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Creator Q&A: S. K. Henry

1. What is your name, what do you do, and which film did you make?

My name is S. K. Henry, I do animation and comics, and I made the film ‘Dire’. 2. What experience do you have creating art and animation?

I’ve been drawing comics since I was eight, but I started really taking art seriously in high school. There I started making graphic novels in sketchbooks that my friends would pass around between classes.

Around then the film How to Train Your Dragon came out; it was then that I knew I wanted to work in animation in some capacity. I wanted to create stories that moving and powerful, and I wanted to eventually become a director or showrunner in some capacity.

I have a BFA in Film from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but that mainly taught me about experimental filmmaking and basic storytelling. I’m a self-taught digital artist and a mostly self-taught animator.

3. What inspired you to pick the story you chose?

Little Red Riding Hood, an Inuit folktale called Sila and Kinak, and a brief sand animation I did where Red is walking, sees the moon, and turns into the wolf herself. The three actually complemented one another well and aligned with the story I wanted to tell.

4. What was your process for making your film?

I actually wrote the story for Dire a few years ago when I created it as a comic book. It was originally intended to be a short film, so it was a matter of adapting that story back into a format fit for the screen. I took the comic book, turned certain panels into keyframes and made a rough animatic; once I got into a better rhythm I took certain frames and changed the compositions or shots to look better suited to a screen. Turns out tiny comic panels and a 16:9 screen ratio have very different compositional aesthetics!

5. How long did it take to make?

It took a few months to actually produce the rough animatic/animation that I have so far. It actually took a year and a half to write the original story and comic book! (It was mostly the research that took so long.)

6. How experienced were you with narrative and story-based projects before making your altered fairytale? Pretty experienced; I’m still new at this as a professional but I’ve been writing books and comic books since high school. Not that they were particularly good or deep, but experience is experience. Haha. 7. What was the easiest part? The easiest part was probably character design; those were fairly similar to the original ones in the comic book. 8. What was the hardest part? The hardest part was honestly deciding where to dedicate time; I knew I would be working on this project alone and that it wouldn’t be a finished, polished film. Figuring out what absolutely had to be animated to make the story make sense was a challenge. 9. What was your favorite part? There is nothing like spending hours and hours, to hit the playback button and see the character you created breathe with life. 10. Do you have words of wisdom for anyone who might want to create an animated short of their own? Whatever you do, don’t wait! Don’t wait until you’re ‘good enough’ of an artist, don’t wait for the perfect time or the right amount of experience. Jump into the work and don’t let perfectionism stop you from creating. Experience is the only thing that’s going to help you get better, especially if you’re more of a self-taught creator. Make mistakes, get better! Failure is a landmark (often multiple times) on the way to success. It’s better to have an imperfect finished piece than a perfect unfinished one. As an artist, you’re only going to get better with time, so what you call perfect now isn’t even going to be perfect anymore a year from now. Constructive criticism is your friend. Have faith in your hard work, but be humble. Take criticism from your peers, your teachers. If you hear advice about one thing multiple times, it’s probably worth taking a look at. Conversely, if you get an excessively negative review, know that you can thank the person for their opinion and then let that opinion go once they walk away. If this field is truly important to you, one person’s opinion is not going to stop you from creating.

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