7 Questions* for Sam Reich: director, internet comedy pioneer   “Donald Trump:...

Fred Seibert's Tumblr

May 4th, 2016

7 Questions* for Sam Reich: director, internet comedy pioneer   

“Donald Trump: Please Show Us Your Penis

I fell for Sam Reich –not that there’s anything wrong with that– the minute we sat down at lunch at New York’s Blue Smoke, at the introduction of our mutual friend, writer Fred Graver. Was it his smile, his beard, his twinkle in the eye? Couldn’t really tell you, only that I wished I had a chance to see him all the time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, and I had to settle for our every three or four year coffee klatch. 

Sam’s got one of those seemingly enviable, creative life trajectories, and certainly he wouldn’t begin to say anything other than he’s one lucky man. A high school dropout who started in the theatre and graduated to writing and directing internet video when his employers at CollegeHumor were considered a joke by the television establishment. But they knew, and Sam knew, that their “low quality” “little” web videos were going to dominate comedy (in 2003, one of the founders of CH casually mentioned to me that they had twice the amount of users as ComedyCentral.com. And, I’m now humiliated to say, my jaw hit the floor in disbelief). His path was an unusually bumpy one, and probably not to be emulated, so the “high school dropout made good” narrative doesn’t do justice to his very hard work and talent. Oh, and his smile and beard, of course. 

Oh, attention Frederator’s cartoon nerds, check out the Homestar Runner inspiration below (question #3) that got our hero started in the new internet world. 

Sam’s now a big honking comedy executive, comedy writer and director firmly in the Hollywood catbird seat, overseeing a creative empire that’s everywhere on television and streaming video. I’m not sure he would claim a disproportionate amount of the credit for the innovations he’s been part of, but I’m sure he would rightly, proudly, beam over the work he does. Watch out for Sam Reich, he’s taking over the world. 

1 Your parents are professionals (university professors and lawyer), but you dropped out of high school. Tell me the story.

Oh God.  

Well, I was always the black sheep of the family. My brother, who followed in my parents’ footsteps, was a traditional overachiever: president of his class, captain of the cross country team, etc. I liked to draw and play piano. I was essentially a quiet artist kid growing up in a rigorous academic environment. I fell into a deep clinical depression at the age of 14 – one that I was medicated and put in treatment for – feeling on some profound level like there was nothing out there in the world for me.

That summer, my parents enrolled me in an intense acting program, one that took itself very seriously, and I realized that there was a tiny sliver of a possibility that I could make art for a living. If the window was open even a crack, I would die trying to fit through it. After all the alternative was suicide. I had a “nothing to lose” attitude about my career, which I think served me well. As my acting teacher, Mark Lindberg, used to say, “If there’s anything else you can imagine yourself doing, do it." 

2 You probably don’t remember this… the first time we met you told me that you guys at CollegeHumor didn’t think about whether an idea would be good (something like “It’ll be as good as we can make it, but you never know how it will really turn out.”) but you considered whether or not it would be viral. When I asked you what that meant you said it needed to be funny, topical, and sexy. Explain.

I do remember this. And I’ve done a complete 180 about it.

What made us different than every other comedy shop at the time – Super Deluxe, Dot Comedy, and This Just In – is that we cared about the science behind what made videos go viral.

Now, everybody knows that science. Whole businesses have been built on it (Buzzfeed) and also TV shows (Jimmy Fallon). In other words, the secret sauce isn’t secret anymore.

Now, it seems correct, and more ambitious, and nobler to care about the science of what makes things good. 10 years ago, I probably would have found that question intimidating and wanted nothing to do with it. Now it’s my obsession.  

3 How does one go from loving the theatre to funny crap for the internet? 

It was really just a matter of necessity. I’m a generally creative person: I love to act, direct, write, produce. Just put me in a room with other creative people, allow me to make something, and I’m happy. 

I remember giving my headshot and resume to the Theater Studio in NYC and asking how many they got per year. "50,000,” they said. So I asked how many director resumes. “500,” they said. I remember thinking, “I like those odds better.”  

