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SKETCHO MINUTE with two incredible Animators on their way into the CG Industry. Check them in our Sketchozine.com Vol.8: ANIMATION STORIES Collectible book on Page 34 to 37. Scan the QR Codes to be directed to hidden websites. ORDER our sketchozines now and support the promotion of artists. Watch Saga of Biorn here.
Biôrn, an old Viking, is determined to reach Valhalla, the warrior’s afterlife full of excessive drinking and debauchery. To gain entry he has to die honorably in battle, but he discovers that the right death isn’t so easy.
AQ: I’m Arnaldo, here with Marcin from MadArtist Publishing and Sketchozine.com. Today we’re thrilled to take a moment and talk with the fantastic group of ‘The Animation Workshop’ grads, whom given the world an amazing short film “The Saga of Biôrn”. Film was created and directed by Benjamin J. Kousholt, Daniel D. Christensen, Mads Lundgaard Christensen, Jesper A. Jensen, Jonas K. Doctor, Steffen Lyhne, Pernille Ørum-Nielsen, Frederik Bjerre-Poulsen and Jonas Georgakakis, so we thank them all for putting this magnificent film together and we hope to learn a little bit about them and the film in today‘s interview. Unfortunately everyone is scattered around the world working, so we only managed to get Jesper and Jonas.Please feel free to answer any question individually.
AQ: The moment we watched Biôrn, Marcin and I both agreed it was one of the better films we’ve watched this year...Did it come as a surprise, that Biôrn was so well received?
JESPER: It did come as a surprise. To me at least. When you have your head burried in work for so long it is hard to foretell anything. We had seen it a million times over before release and you kind of loose all the excitement and just concentrate on getting it done.
JONAS: Yes and no. Yes, because of what Jesper said, and no because I felt we had a good story from the beginning, which I often think lacks in a lot of student shorts.
AQ: Is Denmark known for their animation industry?
JONAS/JESPER: We don't actually think Denmark is that well known in the outside world for its animation industry. We do, however, know that our school is well known to some extent. I still think that considering the size of Denmark, aprox 6mil. people we have a substantial amount of animated films being produced.
MM: Have any of your professional careers changed as a result of the film being so popular? Any offers rolled in yet?
JESPER: Actually, no. Which is surprising with the amount of hits online.
JONAS: Not directly. But I am sure that has had an effect indirectly, since the movie is a nice part of our portfolio.
MM: So where did the idea for Biôrn come from?
JESPER: The original pitch came from Jonas Doctor, Benjamin Kousholt and myself. In the beginning, we wanted to make a movie about knights, but instead of always looking outwards for cultural referance we thought we might as well look at our own cultural inheritance and dig into the massive amount of old Nordic Myth and tales.
MM: The humour and the storyline are all brilliant, they carry the film very nicely and entertain you throughout. Can you explain to our readers what the process was like, did you start with a script, then move onto storyboarding or character development?
JESPER: We started with a small initial plot which was then made into a simple script plotting out all the acts. We kind of rushed anxious into storyboarding and I would recommend spending more time on the script stage for anyone trying to create a film. If you boil it down the script is really the heart of the story which will carry any film. Get that and the storyboarding right, it is hard to screw up the film. Along side storyboarding we split into a small design team who started solving all the visual problems and making sure the designs complimented the story.
MM: There are always storylines that don’t make it into films. Were there there any storylines that didn’t make it but you really wish they had?
JONAS: We had a lot of different ideas for the montage part of our movies that were cut for different reasons. Specifically, we had this one idea with a sausage eating, sexually confused german viking...but that's a longer story.
AQ: What was the most challenging part of making Biôrn? And which software was used?
JONAS: There were different difficult phases ranging from early pre-production all the way to final parts of production. Our biggest challenge, however, was the fact that for three months, we were unable to render out our frames consistently. We never found out why, but Maya(which was our main pipeline software) kept crashing when we rendered certain scenes, which meant we had to build them from scratch, copy over animation, etc. This obviously resulted in a lot of frustration and time wasted. Luckily, we were saved by a small render-farm.
AQ: Can you tell us why you chose heaven as the humorous climatic ending for Biorn? I must admit, I really laughed out loud when I saw your vision.
JESPER: Religion in itself is very funny. I think everyone on the team agrees. It was also a matter of creating a version of heaven that would contract the most against what the vikings believed to be paradise. Crazy Party vs. Bingo at the elderly
home. The Christian heaven also had to have a strong likeness to Helheim (Viking hell).
