Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Giant Sloth" Creator Paul Hornschemeier

Paul Hornschemeier is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic novels "Mother, Come Home," "The Three Paradoxes", and the New York Times Best Seller "Life with Mr. Dangerous," as well as the short story collections "Let Us Be Perfectly Clear" and "All and Sundry." His most recent collection, "Artists Authors Thinkers Directors" groups 100 portraits from his art blog "The Daily Forlorn," a featured illustration blog on Tumblr.

His prose and comics have been translated into eight languages and garnered international awards and have appeared in publications ranging from Life Magazine to The Wall Street Journal.
He has taught art and creative writing for The University of Chicago and lectured internationally on art, literature, and modern media.

His animation and artwork appears on IFC’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, now in its second season. He recently wrote, directed, and produced a live action short, "Daniel in the Factory," based on his feature script of the same name, and is developing a variety of live action and animated programs for television.

He lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife have a cat. And a kid. The kid really loves that cat.


What is "Giant Sloth”?

Giant Sloth is a short animated film. It’s a combination of all my interests, ranging from surrealist filmmaking to bizarre, dusty museum exhibits, to animation from the 60s, to dark comedy, to… well, a lot of things. So let’s just say it’s a short animated film about a museum curator whose life is being pulled out from under him and he’s being dumped into a modern world he’s scared of and has avoided by choice. In response to all this: he starts seeing things, daydreaming, and just generally losing his mind.

How have your previous projects prepared you to make this film?

I feel like my previous projects always prepare for whatever it is I’m currently working on, though that’s never by conscious plan. I stumbled into animation and film, thought those are two things I’ve always loved…

I’ve been writing and drawing graphic novels for over a decade and have been working in animation for the past four years. I did the animation on IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! and I write and direct a weekly animated web series on YouTube, Forlorn TV. I’ve also been working in writing screenplays and directing small films for a couple years. One of the (live action) shorts is available through this campaign. So… all of that has fed, in one way or another, into Giant Sloth.

How did you choose your cast and crew?

Casting Paul Giamatti was first. I had the idea for Giant Sloth a while ago, several years ago, I think. But it wasn’t until I started working with Paul and his production company (Touchy Feely) that the idea rose back up in the pecking order of projects. I really just had a treatment about a year ago, so when I wrote the script, I was really writing for Paul. Which was such a huge relief when he responded to the script and wanted to do it.

Jason Mantzoukas was someone I knew through Scott Aukerman, just on a mutual respect level (Jason’s a comic book enthusiast, and I love all his comedy). I had wanted to figure out a way to work with him and his voice is just about one of the best comedic voices out there…

Robert Popper was someone I actually connected with through twitter, again just out of mutual admiration for our work. He and I actually recorded another little film together that I’ll hopefully announce more about soon. After we did that and I still had an opening for the jerky boss, I had to have him in that role. Thankfully he said yes.

Kate McKinnon and I have the same manager. So, that was just a matter of my/her manger handing her the script and Kate liking it enough to sign on. I think she’s THE BEST person to come along on Saturday Night Live in a while.

Although I’m working with Scott on other projects, I was probably the most hesitant to approach him to be in the film, just because he’s such a phenomenally busy guy. The amount of granite-solid comedy content he’s producing right now is just… it’s amazing. I’m assuming he never sleeps and owns at least a couple time machines/clones.

As for the crew, which in my mind is no less amazing than the cast: those are all people that I’ve been insanely lucky to have worked with on either Comedy Bang! Bang! or my own film projects. The talent in that crew is unbelievable. Every one of them is such a creative genius. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But I think that’s the job of the director: to hire people who are better than you in their specific department. It only improves the film.

What would you say are the pros and cons to crowdfunding?

The cons are lack of sleep, rising blood pressure… I’m not sure of any real cons beyond that. I think the rewards for backers, that part is a bit hard to figure out when you’re putting a campaign together. If you’re create a tangible product people can go out and use (the new tooth vacuum!… no idea what that would be), I think it’s a little easier, but with an art piece or an experience, it’s a bit tougher. So some of the budget has to go into making physical manifestations of that experience.

But that’s part of the fun too, designing those things to offer as rewards. Or anyway, it’s a lot of fun for me. And that brings me to the big BIG up side of crowd funding: no middle men deciding those things for you. I mean, I suppose kickstarted itself is technically a middleman, but not having any majorly invested entity getting between you and your potential audience (and in fact potentially growing your audience during and after the campaign)? That’s amazing. It’s allowing so many great, bizarre ideas to get off the ground, when before they would have just puttered around and died from lack of finding an audience and lack of funding.

What advice you give to someone who wants to become an animator?

My background is comics, and I think that’s a great place to start if you’re interested in animation or film. Animation and film are certainly their own beasts, but learning how to tell a story with words and pictures sequentially takes a long, long time, and it’s a bit faster to tell a longer story through comics than it is to animate the entire thing. And I think comics gives you a sense of editing, of using the cut to tell the story. In between each panel in comics, you have this sort of cut…

Otherwise, I’d just say that if you want to be an animator: animate. Do the thing you want to do, and do it every day. It’s the only way anyone ever improves. Every day: work at your work.

How has becoming a father changed you as an artist?

I think the biggest thing he gives me is perspective. I don’t think my storytelling or the things I’m drawn to narratively have changed much at all, but the lens through which I perceive my life/work balance is different. My son is a walking manifestation of wonder, and it’s impossible to be around him and not slow down a little and really take time to look at all the amazing small details in daily life. I may have done that before to a degree, but he offers a different sort of calm to the whole enterprise of just being in the moment. And laughing at your own farts, of course.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine, married Pablo Picasso’s muse, Francoise Gilot. Use that information wisely.