Friday, March 28, 2008

Interview with Bob Sabiston

As it seems that we as a society like definitions, and also knowing that it's hard to speak in absolutes about any art form...Could you name some essential qualities that you feel should be present in a work that is labeled "Documentary Animation."

Well, I think the same qualities that apply to documentary film -- those should be in documentary animation. For me, sound is a big part -- our sound is mostly real, and the animation is based on video that accompanies that exact sound. Telling a "true" story, that is the main part.

Also I think that the film should be at least at much an "animated film" as a "documentary one", but that it just a preference. By that I mean, it should seem like the reasons for making the film were at least as much about the visual art of it as they were about the
documentary subject matter.

Do you feel that once a work is labeled "Documentary" that it's set up for a deeper level of public scrutiny and potential controversy than it's non-fiction counterparts?

I'm not sure ... I mean, if you label something a documentary, then you are stating that you are presenting some form of the truth, and that sort of deserves scrutiny, or at least it is making a claim. It is like that public outcry over James Frey's book "A Million Little Pieces" -- I read it and liked it a lot, but it isn't the same to me now that I know they were claiming it was something it wasn't.

Do you see documentary animation playing a unique role in communication of "truth" that hasn't been tapped into by documentary film?

I like it because it is another layer, or medium, between you the director or artist and the audience. You can use the animation to express yourself in a way that is more clearly defined than in a live-action documentary. It is fun to play with that idea at least.

What was the inspiration that led you to structure your work around interview footage? Would you consider yourself someone who prefers to work with non-fiction content?

I guess...I think though that is because I am not confident of my abilities as a fiction writer. Still, I have always liked the idea of interviewing people, playing reporter, since I was a kid actually. And films like "Vernon Florida", "Gates of Heaven" (all of Errol Morris' films really) as well as pseudo-documentary animated shorts like "Creature Comforts" (Aardman) -- they show that documentary can be as entertaining as any narrative. So I'm going after that kind of thing, hopefully adding my own element as far as the animation itself. I feel like my true goal is to create interesting animation, cool visuals, and documentary is an easy, but still entertaining, "subject matter" for it.

How would you describe your process? You often use interview footage as the basis for your work, do your subjects influence your image making process? Do you ever feel a sense of
responsibility to get their feedback along the way?


I always am excited to show the people our animation of them, with one or two exceptions where I wasn't happy with the look of it. They naturally influence the process, as does the sensibility of the particular artist who is drawing them. I work with many artists, which I really like to do, and it is always interesting to see how another person can capture that person's essence in a drawing, either better or differently than you do yourself.

But mostly, each person's personality naturally is the whole focus on the animation, we are portraiting them in a way, so the more influence the better.


If you've produced both Fiction & Non-fiction work, how does audience response differ to each genre?

I have not produced much fiction work. The first two or three shorts I made were fiction, but that was 15-20 years ago. We have done more narrative work for other people, and for me there isn't much difference in the quality of the response from people. It just depends on the short itself. Fiction/Nonfiction can be equally good or bad.

How has your work been distributed/ screened...has it reached your ideal target audience?

Very sporadically has my work been distributed. I sell the one short off my website, and I've got a few shorts on YouTube that people can watch, though I doubt that looks very good. Mostly our films are seen in festivals...I guess I think of it like art exhibitions, they show a little bit and then become part of an archive. I hope one day I'll get them out on DVD, all packaged together.

41 comments:

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