So I started directing. But even then, how does one become known and get work? Video on the internet was just taking off – the flash video player hadn’t even yet been created – and a couple of guys in Atlanta had created something called Homestar Runner. It just floored me. They were basically running their own little entrepreneurial web show based nothing on their talent and free time. So I was like, “I’ve got a little bit of talent and a lot of free time. I’ll do the live-action version of this.”   

I got a group of starving comedy artists together, and together we formed a group called Dutch West. We had no idea what we were doing when we got started, but we eventually identified ourselves as an “internet sketch comedy group.” We made short, weird, dark films for the internet. I acted in, wrote, and directed some of them. 

Some years later, CollegeHumor came to me and asked me if I wanted to spearhead their new video content division, which was a glamorous way of saying “You’ll be the guy who makes videos.” I was curious how well I’d do with a job-job, and also broke, so I accepted.   

4 Are you still directing?   

Yes, but only things I write. That was a difficult decision, but in the end, I don’t want to be a career director. Meaning, I don’t want to make a career out of directing alone. I’m most passionate – or, to use the corporate term, most “activated” – when I’m at the beginning of ideas. So to be the executive producer or writer coming up with an idea is my sweet spot.  

If I’ve written something, then chances are I’ll want to direct it, or at least co-direct it and co-edit it. The experience of conceiving of something, writing it, directing it, and editing it – of seeing it all the way through from start to finish – is, to me, pretty close to an orgasm. 

The last thing I directed was a video called Donald Trump: Please Show Us Your Penis for CollegeHumor In 2014, I co-write and directed a series of sketches for DirecTV called The Britishes.  

5 And now? What do you do for a living?

I’m Head of Video for CollegeHumor and President of Big Breakfast, CollegeHumor’s offshoot production company. I executive produce our variety of long-form projects, including Adam Ruins Everything on TruTV, Bad Internet on YouTube Red, Fatal Decision on Go90, and a handful of other stuff in development.

So what does that mean?

My strengths are creative, and so I have a creative voice in whatever we’re doing. I’m in CollegeHumor video pitch sessions and read-throughs, offering ideas and notes, and then I also note finished videos. With the long-form projects, I help to develop them creatively, to sell them to a network, to put their teams together, to note their scripts and cuts, and to in general make them thrive.

The executive piece of my responsibility is to make sure that we make more money than we spend, handle staff-related situations, report up to my bosses, and – most importantly – stay true to our core values: that of a great culture and great product.

I have plenty of help with this, luckily, especially from my right and left hands Spencer Griffin and Jon Cohen.  

6 New York vs. Hollywood. Discuss. 

When I was living in New York, I felt like New York was the star of the show. Now that I’m in LA, I feel like I’m the star of the show. 

New York is a more dynamic city, for sure – in fact, I’m almost ready to say it’s irrefutably a better city – but in LA, I feel more in control, more confident, and saner. 

Theme parks are fun, but I only need to go to a theme park once per year. If you go to a theme park more than once per year, then New York is for you.
Also, New York tried to fool me into thinking it had 30% of the industry. The truth is that it has about 6% of the industry. It makes sense to spend some time in New York, networking and getting good at your craft, almost as an extension of the college experience. 

But don’t do what I did and wait ten years to graduate [from New York City]. I think four years in New York – or Boston, or Chicago, or really anywhere that’s not LA – is all you need. Anything more is grad school, is procrastinating.

7 What are you excited about right now? What are you in love with today?  

At work, I’m excited about our upcoming YouTube Red series, Bad Internet. It’s a comedy tribute to science fiction anthology series like Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone and I think is some of our most imaginative work to date.

At home, I’m excited about my garden. Everything grows in California. My wife Elaine and I just planted three different kinds of lettuce, basil, parsley, cilantro, radishes, and snowpeas. We turn them all into a big salad every night. And then I have ice cream, just so I don’t become too LA.

Thanks Sam! 

*7 Questions, an irregular series of interviews with interesting people. Coming up, writers, graphic designers, educators, tech founders, start up investors, music folks, and more.  

(Via http://fredseibert.frederator.com/tagged/7-Questions)

Featured Member: Sif of Hikarian Animations

Channel Frederator

May 3rd, 2016

We’re highlighting one of our longtime Channel Frederator Network members, Sif of Hikarian Animations! Her new show, Tales of Zale, is is the story of a young fox named Zale, and his best friend, the barn owl Elva, as they explore a world in which humans are long gone. Along the way they’ll meet many other animals – some with good intentions, others not so much.

