INTERVIEWS - Sinbad Richardson, Part I of II

Sinbad contacted me in late February with a screener for his new animated short Jenny 5000. I watched the short and then followed that up by conducting an interview with Sinbad about his animation as a whole. In a week or two I'll also be posting an interview specifically related to Jenny 5000 as well. To see the full breadth of Sinbad's creative output check out his website, Vienna Pitts.

Sinbad Richardson - Canadian Indie Animator
GL: You're in Montreal now; is that where you were raised? 

SR: I was raised in Québec City; I moved to Montréal after High School to attend a Fine Arts college in English (Dawson College).

GL: Do you feel that where you grew up in Canada influenced your development as an artist?

SR: Oh, definitely. My mother worked as portrait artist on La Rue du Trésor during the summer and I would spend a lot of time there hanging out with the caricaturists and watching them work. I also eventually started selling my own caricatures and at times would draw big crowds, I'm assuming because of how young I was (see attached picture of my sister and I drawing caricatures).

GL: How did you develop your skills as an animator? Did you read a lot of books, watch a lot of animation, and/or pursue it through college or university programs?

SR: I didn't study animation in school, although I was offered admission to an animation program I chose to go a different way (BFA Intermedia Cyberarts, Concordia University). I would say I learned animation through playing with it from a young age, then developing a style and learning new tools progressively. I used to watch a lot more animation. I should do that again; I feel like I've been out of the loop.

GL: Seeing as you live in Montréal, have you ever attended the Montréal Stop Motion Animation Festival or Animaze?

SR: I actually haven't attended either of those, but will certainly look them up. I've attended Fantasia and screened at Film POP! as well as several screenings for Art Matters and Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Sinbad drawing caricatures in Montréal
GL:  What was your inspiration for becoming an animator? Was there a point in your life that stands out as being the tipping point where you knew you would follow this path?

SR: I watched a lot of National Film Board animation on VHS tapes we would borrow from the library, and I was drawing a lot as a kid. The tipping point would be when I first tried stop motion animation using figures I made from plasticine. I can't pinpoint what it is that made me go towards animation; it would be a several things over time revolving around drawing. I also drew caricatures for tourists in the summertime.

GL: You site NFB animation as an early inspiration and you worked with the NFB to produce the short video Making Music: DishwasherDo you have any plans to collaborate with the NFB on an animation project?

SR: I would love to collaborate with the NFB on an animated short; they have their animation headquarters in Montréal as well. I've applied to their HotHouse program a couple times without success but I do see myself continuing to attempt to produce a short there. I feel like the NFB has such a rich legacy that it would be a real honour to one day have them pick up something I pitch.

GL: When I attended the NFB’s 2012 Get Animated! animation panel discussion one of the panelists mentioned that after five years many Canadian animators decide to leave the field of animation to pursue other careers. Was there a point where you also felt like pursuing something else, and if so, what made you persist with animation?

Sinbad animating for Have You Seen In Your Dreams
SR: For me, it would be after I made a stop-motion music video for Miracle Fortress using MagnaDoodles. It was a very long and meditative process in a very small space. I was also a full time student and had a part-time job as well, so when it was all over, I was tired of it and wanted something new, and sought out to make some live-action based music videos. Fast-forward a few years, a few music videos later, and I decided to get back to my roots, and that's when I approached Young Galaxy about making an animated music video.

I never really wanted to do anything that different from animation, no. 

Because so much of what I bring to animation stems directly from the drawing and video making as a kid, I think it's just who I am as a storyteller. It's hard for me to look at it as a 'field' when it's so built in to my creative expression.

Dr. Katz - Professional Therapist
GL: Your early animation appears to be heavily influence by cutout animation. Would you consider cutout animation to be the equivalent of a "gateway drug" for folks looking to try their hand at this intensely time consuming occupation?  

SR: Well, it's definitely easier, and I think for people who are more interested in telling a story rather than wowing an audience, it's a good way to go. I have also personally found myself more drawn to animations that don't try to make you forget you're watching animation. For example, I was a huge fan of Dr.Katz, South Park and Beavis and Butt-head, which would fit in with the cruder side of the craft. I watched those animated shows because the characters and stories were so appealing.

GL: When working in the realm of 2D animation, how did you end up choosing to work with the Toon Boom Animate software as opposed to competing software like Adobe Flash or Anime Studio?

SR: I started using Flash back when it was still Macromedia and created many shorts with Flash through college. When I went to Toon Boom it was mostly because I was never thrilled with how Flash handled exporting to Quicktime, and in addition Toon Boom was having an amazing Black Friday sale and so I jumped on the deal and bought Toon Boom Animate 2. I've been very happy with it and I'm looking to get familiar with more of their software like Storyboard Pro.

The interview was conducted by Grayden Laing and edited by Laura Bolt.