JONAS: Yeah, especially all the different rules that
religions have. They are very black and white.
AQ: Were you afraid of offending anyone with your depictions of the afterlife?
JESPER: I don't see why Religion has this "holy" status of something you don't joke about. I absolutely do not dislike any religious people i just think religion is a funny topic and i sincerely hope nobody got offended. That was absolutely not the point.
JONAS: Personally, I never really thought about it. I was sure atheists, christians and pagans alike would be able to laugh it off. One of the main points for me was that not everyone has the same idea of ”heaven.”
MM: I’m sure you had lots of long nights while working on the film, did anything funny happen during the making of that you can share with our readers?
JONAS: Sadly, making a ”funny” film isn't really that much fun... I am sure a lot of funny things happened but to be honest, the all-nighter phase is mostly a blur now.
JESPER:Film ? what film? I remember sleeping underneath my desk a lot.
MM: You’re all grads of The Animation Workshop school in Denmark, are you all native to Denmark or was there another reason for attending this school?
JESPER: On our team we were all danish. But there are a lot of international student attending the school which makes for a very nice environment.
AQ: This school releases some amazing films year after year!, tell us about your good and bad experiences at the school.
JONAS: For me, there are a lot of good things about our school. Perhaps the best thing is the fact that most of the classes are taught by industry professionals who visit for a short time. This makes the classes very diverse and exciting and also insures that you get an insight in the industry standards. The bad thing about our school could be the location. The Animation Workshop is situated in Viborg, which is a small city far away from our capitol. It is a good thing, since this means you can focus a lot on your studies since nothing goes on there, but it is also a bad thing because it leaves you with little else to do and a lot of boring evenings.
JESPER: I am absolutely sure that the success to the school is the teaching system. Getting new top professional teachers
every other 2-3 weeks insures that you get most possible insight into every technic. Also the school is very practical (as it
should be) and you have to finish an animated scene for every friday of the week which is commented on by the whole class and teacher in dailies every day following up to the end of the week on friday.
AQ: Having completed your studies, what do you think of self study vs traditional schooling? From your experience so far, what do companies look at most?
JESPER: Having only tried traditional schooling I wouldn't know, but I expect you would miss the company of others as well as miss out on feedback from your peers.
JONAS: I agree, but at the end of the day I don't think studios care that much. Just want you to perform, whatever works for you, really.
MM: Any advice to our members that wish to pursue a career as Animators? What’s the best and worst thing about the industry?
JESPER: The fact that it is an "industry" like Abba sang it, Money money money. Taking chances is a rare thing and it is eye opening to see that where the most experimental films are being made in the business, is outside the business, in student films. Films with no funding and most of the time no experience at all. The companies with millions and millions of Dollars, Euros or Pounds are making the same old boring *Biiiip* over and over and over. That makes me sad but also motivated.
JONAS: Really, you just have to ask yourself how much you want this. It takes a lot of commitment. But the rewards of looking at something successful and saying ”I did that” can make up for the hard work.
MM: Our readers want to know how many seconds of animation you were completing per week and how you managed to get such a nice sound and voice mix.
JESPER: Roughly, we had three full-time animators and three months of animation. That meant something like 10 seconds of animation per animator per week.
AQ: The animators on our Sketchoholic.com site want us to ask you about the popularity of your video… since Biorn’s release, approximately 8 months ago, it’s received over 700 000 views. Was it just viral, or did you promote it or submit it to various websites to try to move it around the web faster?
JONAS: Actually, the movie now has around 1.5 million views on Youtube and Vimeo alone which is absolutely amazing. That being said, we didn't really do much. I Guess its the power of the internet. Especially the youtube count got us by surprise – it seemed to have a life of its own. We did put a link up on a few forums, but the ball was already rolling at that point.
AQ: I see, and in your opinion, what is the best way for any person to get their work out there? Do any of you have secret tips to help a demo reel get noticed? Search tags, title maybe or special websites?
JONAS: I would probably say that the best thing you can do is chose some industry forums and become an active member. Share your work, ask for feedback, give others feedback and get noticed. When you have a strong portfolio, put it up as many places as you can. People will see it.
JESPER: That is again what is so great about The Animation Workshop. When you finish school you already have a lot of contacts through the various teachers.
MM: Will there be a sequel or a prequel to Biorn, I personally think it would make for an awesome movie. Have you considered shopping it around?
JESPER: Not right now. Not because we have no interest in sequels or saying that is will never happen, we just have other stuff going on at the moment.