Growing up, did you draw a lot? Did you know you wanted to become an animator?

My mother is an artist, so I’ve basically grown up with a pencil in hand. While she kept a kind of “parents can’t teach their children well”-policy she did provide me with a lot of materials throughout my childhood that I could use to express myself. I didn’t know that I wanted to become an animator at first, but it was always something creative in one way or another – I think for a long time my dream was to become a “manga-drawing paleontologist”- and I mean, I totally could have, but as I entered my teens the animation medium started pulling me in more and more as I became more aware of it.

That being said, I have great respect for people who decide to work in the creative fields later on in their lives. I feel that often these individuals are able to provide a fresh perspective that I sometimes find myself lacking.

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Did you go to school to learn animation or are you self-taught? How do you stay on top of your game?

I’ve considered myself self-taught for a long time, but that is a pretty limiting term. The pursuit of knowledge in the field of animation has from the start been by my own initiative, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been people along the way who have taught me a thing or two. Bit by bit that gained knowledge has accumulated. What I’ve learned to far, and what I desire to learn for the future recently got me into The Animation Workshop in Denmark as well, where I am currently studying towards a bachelor in animation. I think the way I try to stay on top of my game is by always trying to strive further than where I currently am. There’s so much more I want to learn, so much more I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to meet. Days can be very busy and tiring, especially at this new school – but I believe that even if you just push yourself a couple of inches a day, eventually that’ll take you miles.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?

Let’s see, all of Tales of Zale is certainly a must in this case. Other animations that I often revisit in my thoughts are from back in my tournament days. Creating a story, universe and animation in a matter of 3 weeks is quite the battle, and as such calls for quite the nostalgia once in a while. Some of my favorites from then are Dreaming High, Blume, Draculine Verde and Little Merry Ego. The project I’m the proudest of however, will always be the next to come.

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Tell us a little about the tools that you are using, what’s your preferences? Plugins? Methods?

For most of the animations I put out on the web I use TVPaint for the animation itself (and often for backgrounds as well), After Effects for compositing and Premier Pro for editing. Once in a while I’m known to mix things up a bit with Toon Boom, Flash, Photoshop, Maya and other fun stuff. Hardware-wise I primarily work on a 15-inch retina MacBook Pro with a Cintiq Companion 2 as my tablet.

What’s your favorite animated film?

My thoughts immediately wander to Hayao Miyazaki’s films of which Princess Mononoke is probably my favorite. It’s really cliché to have one of his movies as one’s favorite, but it’s cliché for a reason. Another animated movie I’m really fond of is Little Nemo in Slumberland. It’s a movie that I watched as a 4-year old, where after the imagery suddenly started reappearing in my mind 16 years later. To me that is the markings of a strong movie.

Mira’s pretty much wrapped up inventing the color scheme for Jonni’s...

The Frederator Studios Tumblr

May 3rd, 2016

Mira’s pretty much wrapped up inventing the color scheme for Jonni’s “Rachel and Her Grandfather Control the Island” short. We chose “inventing” because here’s Rachel in a vent. It’s Comedy Tuesday here at Frederator Studios.

BRB, heading to eBay…

Channel Frederator

May 2nd, 2016

BRB, heading to eBay…

Watch all 107 Facts on The Legend of Korra on Channel Frederator!

🎉CONGRATS KRISTEN🎉

StashRiot

May 2nd, 2016

🎉CONGRATS KRISTEN🎉

Kristen is the WINNER of our $1000 StashRiot Gift Card Sweepstakes. Stay tuned for more chances to win our sweepstakes in the future. Thank you all for entering! | www.stashriot.com

jonniphillips:

The Frederator Studios Tumblr

May 2nd, 2016

jonniphillips:

hey everyone! here’s my first year film at CalArts… in glorious intentional vhs quality

so this project started out with me trying to convey a vague uneasy feeling ive had for my entire life through a surrealist narrative.. its evolved and changed a lot since then but i think the heart of that is still there

i made most of the film by drawing the characters digitally for each frame, printing each frame out, cutting out each frame and putting the shot together on a multiplane… any shot with the stop motion puppet had to be put together on a stop motion stage…

hope you guys like it! it was an insane amount of work and im so glad to be done…

We’re very pleased Jonni Phillips is the creator of one of the dozen shorts in our GO! Cartoons anthology in production. For a small taste of what you can expect with “Rachel and Her Grandfather Control the Island,” you can watch Jonni’s first-year CalArts film, “The Earth Is Flat.”

