Q, How did this all get started?
A. I’ve always been enchanted with animated story-telling, and, as the industry has grown to portray much more realistic and relevant issues, I wanted to emulate this with my own work. Additionally, I felt (and still feel) as though a lot of people are unaware about the current state of the planet’s environment and climate. People hear the terms “global warming” and they’ve almost become desensitized. They don’t truly grasp the gravity of the situation.
Q. Let's talk about You Reap What You Sow. Why did you choose to make YRWYS in black and white? What is the significance of the blue facemask at the end of YRWYS?
A. Black and white sets a mood of darkness and hopelessness, and I wanted the audience to feel that way. The face-mask at the end just is a reminder that we are losing our ability to breathe. I find this terrifying.
Q. What is your process for animating?
A. Prior to YRWYS, I have never done a full-blown animation before. I started out using free software called Krita. After working with it for a month or so, I realized there were many better tools out there. I then moved to Adobe. I also was lucky enough to get a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16 tablet halfway through the animation. This helped a lot. It took me seven months to animate 2 minutes because I was learning through trial and error. You can actually see my progression as an animator as the story moves forward. Ultimately, I made 1600 frames by hand and spent seven months on that first film. For my other films, I used a variety of Adobe programs and worked the backgrounds ahead of the animations.
Q. Tell me about One Man’s Trash. How did that film come to exist?
A. It was the product of a collaboration I did with the Millburn Environmental Committee, which is made up of township residents, parents and students here in town. They wanted to something special for Earth Day. They wanted to create a PSA for the town's Earth Day efforts and they heard about YRWYS. The approached me and asked me to come up with a concept. I had just seen a documentary on the Great Pacific Garbage patch, so this seemed like a good topic.
Q. What about AYEO? What is the meaning of his story?
A. AYEO, like YRWYS, is a story that takes a look at a likely future if we continue to abuse our environment. In the case of AYEO, he is one of humanity's last survivors - barely hanging on in a world with dirty water, the loss of animals and people. He dreams of one day seeing something we take for granted: a bird. When his dream comes true, he follows the bird and provides us with a tour of his landscape, a grim wasteland destroyed by pollution and global warming. In my research, I came across many modern-day communities that are forgotten in remote parts of the world where children live surrounded by trash and lack access to potable water. It scares me that AYEO's plight is not as futuristic as we might like to think.
Q. When AYEO walks by the burn-out car, we see a human skeleton. However, Ayeo himself has an ethereal quality, a blank face, and he floats from scene to scene. What that intentional?
A. Very much so! Ayeo is one of the last of our kind and his fading humanity is represented in his round face and his simple robes. I specifically included the skeleton, a much more sculpted form, to make that point. I also wanted to reinforce that the very things that make us civilized, cars and the such, are also destroying us. That is the significance of the things Ayeo sees on his way to the beach, a car and an old TV.
Q. Do you have a favorite film-maker?
A. My favorite filmmaker without doubt has to be Owen Dennis. He's such a genius when it comes to storytelling, and he's such a big name in the industry for his accomplishments in two huge cartoons; Infinity Train and Regular Show. Spiderverse is such a brilliant work of animation and stylized 3D film designed to look 2D. I could rave about it for days but the film already has all the attention it deserves.
Q. Who or what inspires you? Do you have any role-models?
A. I would have to say my role model is definitely Rebecca Sugar. Their work piloting the creative drive behind one of the most inclusive cartoons to date is so commemorable and I can not offer them enough of my praise.
Q. What do you think each individual can do to affect the future of our planet?
A. Push for large scale change. There is a common misconception that in order to help the environment, individuals need reduce their personal impact - and while this is helpful, the reality of the situation is that the actual threats to our environment are more likely to come from corporations and industries which produce huge sums of fossil fuels.
Q. What are you hoping to spark with your films?
A. I hope they will spread awareness about the subject of climate change and ecosystem destruction. We are becoming increasingly more disconnected from these matters and it is my greatest fear that we leave them behind entirely.
Q. Why is your website titled after your first film?
A. My intent with YRWYS was to start a conversation in the hope that people would be motivated to learn more information on their own. I did a lot of research in preparing YRWYS, and I wanted to share that information. A website seemed like a prudent second step. When I released YRWYS, I didn't expect I would continue working in this genre. Once I created my second and third film, I didn't think it would be a good idea to create separate websites so I housed them here. The topic and the plea are basically the same. By the way, I also have an artist account at www.jakeupdyke.com.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. Right now, I am working on finishing my portfolio for college! My hope is to pursue a career in animation and digital storytelling and ultimately run my own animated show. I will be applying to college in the Fall of 2020 so that is likely my next area of focus.