reaction to praise once it was done? Heartwarming, of course. A nice reassuring feeling I didn't waste my time after all and people liked the baby my team and I gave birth to.
Q: What advice would you have to give to different animators and writers here on Newgrounds?
A: Uh, believe in your dreams? Listen to your heart? Never give up?
Q: What can we expect from Sarkazm in the future?
A: New animations! You may also see a little game from me sometime this year.
Sarkazm is certainly quite a creative animator, and an amazing storyteller to boot. His stories have meaning, but the interpretations come from his audience. You never know what he has in store for you next and his creations bring forth a life and a message. There really isn't much to be said, because his works already say it.