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The freedom of freelancing: A conversation with animator Chris Carboni

Interviews • Written by Genero

We recently we noticed a fun, hypnotic, ridiculous, colourful music video from Philadelphia group Cruisr. It’s a perfect ode to the history of cinema, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Cruisr / All Over - Chris Carboni

The video was created by freelance designer/animator/director/illustrator Chris Carboni, a NYC native who got started in animation after spending time at the Rhode Island School of Design. Things have worked out well since graduating – Chris has been freelancing for nearly all of his career so far. We caught up with Chris to find out more about creating the clip and working in the industry.

You have a hugely rich portfolio of work from a range of very impressive clients. What do you think the key differences are between animating for commercial clients vs. music videos vs. your own short film projects?

There are a lot of differences between personal work and client work. I love the creative problem solving involved in client assignments, and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my work benefit someone else. Alternatively, I love the freedom that comes with creating personal work. My short film projects are where I get to explore ideas and stories I find personally meaningful – the process is more self-expression than anything else. Lately, I think I’ve enjoyed making music videos the most. They fall somewhere between commercial and personal work.

Chris’ official music video for ‘All Over’ by Cruisr captured our attention with it’s playful ode to the history of cinema. The concept for the video came from both the themes of the track and Chris’ 29 year long obsession with film. 

Tell us about the process of putting together the clip.

I started with a list of about 400 films that seemed significant for one reason or another. Then I started looking for connections between them. The whole thing felt like putting together a puzzle, figuring out what fit and what didn’t. I then wrote down all the lyrics, divided the song into sections and started working on structure. I came up with themes for each section – “Playful confrontation”, “Female seduction”, “All out War” – inspired by both lyrics and the general narrative I wanted to tell. Once I had a working animatic for the video, my team and I began the animation process. We worked digitally, animating frame by frame in Photoshop and then moved into After Effects for the compositing phase.

Do you think it’s more important for animators to have a unique style or be versatile?

That’s a great question! I think it depends on the intentions of the animator. If you’re a freelancer and your goals are to stay booked consistently, then versatility certainly helps. However, if your work is more about artistic expression and growing your own, personal vision, then obviously developing a unique style is important. For me, I suppose I’m pretty versatile – but it’s never been a conscious choice, I just have a lot of interests. I love a great hand crafted stop-motion piece, but I’m also a sucker for some slick, abstract, 3D design. One of the great things about the motion industry, especially in NYC, is I haven’t really had to choose one thing to explore. The variety is what keeps me engaged.

Do you have a favourite animator and animated film?

I do not. I’m bad at picking a single favourite when it comes to any of the arts. But here are some things that I like: Max Fleischer, Pixar, Sylvain Chomet, The Brothers Quay, Hayao Miyazaki, Walt Disney, Laika…

Talk to us about freelancing!

Freelancing was a deliberate choice for me. I would encourage everyone to freelance for at least part of their career. There is so much to learn from how different people approach their work!

Experiment as much as you can while you’re young. Take the time to figure out what you love and pour yourself into it.

What is your favourite part about your job?

I love the freedom I have to explore everything that interests me. I love that one week I can be illustrating a hand-drawn poster for a non-profit organization, and the next I can be working on a polished CG spot for an international brand. I love the diverse opportunities this industry offers freelance artists.

For up and coming animators trying to get started with their career, what advice do you have?

Experiment as much as you can while you’re young. Take the time to figure out what you love and pour yourself into it. Everyone’s career twists and turns, but it becomes more difficult to take risks as you get older so I think it’s really important for young people to embrace their curiosity as much as possible.

What can we expect from you next?

In the short term, I’ll be shifting my focus toward commercial work, but I have some short film ideas I’d love to get off the ground later in the year.

You can see more of Chris’ work over on his website. A huge thanks to Chris for chatting with us!

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