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.

Posted on May 2, 2016 and filed under Field Notes.