Interview No. 124
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is a writer and animator. His works range from Digory, A Fable II Experience, and No Service, which would win him the Daily Feature, Weekly Users' Choice, and Review Crew Pick awards. He recently competed and won the Creat A Newgrounds Commerical Contest. It gives me great pride to introduce, @WhiteLightning.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: During my early interactions with Newgrounds, it was nothing more than "that other flash site where I can watch Knox's claymations sometimes." I didn't really know much about it until I began making my own animations with a program that was severely lacking in being Flash. Once I finally got around to getting Flash, I decided to do some research on which site was best for submitting Flash animations, and the internet unanimously agreed that it was Newgrounds, surprising no one. I spent a good two days after that learning every detail of how the site worked and setting up my account.
Q: At what age did you become interested in art and animation? What inspired you to animate?
A: Well, I've drawn characters, cartoons, and comic strips my whole life, but in regards to animation, I guess I was about twelve-ish. My friend told me about a site creatively dubbed flashplayer.com (now UGOplayer), and the first video I watched was BoogieMonster by Knox. It was awesome and stupid and violent, and was my first real taste of comedy outside of kids' films. I tried some claymation myself, but since I rather enjoy comically disproportioned characters and gravity doesn't, I soon abandoned that medium. I listened to the podcasts of Knox and Filmcow for a while, and their descriptions of their day to day activities sounded so appealing that there really wasn't any other possible outcome than deciding I wanted to do it too. And when I make a major life decision I tend to stick to it, even if I still have the voice of a small girl and no real understanding of what "major life decision" means.
Q: When and how did you become a writer?
A: I once heard of a shrine somewhere in the mountains of northern China that granted the gift of the scribe to he who was brave enough to look upon it, and who could resist the draw of such power? I travelled as quickly as I could, by boat, plane, and car, scrounging up just enough money along the way to keep myself alive and moving forwards. The hike was brutal, and death was my close companion, but through pure will and a few miracles I was able to fend him off all the way to the top of that peak. And when I had wiped the tears of joy from my eyes, I cracked open the ancient tome to behold a single line of text: "Stop telling this dumb story just to cover the fact that you don't have an actual answer." So I don't know, I guess I was just born with it or something.
A: Ah, Yoda's Christmas... excuse me for a moment while I reminisce... kay, done. It was a make-believe game that my brother and I played, and it's difficult to explain it much more concisely. We would go above and beyond the occasional lightsaber fight when we were kids - we were Jedi with some backstory, dang it, and there was drama, comedy, and more than a few plot twists. That was my story-telling outlet before I had any method of recording them, and we improv'd that entire script from nothing but our messed up little kid-brains. When we were done, I vowed to make that nonsense into a cartoon someday, and during the first year of high school, I wrote the script and animated the whole fifteen minutes. It remains my most viewed Youtube video to this day for reasons I will likely never understand. Alsosteve is the preferred username of my friend and White Lightning HQ crew member Ricky Linn, who edited the script and helped refine it from the jumbled mess of nonsense it was into something worth watching. He also did the voice of Obi-Wan. Incidentally, we have a remake of the movie frozen in production at the moment as we clear away some more pressing projects.
Q: Digory is a very endearing Halloween movie. You state that your brother did the character design. Did the story come first or was the story written around the character?
A: My brother drew the character first, actually. Reid tends to sketch creatures that would make even Tim Burton cringe, but this one time he brought home a colored-pencil rending of a really cute little voodoo doll thing that caught my attention. The image just sparked an idea in my head, and I started work on my first actual Flash project. After doing one scene, I got a bit bored, and didn't touch it again for another couple of months until I saw that money was being offered in exchange for Halloween animations, at which point I buckled down, put away all distractions, and cranked the thing out in exactly two weeks, finishing at 10:30 PM the day before Halloween. I have never been quite so impressed with myself since.
Q: When and how did you become introduced to video games?
A: I was born in the 90s.
A: I've actually never played the original Fable. In fact, when I set out to make A Fable II Experience, I never had any intention of parodying the game. I wasn't even trying to make anything impressive. I realized I hadn't released anything in quite a long time, and remembered a funny thing that had happened to me and my friend Jon once while playing Fable II. It was a story I liked telling in real life, and people tended to enjoy hearing it, so I thought I'd put a quick animation of it together just so people wouldn't forget I existed. Considering that goal, it was very effective. When everyone asked for more, I pretty much just wrote down every other snarky remark we had made about the game and put it into dialogue. Rodriguez ElCazorro was just what I called myself while playing because I was (am) weird, but he turned out to be a character who everyone loved, myself included. He and Jon are so easy to write for that I'm as reluctant to let them go as anyone else, so I can guarantee they won't be going anywhere, even after the Fable series is finished.
Q: One of my favorite movies by you in terms of writing has to be Holiday Stress. Such dark humor delivered in a very clever way. Where did the idea of this come from and was the writing process like?
A: I'm pretty sure the idea came about as a result of the following paraphrased conversation: Me - "Hey Reid, I want to make a Christmas cartoon before the year is out. I'm thinking something with snowmen. Thoughts?" Reid - "Um... snowmen talking by a water cooler?" Me - "Wow Reid, that's super boring. Besides, isn't a water cooler just... you know... a tank of melted snowman?"...*Brief pause punctuated by maniacal laughter and sacrifices to Satan*
Q: An Anticlimactic Moment is an experiment so you could test new animation techniques. What exactly were you testing and will we see the idea of this movie expanded on?
