This is the sixth in our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website. Jonathan's will be posted there this week.
Jonathan Wren interviews Alexander Salsberg
Alex: Hi Jonathan, I've answered your questions below. Thank you for choosing me for the interview!
Jon: What interests you about animation and what inspired you to start? In particular was it a desire to draw, tell stories or an interest intechnology?
Alex: I loved cartoons in television and movies when I was a kid, and as far back as I can remember I was drawing my own comics, and writing stories. I always wanted to make pictures and stories that moved, and I sort of had to get interested in technology, so that I could support my other interests.
Jon: Which one of your animations is your favourite?
Alex: My all time favorite is actually not online yet. It is called “Not YourMom,” and it is a ten minute comedy about a teenager who is afraid of meeting a girl who is just like his crazy mother. Of the cartoons I’ve released online, I’d say that my favorite is “Smell Check.” I think it has some of my most polished drawing, and I think it has some really funny jokes in it that I’m proud of.
Jon: I'm guessing from your animations that you're a big fan of comedy in animation. Do you find funny animations easy to think of and make?
Alex: I think animation and comedy go hand in hand very well. It actually can be very difficult at times to write good humor, because you need just the right mix of timing and wit. On the other hand, there are times when a funny idea can just write itself. The trick is to start with what you find funny, and then go from there.
Jon: What do you think a good animation should do? Make you laugh or make you think?
Alex: I think that a good animation doesn’t have to do either of those things, but it should make you feel something. I like to make animations that make people laugh, but that’s not the only thing animation can do. Any animation that does something original and interesting with its medium is good in my book.
Jon: We all enjoyed "A Men's Room Monologue". It was shown in class and appeared as one of our "movies of the week". It was funny without being too rude. Did you intend it as being fit for "family viewing"?
Alex: I never have an age group in mind when I work, but my sense of humor tends to be pretty clean. I’m more entertained by observational humor than poop jokes. I do like to do edgy humor but only if it’s funny and relevant. I will never do something edgy just for the sake of being edgy.
Jon: "Doctor Tooth" was drawn rather than being computer generated. This seems to
me a very time-consuming process. What do you think the benefits are of this process?
Alex: Both the drawn and the digital animation can be very time consuming indifferent ways. For “Dr. Tooth” I was trying out a program called “AfterEffects” to put together my scanned drawings and I found it to be a lot more cumbersome than Flash. I did like drawing on paper though. It made me feel a little bit more connected to what I was doing.
Jon: You produce your own music for your animations. What program or instrument do you use?
Alex: It is actually my brother, Adam Salsberg, who does the music. He records various instruments including piano, bass, guitar, xylophone, and then mixes them all together in his computer somehow. He’s a brilliant musician and I have no idea how he does it.
Jon: "The Ladies Room Monologues" maybe took you outside your comfort zone. How much help, other than with the voices, did you actually have?
Alex: I had a group of seven of my female friends help me out in writing the script, because I have no idea what goes on in the ladies room. Even with the help, I don’t think it was as funny as it could have been, just because I didn’t relate to it.
Jon: "That's what you think" shows you were animating at a very early age?" Was this you alone or were you working with a group of friends?
Alex: My friend Ellery helped me out on it. I still work with him on a lot of projects. I’m an artist who’s not that good with computers, and he’s a computer wiz who’s not that good with art, so we work well together.
Jon: You use a lot of different voices in your animations. Are these friends or course members (or both?)
Alex: Most of the voices are done by friends and classmates. I do a bunch of the voices too. The dentist who speaks at the end of “Dr. Tooth” was voiced by a goofy professor with a German accent.
Jon: Are there any animators you look up to or are inspired by?
Alex: I love the guys from back in the day, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Hanna and Barbara, all those guys. I like some independent animators like Bill Plympton, and also some of the guys in the business right now, like Matt Groening, Jon Lasseter and Brad Bird.
Jon: All your animations on "Poke and Gravy" are 2D. Have you experimented with or plan to use 3D software?
Alex: I have a tiny bit of training in 3d software, but 2D is where most of my skill lies. I am currently a writer/storyboarder on a 3d project about an alligator.
Jon: What advice would you give to anyone who has just started animation or is thinking about starting animation?
Alex: Be original and be you. Don’t copy anything you’ve seen before. That doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration from different styles you’ve seen, but make sure that everything you do is new, and comes from your unique point of view. Basically, find your voice.
Jon: Have you won any awards for animation?
Alex: I’ve won a few online awards, including awards from Newgrounds and Grab.com.
Jon: There are several forms of expressive art on your website (ie animation,short stories, art) but which one is your favourite and why?
Alex: My favorite is animation, but I really enjoy all kinds of creative ventures. I find that a lot of the stories and comics that I write end up giving me ideas that I want to adapt to animation.
Jon: You are presently studying at RIT. What exactly is this, where is it, and what does your really interesting course consist of?
Alex: RIT is the Rochester Institute of Technology, a really big university in New York. I am in the animation program there, and I take classes that teach me software, art technique, sound recording, scriptwriting, all kinds of cool stuff.
Jon: You have produced some spoof commercials for your site. This suggests that advertising is a possible career. But what are your intentions for the future?
Alex: My ultimate dream would be to have my own studio, but that takes time. There’s a chance I might try some commercial work, but really any job where I can be creative and use my skills is one for me.
Jon: Thank you Alex for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you have the best of success in your animation career. One day I'm looking forward to saying I interviewed a star!
Alexander’s ’s website is http://www.pokegravy.com/
His work is previewed on our website