Interview with Animator, Christoffer Bjerre

Field Notes Interview #84: Christoffer Bjerre, Animator

 

We chat with animator, Chris Bjerre about his engaging work, his new Vimeo Staff Pick film VOID, and how he finds efficiency in his craft to help him stay sane and precise in his creative vision.

 

Sailing in the digital seas, glitches and all.

Start with what you enjoy and go from there. No matter what vehicle you choose to tell your stories through, it always takes time to finely tune. Animator, Christoffer Bjerre's odyssey into the creative world is an immersive one. As a self-taught animator, he's found his voice after a series of challenges -- and those milestones of growth result in some of the most striking animations seen today. Drawing inspiration from sci-fi influences like Kubrick and Tarkovsky to the polished architectural aesthetics of Zaha Hadid, Bjerre's work is stark and beautiful. There's a high emotional presence in his often chromatic work. One of the most compelling elements in his work is the role of subtle, yet abrasive music guiding the pieces without taking over. We caught up with the San Francisco-based animator -- check him out in his own words. Enjoy.


M: Who are you and what do you do in the world?

Christoffer Bjerre: My Name is Chris Bjerre and I'm a freelance motion graphics designer located in San Francisco. I'm originally from Denmark and moved to San Francisco about 11 years ago for an internship and have been living here ever since. I do concept design and animation for a variety of different media.

M: Why animation? How did you know you wanted to pursue this over any other art?

CB: Animation was never the first choice for me. I randomly landed an internship at a small motion graphics company in San Francisco 11 years ago while studying web design in Denmark. While interning for three months, I learned how to use Adobe After Effects and was blown away by the things you could create with the software. I've always been very interested in filmmaking, and I quickly realized that working with animation taught me a lot of film techniques, which was a big draw for me.

M: What were some of the challenges when starting out with this craft?

CB: Since I didn't go to school for animation, I was pretty much learning on the job from the the very beginning. Over time, I taught myself various programs and always tried to stay on top of what the latest new tool was -- what most people don't know is that motion graphics is incredibly vast.

Some days you are doing visual effects, and other days you are doing graphic design, user interfaces, 3D modeling or cell animation. It can be challenging to find a focus or even to be decent at one of these many aspects.

M: What was the inspiration for VOID? It's very chromatic. What's the reasoning behind not using color?

CB: Initially it was supposed to be a live action short, which I decided to scrap because I was unhappy with how it looked. I had spent a lot of time on it and created a lot of scenes that I was very attached to. So, this failed attempt at creating something eventually became the narrative for what the final short would be -- the narrative represents my design process. 

Every scene starts out pristine and white, but this black hole keeps appearing and starts eating away. This black hole, or "void," is a representation of the little nagging voice that appears in the back of our minds throughout the creative process questioning whether our work is good or bad.

The question is then whether to listen to that voice or to suppress it? 

Both in my personal and professional work, self-editing is one of the things I struggle with the most and my answer to that question is that you have to find a balance. So through the narrative we move through these bright scenarios until we finally embrace the darkness to be able to go towards the light again.

M: Who are your influences? Who are some artists you look up to?

CB: Film is my first love, and I'm very inspired by classic sci-fi like Kubrick and TarkovskyMamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell is also very near to my heart, and I've been obsessed with trying to recreate certain shots in my own style for many years. I'm influenced by a lot of different types of artists. The late Zaha Hadid was a major inspiration for my latest short, and I love the way she would use generative art in all of her structures.

M: Is there a different process behind making something for Adidas and your own passion project?

CB: The mechanics are pretty much the same, but since most big brands are very defined, there are a lot more guidelines you have to follow. It can be nice to have that structure because it forces you to think more efficiently.

The great thing about personal projects is obviously that you have creative freedom. But, to use your time efficiently, it requires a lot of discipline. When I don't have a deadline or a client, I have a tendency to want to tweak everything into infinity. 

M: What makes a compelling story?

CB: Compelling storytelling to me is all about balance. Nothing is really original anymore, so it's all about paying attention to detail and just make sure that all the different elements work together in unison.

M: What would you tell a animator just starting out?

CB: I think the best advice you can give to anyone working in any field, is to focus on what you like to do the most. Especially with animation, everything is very time consuming, so it helps if you are doing something you enjoy. If you're in school, it's extremely important that you experiment a lot and try and figure out what that thing is.

M: What's the last album you played in your car?

CB: I don't own a car, but at the moment I listen to a lot of Nosaj Thing.

M: What's coming up?

CB: I'm currently working on some interesting commercial projects and would like to do another short film sometime in the near future.

How Can Music Help With A Comedic Film?

It's all in the timing.

Experiencing something for the first time can be a literal life-changing moment. Our friends at Cut.com provide a hilarious collection of one of these moments, documenting kids as they try to dress themselves for the first time.

Using the electro-pop track, "Zeta!" by Marmoset band, Ramova, there's an adventurous and epic edge to this film. Music Supervisors, Kat Olsen and Emilee Booher shared their thoughts on how the soundtrack paired well with the film using well-edited timing to bolster the comedic effect. Enjoy the film and their thoughts below.

Emilee Booher: "The soundtrack is fun, loud and provides a youthful feel of adventure that caters well to this video. The moments of silence in between really brings the humor home."

Kat Olsen: "It works on a comical level because it has the runway flair. If they put in cute kid music in this it wouldn't work as well -- but because there's a high fashion track, it pairs really well with the comedy of these kids trying fashion."

It's safe to say that our friends and collaborators, Cut.com have taken the Internet by storm with their viral films. Often using humor as a tool to tell a compelling story, there's always a deeper human meaning underneath. We highly recommend their other work and checking out our interview with one of their filmmakers, Mike Gaston.

 
Posted on April 29, 2016 .

Special Performance + Benefit Show with Grace Love

Photo by Notaworry

Photo by Notaworry

This Saturday, April 30, we're hosting an amazing night of music for a great cause. Grace Love and the True Loves will be filling the room at our HQ with her fiery soul in this intimate performance bringing together our two loves: music and community, all in the name of education.

Education is important to us and we believe that educational resources should be available to everyone. That's why we're humbled to host this show in benefit for the St. Andrews Nativity School — Oregon's only tuition-free middle school for students who live at or below the poverty line.

Located in northeast Portland, just off 9th and Alberta, the school draws students of all kinds around the area. Featuring small class sizes that give the individualized attention necessary to raise student's learning by as much as five grade levels in only three years. It's rather amazing.

The bottom line measure of success you should know is that 94 percent of these students go on to graduate from high school and 80 percent go on to graduate from college. In most cases, these children are the first of their family to accomplish either milestone. Furthermore, allowing them to go beyond college and accomplish milestone that may have been seemingly impossible at one point. 

The school is 100 percent scholarship-based, meaning all tuition, costs, and related needs are completely taken care of for the student and their family. For many of these children, it's the education equivalent to winning the lottery. 

During our first year of partnering with the Nativity School, we hosted a special acoustic set from rockers, Blitzen Trapper and followed up with a set from our dear friend, Eric D. Johnson (of the Fruit Bats), the next year. This year, Grace Love and the True Loves will be sharing a force of love. Her powerful voice leads a bombastic 9-piece ensemble of brass, big drums and infectious grooves. Taking the baton in a rich lineage of music from the likes of Motown, Stax, King and Daptone artists, her music will be make you move on the dance floor.

There will be food, beverages, and a silent auction to help raise funds for this amazing school. Nativity School staff and our Co-founder, Ryan Wines will be in attendance to answer any questions you have. We hope to see you there. 

Posted on April 28, 2016 .