Ten Ques­tions For Steve Cutts Di­rec­tor, Hap­pi­ness

Animation Magazine - - Final Shot -

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.

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