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GL: I enjoy the design variety in the characters that populate your short. Are the characters based on anyone? What drew you to tell their stories?
SR: When I was designing the characters, one of the things I told myself from the start was that there wouldn't be any human characters. From that point the characters became objects, animals, deformed body parts and blobs. Some of the characters have direct references; for example, the dog working the snack bar is based on Spike Jonze's dog character in the "Da Funk" video, and Selly is based on Woody Allen's Danny Rose and Rip Torn's character in "The Larry Sanders Show". Jenny's character developed over time, she started off as a version of myself and over time I think she's become a character of her own. That being, said she remains mostly an outlet for my own point of view.
GL: How did you come up with the character design for Jenny, the tongue in particular?
SR: I don't remember exactly where Jenny's design came from, but I know for sure that her general feel is based on the Simpsons look that I grew up worshipping as a kid. Her overall roundness stems from a drawing phase I had where I would draw these land whales that had no features at all and just looked like slugs with smiley faces. As for the tongue, I distinctly remember telling myself that I wanted Jenny to have one characteristic that would really stand out as odd and so I drew her tongue sticking out upside down and it clicked immediately. It was a simple little weird detail that wasn't too wacky but memorable and slightly uncomfortable.
GL: How did you decide to use a female character to represent your point of view?
SR: At first the character had no sex and then with time it became female, probably because of her Simpsonesque eyelashes. Then I named her after a philosophy teacher i had in college. Once the name stuck, it was part of the character to be feminine. There was no single moment where i decided to make her female and have her loosely based on me, but thats what she became...
GL: Does Eddy have any major phobias? Do phobias make people more interesting?
SR: We haven't seen much of Eddy's phobias yet, but I would say his biggest fear is to someday not be able to work with Jenny for some reason or another. He has that complete devotion to Jenny like any good sidekick would and maybe that will be his weakness in a future story, but for now he's that stable supporting friend. Eddy is to Jenny as Sam is to Frodo in "Lord of the Rings", the real hero in a way. In "Jenny 5000", Jenny has a phobia of being put on the spot to impress others and I think that anxiety is what makes her an interesting character in the short. In the future I want to explore her other flaws, but I think that sense of anxiety will always be there and I think that will make her a character to get attached to.
GL: In the first episode, why tackle every day issues - in this case anxiety about change - instead of creating something more epic for your characters to tackle?
SR: I'm not one for epic adventures or fantasy storytelling, at least those are not strong influences for me. When I was young I loved the movie "Labyrinth" and "The NeverEnding Story" but those worlds didn't stick with me later on or today. The everyday issues of relationships we have with our family, friends and lovers are far more interesting to me and can have all the adventure of an epic journey. The best example I can think of, although it's live-action, is Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the issues are very everyday, but he manages to make social malfunctions epic and engaging, even at times unbearably so.
GL: As an artist, do you create works that you hope will speak to a specific audience or do you create art because you have to? Or both? What category would you put this film in?
SR: If I had to categorize "Jenny 5000", I'd be pleased to see it with shows like "China, IL" and "Super Jail", sort of adult goofy or kid-dult contemporary. "Jenny 5000" was not made for a specific audience in mind, it was just made to be personal and honest in the hopes that an audience would shape around that. I'd have a hard time seeing myself go a long time without making art; it's a compulsion and a propulsion to keep working and living and never settling down so to speak.
GL: Are there limits to the universe that you've created? Are there things that will never happen there?
SR: I would say the limits of the "Jenny 5000" world are the same as our own world, that reflection of reality is important when telling human stories for people to relate to. I don't think abstraction would ever find itself into the "Jenny 5000" storytelling. The only aspect that I would say is limitless is when it comes to the design and look of the world - like the characters most importantly, but also the cars and buildings and landscapes. I see it as a very earthy story set in a Salvador Dali painting, which I want to push further in the future.
GL Does podcasting exist in their universe? If so, why isn't Jenny podcasting and making her own show with Eddy?
SR: In "Jenny 5000" she's an FM radio host in a world where podcasting does exist and that could be a direction she takes the show in the future, but for now we're looking forward to seeing how she'll do on network television, being heard and seen.
GL: What are five of your favourite "Easter Eggs" in the short?
SR: Creating those "Easter Eggs" on the fly were pretty much the only thing keeping me sane when I was doing long days back-to-back, just animating. My top five would be the poster of Patrick Roy, who was pretty much my hero growing up, on the wall at the snack bar, the Parve coconut water in the fridge at the same snack bar, the "No Fur" sticker in Eddy's booth, the "Young Galaxy" poster in the main room and finally a tweet on Jenny's tablet from my good friend Sacha Miller (@_sacha_M) that reads, "everybody is so underrated #UrAllSpecial."
GL: How long did the short take to make?
SR: I worked on "Jenny 5000" over the course of a year, spending 4 months full-time and the rest part-time between freelance projects and video gigs.
GL: How did you fund this project?
SR: The animated short was mostly crowd-funded and was successfully funded after the 30 day period through heavy Facebook activity and other social media channels. During the pre-production, I was splitting my time between my freelancing and "Jenny 5000" and I was very lucky to have the support of my family to allow me to carry both.
GL: Are there plans to make more episodes? Are you in production for the next piece?
SR: Yes, I've started working on the next piece of the "Jenny 5000" story. I learned a lot from launching the first short, most importantly that the attention span of the internet has to be taken into consideration, and now I'm looking at releasing the same amount of content as the first short, but spread out over three or four much shorter episodes.