AQ: What’s next for you, have any of you received any offers from companies?
JONAS: All of us got jobs after our graduation and internships ended. We are all doing different things. I am doing computer games, for example.
JESPER: I was so fortunate to get an internship and a Job at the fantastic animation studio Cartoon Saloon in Ireland.
I later moved back to Copenhagen and now started up a small studio.
MM: Did you both want to be animators when you were young? When did each of you know that’s somethign you wanted to pursue as a career?
JONAS: Personally, I just knew what I didn't want for a long time. Then, I heard about our school and it just made sense.
JESPER: I discovered that I wanted to do animation quite late. I knew I wanted to do something movie related for a long time though and i always painted and drew a a lot (talking about a cliche line in an animation interview). Combining the two just seemed obvious.
AQ: What do you all do in your spare time? Do any of you have time for hobbies or other creative outlets?
JESPER: Since i just started up an Animation Studio with a few ex.study buddies of mine, spare time is very sparse at the moment. But when i do have some i tend to do something that has absolutely nothing to do with animation.
JONAS: I have a lot of creative freedom in my current job, so right now I just unwind in my spare time. Go out, meet up with friends, watch movies, play computer games. The normal stuff. Keeps inspired and stops me from burning out.
MM: I gotta ask, every time we mention Denmark, our friend Arnaldo has two words in his mind “Vikings” and “Tundra”, without sounding ignorant, is that a big stereotype?
JONAS: Heh, sad to say that isn't quite true. The vikings are pretty much gone now. Sure, you meet some people on the street that look like close descendants, but the raping an pillaging has ended...mostly.
MM: HaHaHa...mostly he says.
JESPER: About the tundra thing; sorry. Denmark is as flat as a pancake. I think Norway or Sweden will have more of what
you are looking for.
MM: Let’s switch it over to some personal questions at this time, so feel free to give us individual answers to these questions...what is your greatest fear?
JESPER: Losing my sight? Or hands? or both at the same time while being buried alive by a avalanche.
AQ: Hahaha, Yes, I would say that combination of events wouldn’t be fun
JONAS: In the industry? That I won't get to do the job that I like. In life?...Living or dying alone...heavy stuff...
MM: If you could have any skill in the world what would that be?
JONAS: I'd love to live without fear of failure – if that can't be the case, I'll settle for a real life ctr+z button.
AQ: For anyone who isn’t a full time animator or designer:), CTR+Z is the shortcut to “undo” things on most graphic software programs, and you Jesper?
JESPER: Master traditional oil painting...or be able to fly...while painting.
MM: If you could talk to anyone person dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?
JONAS: To be honest, I would probably just want to have a last chat with my dead aunt who I never got to say goodbye to.
JESPER:Genndy Tartakovsky or Jesse Hughes. Perhaps Pablo Picasso, Tell him how his "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" painting sold for 106.5 million dollars, i am sure he would have a laugh and buy me a few drinks.
MM: What are the top three websites you visit the most?
JONAS: Facebook.com, ebaumsworld.com, polycount.com
JESPER: louromano.blogspot.com, n8wragg.blogspot.com, bootyvote.com, not necessarily in that order.
MM: What and where would each of you consider a dream job?
JONAS: Right now, I really just want to try out a lot of different things. I'm not that interested in company names, but more in company locations. I had my internship in England and I work in Denmark right now, but I hope to work abroad again. Canada, USA and Japan would be on the top of my list.
JESPER: Art directing, designing and directing in my own animation studio.
MM: Well that is the end of our interview you guys...For more information about each of you, where do our readers go?
JONAS: Our school www.animwork.dk has info on all of us as well as links to our online portfolios. Mine is a bit outdated but can be found at jonasgeorgakakis.blogspot.com.
JESPER: My outdated blog at JesperaagaardJensen.blogspot.com.
MM: On behalf of myself and Arnaldo, I want to thank the both of you for joining us and telling us about your experience at The Animation Workshop and in working on the film. I wish you nothing but the best in your future endavours. This has been Marcin Migdal and Arnlado P. Quintini from MadArtist Publishing.
AQ: And remember al you creative and talented people out there, create your free account on our website, add your artwork, films and particiapate in our contests and who knows you may be featured or published next. For more amazing shorts visit MadArtistPublishing.com or visit our youtube channel at www.Youtube.com/MadArtistPublishing
JONAS/JESPER: Thanks Marcin and Arnaldo.