Satisfying work, Jonni (and extra special thanks for the special thanks).

Having bacon today???

Channel Frederator

May 2nd, 2016

Having bacon today???

An Office with a View

The Frederator Studios Tumblr

May 2nd, 2016

An Office with a View

An office with a view. Peter Emmerich is delivering more background looks for “Lunchbox of Doom,” a short in the GO! Cartoons line-up.

”If you have to tell an artist what to do and...

Fred Seibert's Tumblr

May 2nd, 2016

If you have to tell an artist what to do and how to do it, it’s usually a losing game.

“Most great artists stand out because they have their own way of doing things and their own personality. The creative freedom part of it was a natural place to go when you’re dealing with people that hopefully are smarter than you… If you’re building a … company you’re hopefully surrounded by artists that are a step ahead of you. If you have to tell an artist what to do and how to do it, it’s usually a losing game. Lenny Warnoker, former President, Warner Bros. Records, via Entertainment Weekly, April 29, 2016 

When I stumbled across this paragraph from an article about Prince from the legendary president of his original record company, it got me wondering why any creative company would operate any differently. But back in the day, Warner Bros. Records was unique and it catapulted them into the stratosphere for four decades. 

It also got me to thinking how much the record business influenced how I’ve worked in the cartoon business. Because at Frederator, we’ve always put the artist first, often to the derision of many of the network and movie executives with whom we’ve worked. 

“Artists can’t write,” we’ve been told, over and over (and over and over) again. By the very same executives who’ve cashed their bonus checks over and over on the series created by those very same artists. 

“Nobody knows anything,” wrote famous Hollywood screenwriter, William Goldman, and I’ve never been shy about my own ignorance. My first day at Hanna-Barbera, I told the senior staff that I didn’t really know anything about cartoons and that I would rely on their decades of experience. Many of them turned pale, but then and there I was determined to depend on cartoon artists to turn the studio around, exactly the way that the great studios did it during the Golden Age

I wasn’t about to run a studio that turned out junk that risk adverse executives assumed the audience would like. It’s the artist that creates what an audience will love. That’s why they’re called “creators,” after all. Like Lenny says, artists are a step ahead of you. 

There hasn’t been one day in the past 24 years that animation creators have let me –actually, all of us at Frederator– down. The imaginative artists we’ve been lucky enough to bump into have willed 250 short films and some 20 series into existence, each with a distinct voice, each with something original to say. 

Some of you know that I started my professional life “producing” jazz records. A 20-something suburban popster had no business telling the world class, mostly African American 30/40/50-somethings, world class musician/creators anything about their art. So, producing mostly meant finding artists I wanted to work with, convincing a record executive to agree to fund a session, and then making sure everything from transportation to the recording studio was in place to help the artist create. 

It took me several years to realize how my jazz experiences were the perfect set up for a life in cartoons. I wasn’t about to tell Hank Jones or Cecil Taylor or Willis Jackson how to play their music, so why should I tell Butch Hartman or Pen Ward or Natasha Allegri (or hundreds of others) how to make their cartoons. And, neither was anyone that worked for me. 

Frederator hasn’t prevailed because we’re so smart. We exist because of the supremely talented men and women poured themselves into each and every word and picture, struggling to make films that spoke to people, and all them doing it successfully. 

I’m so glad I learned my lessons early. 

If you have to tell an artist what to do and how to do it, it’s usually a losing game.“ 

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Prince/Catbug memorial GIF by @patthebird via StashRiot’s Tumblr; illustration (below) by David Cowles

spettelt:

Channel Frederator

April 30th, 2016

spettelt:

Dragon Terror

You guessed it, More Dragons!

Some killer new art by a talented Channel Frederator Network member!

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