If you’re a fan of animated shorts, then you’ve probably already heard rumblings of a super collective of talented animators operating under the moniker Late Night Work Club. Eager to find out who they are and what they hope to achieve, we spoke to the man who describes himself as “kind of the de facto organizer for this thing”, Pittsburgh-based animator and illustrator Scott Benson:
The idea came out of talks between myself, Charles Huettner, Eimhin McNamara and Eamonn O’Neill in the summer of 2012. I was often awake late at night working on a project and I’d notice that Charles and Eimhin were up to, and I started calling it Late Night Work Club. We are all really enthusiastic about making and supporting indie animation. We noted how good it was to talk to others who got where we were coming from, and how our enthusiasm for what we did was often not mirrored in how animation is talked about.
There was some dissatisfaction with how indie animation is often viewed and the channels through which one has to move to see it. Especially for Charles and I, who live in the US, did not go to school for animation, and live far from any sort of centre of animation activity. Discovering each other and this big animation community through the internet was huge. So we talked and the idea came up to do something together. I think the idea was proposed on a Friday and by the next Tuesday we were coming up with a list of people we’d like to contact. We sent out emails to a wish list of animators we liked and respected. Most of them at least one of us knew, but we also cold-emailed a few people. And almost to a one, they said yes. Within a week after that we were planning and scheduling, and it’s been rolling along ever since.
It’s an excuse to work together, forge new friendships and get to know one another through making something we’re all proud of. It’s a way to showcase animators as artists with their own strong voices. It’s not about the whole, it’s about the individuals. Like a compilation album, it’s a way for people to discover new artists and maybe start following and supporting their work. Find some new favorites.
It’s an exercise in scene-building. So often the way people talk about animation is “well, you make some small stuff until you get work”. A lot of animation chatter is so obsessed with the past and carrying on a tradition, and a lot of the excitement is directed at massive studios and kids’ movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but a lot of us are grown adults for whom this is just our medium for making things. It means something to us. It’s not just all stepping stones to jobs or wider acclaim, not that those are unwelcome. We’d just do it anyway. In those initial chats we lamented the fact that so many students would make amazing, unique work and then immediately get jobs at a studio and never make anything of their own again. Steady jobs that keep you busy are great, but it’s sad in a way. I know that when I’m too swamped in client work to make something I feel like something is just starving to death inside. So instead of treating indie animation as this thing that is just a stepping stone or a hobby or a junior version of what real animators are making, Late Night Work Club is kind of saying “This is what we do. No budgets, no bosses. DIY isn’t a hurdle, it’s a feature. Get excited and be proud of it.” And that extends to everyone else out there who makes their own work or wants to. Don’t wait for permission, don’t look at us and wish you could be a part of what we’re doing. You ARE a part of it. Copy this idea. Rip it off. Don’t wait for permission, just make something great, do it right, make challenging and interesting work and let’s support one another. And maybe we can all build a more cohesive, enthusiastic and fertile scene together.
“Detached Collaboration” – Christen Bach | “A place where I can play freely, with energy” – Caleb Wood | “Animanthology” – Charles Huettner | “All consuming vertical learning curve” – Alex Grigg | “AA: animators anonymous, to help us all deal with our addictions to making stuff” – Jake Armstrong | “Something about how it is awesome to be a part of such an ambitious, 100% independent project. [flashes DIY4LYFE neck tattoo]” – C Andrew Rohrmann
Ghost Stories is an anthology of new animated shorts by a bunch of really great indie animators. There are some well-known people and some up and comers, all wonderful artists. It will be released in the spring, online, for free. If you’re stuck in the middle of Nebraska you won’t need to fly to a big fest to see it. It’ll also be screened in various places and possibly at some fests. That’s all up in the air for the moment. We’ll have some way to support us when it goes online, including a limited edition Uncanny Mystery Pack which will have a zine, small prints and other stuff from all of us. It’ll be pretty rad and hopefully people will be into it.