Ten Questions For Steve Cutts Director, Happiness
U.K.-based animator and illustrator Steve Cutts has developed quite a following thanks to his insightful animated shorts (which include Moby’s music video “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?”). A few weeks ago, he delivered another amazing short titled Happiness, featuring rats trying to find fulfillment as they pursue their sad daily grind. We caught up with Cutts to find out more about his art and inspirations: So, first up, can you tell us how your new short piness came to be? It began with an illustration I did a few years back of rats on the subway, which was inspired by the daily tube journey I would take to work each morning while working in east London. I’d always thought it had potential to be developed as a film, so I started sketching out some rough frames. I’d heard somewhere that we share 99 percent of our DNA with rats, but it got me thinking about the thematic similarities. We’re over populated, living in massively overcrowded conditions and desperate to survive at all costs, running up and down tunnels all day to get to where we want to be, trying to find some kind of happiness. And like lab rats, we are manipulated by those who aim to control us. When did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to make? I’ve been working on it on and off since late last year, between other projects, and appropriately, I’d set myself the deadline of Black Friday weekend. Although with other projects in the mix there would be long periods where I wouldn’t have time to work on it at all, so it was on the back burner a lot. It probably took about six months altogether in total. I created the animation in its basic form, then over time I would keep coming back to it and adding new details such as ads, signs, architecture, backdrop characters, etc., naturally evolving the scenes over time to create a believable world. I think I ended up creating over What tools do you use to animate? I use Clip Studio [Paint] Pro to animate hand-drawn frames, as I love the drawing tools, and then After Effects to composite scenes together. If there’s any 3D, it’s usually created in ZBrush and imported into Cinema 4D, or imported into After Effects using the Element 3D plugin. I work from a PC workstation I built myself a few years back, using a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD to draw with. Why do you think your shorts strike such a chord on social media? I think if they resonate it’s partly because they focus on some of the bigger issues that affect us all now and create a kind of discussion. I try to create films which draw audiences in through humor and storytelling. All you can hope for as a filmmaker is that audiences connect with that. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into animation? As a kid, I used to make some basic animations on my PC (a rickety old Amiga 600 for anyone interested), so I guess it started there. My real interest in animation began when I was working for an ad agency in east London around 10 years back. I was there as a storyboard artist at the time, so my job had not a lot to do with animation in any official capacity. I just happened to have access to the software, my agency had a subscription to Lynda.com tutorials, and I had a fair bit of downtime. I set about learning the basics, Flash and After Effects, and setting myself small projects any chance I got. My very first animation was an experimental zombie movie about the agency I worked at. They took it pretty well, considering! What was the toon that changed your life? Who Framed Roger Rabbit had an impact on me as a kid and was amazing, especially given the limited technology they had at the time. Ren & Stimpy, Akira, The Simpsons — too many to mention! Who are some of your animation heroes? The Fleischer Studios films hold a certain inspiration for me, just in terms of sheer style and quality. What are you most pleased about regarding Overall, the fact it’s done! Just finishing it was a small triumph as it was such a complex piece to do, with so much to focus on. Technically, the process could have gone on for eternity. What was the toughest challenge about making it? Probably just the amount of rats to animate and the complexity of the film. Some of the more heavier scenes would take an age to render with hundreds of layers and comps in comps, so my workstation would chug a fair bit. It was still a fun process, but I’ll be quite happy if I never have to draw another rat again. What do you love about working in animation? There’s a lot of work and time involved, but it’s rewarding to see the ideas that have been in my head so long evolve and finally come to life after months of work. And the freedom to pick and choose projects is a bonus. Finally, any helpful words of advice to those who want to pursue animation as a living? Stick at it: blood, sweat and dogged perseverance is key. Be prepared to adapt, whether it be new software, changing media platforms, etc. There’s a good deal of compromise involved, dividing time between work and personal projects, especially in the early days. Oh, and don’t read the comments! You can view Happiness stevecutts.com. and see more at www.