Interview
Shane Acker
© Shane Acker
Emru Townsend: I'm thinking about what you said just now, but also something you said about the aspects of making of 9. It took you five years...

Shane Acker: Eh, four and a half [laughs]

Four and a half years. You made a comment about how one of the things is that you boil it down to the essence of the idea. How many students tend to have a big, massive idea which is of course totally unworkable, and you put it down to the essentials so that you can actually get it done. And both those comments remind me of something from an interview I did with David Sproxton from Aardman Animations. He one of the things he really liked about Jeff Newitt, who did Loves Me... Loves Me Not, was that while he was in school, most of his classmates would be saying "I want to make Ben-Hur in stop-motion," and at the end of the year, they're just setting up the models. Whereas he had a simple idea and he just went and did it. [Sproxton] loved the fact that he finished every film that he ever made. The thing about Nick Park was that Wallace and Gromit took him seven years to make, because he was making it on his own for something like four or five years, Aardman came in, he did Creature Comforts and this and that, and then he finished it. It's sort of that sticktoitiveness. So you've got a little bit of both happening there. It's like you had the determination to get it done, regardless of how long it took, but also understood that you can't make this massive, sprawling idea.

Well, I definitely bit off more than I could chew. Despite all my ideas of economy and things like that, I still got the better of myself. I always do. You know, you just start these things and they're gonna inflate. I mean, the first animatic was two minutes and forty seconds, and even then my professor was, oh, that's too long, you'll never get it done. I'm like, no, I can do this, this is easy. And then four years later it's an eleven minute long piece, it's gotten really complex, with seven different sets... it just snowballs, despite the fact that I was trying to make it economical.

At some point—I mean, there's animation that's in there that's three years old. I could have gone back—I'm much better at animating and stuff like that—and go back and try to fix all those things, but it's just, no, at some point you've just got to get it done and get it out there. The audience will forgive you, so long as you're giving them an interesting experience and you're showing them something new and you're not skimping on the story. I think that they'll forgive you for whatever animation mistakes and stuff you have. But there's point at which I wince. But it's a vicious cycle. You could go on ad infinitum, going back and revising and revising and revising, but at some point you just hope that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and you've just got to get it out there. But definitely try to make it as streamlined as possible when you're starting off on this thing, and then it's just about having the sticktoitiveness.

A lot of people thought I was crazy. I think it was two and a half years in, people were always like, how's it going, you still working on that film and everything? When is that going to be done? And I just started telling people, two weeks. "I'm just two weeks away, two weeks!" And after about three months of them asking how it was going and me saying two weeks, they just quit asking. It was just a good solution.

So, yeah, it's just sticking to your guns. I showed it to a lot of people and a lot of people were really excited about it, and that really helped fuel the fire. Okay, I knew that I was on to something good, you know, it wasn't like, oh, that's... interesting, people were like, oh, wow. So that I knew that I had something good, even though some people, people I met in the industry were, oh, that's just totally crazy.

But, no regrets. I'm a much better artist coming out of it. It's opened so many doors for me. I had faith in it, I knew it was going to take me places, so I just stuck with it. I'm living proof that if you do that, things can happen.

Definitely. I'm sure you're going to be an example to so many people now. [Dramatically] You will be an example to others.

Now I just hope I don't screw up [laughs] with this feature opportunity. It's like the dog who chases the car. The car stopped and I've slammed right into the bumper, and now I'm just like, okay, can I actually do this, can I actually make this feature? But, you know, it's all process. You just look at it that way. You just keep doing what you're doing and you keep putting a lot of time and effort into it, and hopefully something good will come out of it.
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