Spotlight: Allen Laseter, Director/Illustrator/Animator
Have you seen the beautiful #CMNSH animation we unveiled at our April/Humility talk, yet? If not, drop everything and watch it now, because we’d like to introduce you to the amazing artist who created it: Allen Laseter, freelance director/illustrator/animator and one of our favorite morning people.
1 - What types of projects have you been working on recently? How do clients utilize your motion design and animation talents to tell their stories? What type of work would you like to do more of?
I’ve been doing a whole lot of explainer videos lately. With the growing number of companies and start-ups that need visual content, that kind of thing seems to have exploded in the last few years. This has been great for someone like me who is a bit of a newcomer and still trying to find their voice, and these kinds of projects can also be pretty fun to work on, but I’m definitely itching to branch out into more music video and narrative-based work.
Pictured: Allen Laseter and a still from Allen’s piece “Flex Connect” for Autosoft.
2 - You graduated with a Film Degree at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, correct? How did you transition from film to motion? Was it a natural progression?
Yeah, I studied directing and cinematography in school. Straight after graduating, I began freelancing and was just taking on any sort of video project I could get my hands on. I didn’t have much experience with animation other than goofing around with it here and there for fun, but somehow a motion project just kind of fell into my lap one day. I naively took the job thinking my very limited experience would qualify me, but I quickly found myself in over my head. It was a bit of a nightmare at first, but being backed into a corner forced me to learn very quickly, and once I finally started to get the hang of it, I realized that I got a satisfaction out of illustrating and animating that I couldn’t get out of live action. I was using the directing and cinematography training I got while in school for this different medium that was very new to me, and that was exciting. Now that I work exclusively in animation, I still do that and I try to use it to my advantage.
3 - There are many creative partnerships among our members here at #CMNSH. Your fiancé is a designer as well. How does having a creative significant other influence your process and your work?
It’s amazing! My fiancée, Lindsey Armstrong, is a badass designer. I feel super lucky to have someone who works in a creative field that is ultimately pretty different from mine but still has a whole lot of overlap with it. She’s able to give me great feedback on the work I’m doing because she has a great eye and lot’s of formal design training and experience. But, since she doesn’t deal with motion day-to-day, she’s able to assess my work without getting distracted by the technical details of animation and can instead give me a fresh perspective on the more important aspects of a project like concept, visual structure and mood. It’s easy to lose sight of those things when you’re scrambling to finish a project, so it’s nice to always have access to a trusted creative with a fresh perspective.
4 - You spend multiple hours on projects that can often run for only 30 seconds. What is your process for telling a good story within that timeframe and what is the biggest challenge?
Yeah, the ratio of hours worked to screen time is really absurd, but I kind of like that about it. The only way I know how to make good work is to put in a lot of time. I like to put in a lot of this time upfront and try to figure out how to most concisely tell whatever story needs to be told before diving into execution. I like to feel really good about the storyboard before moving forward. For me, one of the biggest challenges is resisting the urge to focus on style before I have a really good handle on the concept. This seems like such an easy trap to fall into, and can wreck a potentially good project. To help with this, I make my storyboard using super basic shapes and stick figures. Lately, I’ve also started illustrating in greyscale and animating with super rough versions of the final illustrated assets. Anything I can do to keep me working from general-to-specific seems to help with the process.
5 - Where can people follow you and find more about your work?
Interview by graphic designer Stephen Jones.