A: There were actually a lot of Flash techniques that I didn't know for my first couple of years, like how to nest graphic symbols, and how to pick out specific frames of graphic symbols for animating mouths, and when it got right down to it, what a graphic symbol was. I finally learned all of this seemingly obvious information from a pdf I purchased from Adam Phillips. Then... well, I guess I did make a little video to test it. It probably shouldn't have existed, and almost doesn't, but every video of mine that has come since is noticeably better than those before, so I guess it's kind of a milestone, or... something. I don't know. Why am I talking about this?
Q: No Service would win you the Daily Feature, Review Crew Pick, and Weekly Users' Choice awards, hitting the triple crown. It was also the first movie I saw by you. You say that this was based off of a person you saw dressed exactly like this. Can you tell us more about this event and what about it inspired you to write and animate this movie?
A: I'm still not entirely sure what about No Service spoke so deeply to the human consciousness, but apparently some part of it did. Maybe people just really identify with the deep-seated desire to acquire burritos at all cost. What I do know is that if I base my writing off of real things that make me laugh, they make other people laugh too, so I guess I'll stick to it. In this case, I was at a restaurant one day - a place of reasonable class, mind you - when I glanced over to see an exceptionally atmosphere-displacing figure clad only in a far-too-tight fitting orange tie-dye t-shirt and white, stretchy, corduroy shorts. It took a couple of weeks for the details to fall into place, but the video really just wrote itself from that point.
Q: To Dream of Flight I believe to be your best work. I wasn't expecting that ending though, the fake out was leading me towards something else. Where did the inspiration come from for this? Also when writing a fake out, what steps should a writer take to ensure that the proper effect is made?
A: I made it specifically for our composer, JP De Ovando. All original music you've heard in our videos has come from him, and I wanted to return the favor by making an animation specifically for one of his compositions. Interestingly, a significant portion of those who have seen the video didn't even notice the fake out ending, probably because it happens so quickly. But I think the technique, along with comedy writing in general, can be summed up by one rather simple rule: throw away the first joke you think of. If it immediately comes to your head, it will to everyone else's too. Surprise is the key.
Q: Fable III Experience: The Final Quest was a movie to ask for funding through Kickstarter. What exactly would you require Kickstarter funds for this? Why turn to Kickstarter?
A: The Kickstarter project wasn't actually related to Fable at all. That video only exists in its current form through a series of mishaps. I started work on A Fable III Experience with the intention of finishing it in time to funnel views into the Kickstarter project for our live-action feature film The Guards Themselves, which is currently in production. All of my videos so far have sent a lot of traffic to whatever links I've attached to the menu, so it seemed like a good plan. However, I severely underestimated the amount of time the animation was going to take, and only got the first scene done. Afterwards, the editable file corrupted, so now I can't take the Kickstarter link out, and I just kinda look like a jerk. Technology!
Q: Newgrounds member ForNoReason hosted and judged the Creat A Newgrounds Commerical Contest. You would become the first place winner in this contest. How did you come across this contest and what inspired you to make a commercial for it?
A: It was the first contest advertised in the news feed that really caught my attention. It seemed simple, so it wouldn't distract too much from my other work, and I've always loved Newgrounds for helping me get to where I am. I'd be nowhere without it, and I feel that I owe Tom and friends a great deal for their help, even if it was indirect, so I try to advertise them any time I get the chance. Plus, the contest deadline was three months away, which meant I could procrastinate for a whole 84 days before cramming on the final two. But I tried my best to make the video functional as an actual commercial, and I officially grant Newgrounds full use of it wherever they wish. It's the least I can do.
Q: When writing comedy, many comedic writers tend to have a sharp wit and inspirations of other comedians. Looking through your works, I do see some influence from Looney Tunes. Do the Looney Tunes play a role in your comedic writings? What other inspirations can you note for your writing?
A: I am a huge fan of subtlety. I get bored with cheap laughs and I actively search for things new and complex, and what I usually end up finding is British. But there are fantastic American works of subtle comedy as well: my absolute favorite TV show outside of Doctor Who is Arrested Development, which is the unrivaled king of understated humor, and most people probably never notice. The writers weave the story from threads of pure comedy - the same jokes will show up again and again, referencing others and themselves, changing slightly each time, and eventually wrapping back around to where they started, and you as the audience won't even see the whole thing until your twelfth viewing. Every time I watch the show I notice something I missed before, and honing the skill to produce something even half as brilliant is one of my biggest life goals. Along with Arrested Development, my favorites include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Princess Bride, Portal, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, The Office, and 90% of Cracked.com.
Q: What can we expect from WhiteLightning in the future?
A: Our main focus right now is The Guards Themselves. We have a few thousand dollars of Kickstarter money backing it, a whole crew helping to gather the footage, and a lot of editing to do when that's done. Any other large-scale projects will have to wait until this one is over, but I would still like to get some shorter videos out here and there. There are definitely plenty of ideas ready to be made, but it always comes down to time, and I haven't quite finished collecting the plutonium necessary to give myself more of it, so we'll see what happens.
WhiteLightning is one of those members who seems to be lurking in the shadows. I hadn't realized what all he had done until he won the Newgrounds Create A Commercial Contest. Although his drawing and animating are top notch, I have to say that his writing surpasses his artistic skills. WhiteLightning is certainly member to keep your eyes on.