Animator Daniel Stankler is a new name in the art world but continues to gather acclaim and attention with each and every release. After letting loose the well-received folkloric short film last year, Should You Meet a Lady in a Darkened Wood, Stankler went on to work with Chillhop producer L’indécis.
Their new video together, “Second Wind”, was just recently released and marks the first official music video through Chillhop. The video is comprised of over 2,000 illustrations that connect for a truly mesmerizing and unique visual experience.
To coincide with the video, we recently sat down to talk with the UK artist behind the animation. Stankler was able to provide insight and wisdom into his expansive world; everything from networking to being selective with projects to growing in your craft to chasing and finding what it is you truly love. Enjoy the interview below, take notes, and look out for L’indécis’ full-length on May 10 via Chillhop Records.
How long have you been working with animation?
Not that long in fact! I graduated from the Animation MA at the Royal College of Art almost a year ago now, and it was a two year course. Before that, though, I was actually working at an architecture firm as a copywriter – I managed a short internship at an animation firm in the summer in between those but I pretty much had no experience before going to the RCA. I made my portfolio specifically for the RCA, but that’s about it – to this day, I’m not really sure why they let me in! So I’d say I’ve been working with animation about 3 years.
What was the process like making the leap from illustration to animation?
Well actually for me there was no leap from illustration to animation – I’ve never been an illustrator. I took Classics and English Literature at undergraduate. Before animation, I was working as a copywriter at an architecture firm. Then one day I decided I wanted to be an animator and started working towards that! I’d love to try illustration as well at some point, as I’ve definitely got an interest in it. I’ve always been interested in myths, fairy tales, and the traditional illustration that accompany those stories. Like the work of John Bauer, for example. So, if given the chance, I’d definitely love to explore that more. But for now, animation is so intensive a process, and I’m still so new to it, that I’m happy to keep working on this. I’ve so much to learn still!
What was it like working with L’indecis on this video? Did he have a vision before you created anything or did you have complete creative control?
It was great! There was lots of back and forth at the beginning exploring concepts. Everyone chipped in with ideas. Coming up with the story (if you can call it a story!) was a pretty collaborative process. And then, once we had the concept nailed and knew what was going to happen, I got to work – there were weekly progress catch-ups but otherwise I was just able to do my own thing until the draft was finished.
The video features over 2,000 illustrations. Did you move seamlessly in order, or did you work on individual sections and then edit/organize?
Yes, actually the first thing I do is divide the film into individual sections, and then I try to work through each section in chronological order. It doesn’t always work out that way though – if there’s a really fun section I might work on it first, or there’s a particularly difficult section I’ll usually save it til the end or til I can gather up the courage to work on it! And then the final thing is editing and organising.
If over 2,000 illustrations made it in the video, were any segments discarded or left on the drawing table?
Not really actually! There were a couple of ideas for particular shots that were discarded along the way, but no entire shot was left behind. I think because we storyboarded the film together, we had a good idea of what was shots were necessary from the beginning.
How long were your stretches of work before you needed to take a mental/visual break and return to it the next day?
The project was about 2 months from start to finish, which actually isn’t a lot of time for a 3 minute frame by frame animation, so my work schedule was pretty intense. I took a break every few hours, but days were pretty long.
Did you hit any brick walls (or speed bumps) along the way with this music video? What pushed you forward?
Yes definitely! The first half of the project was very tricky – it got easier as I worked through it. Some days I’d work all day and only produce one second of animation – and then there were one or two great moments where I’d produce 20 seconds in an hour.
Along with the music video, your art is also on the cover (and vinyl layout) for L’indecis’s album. How did you decide which illustrations to go with for the physical (non-moving) artwork?
That was a very collaborative process with Bastien and the guys at Chillhop. Once the video was finished, I re-illustrated all the artwork and we sat down together and slowly decided what we thought looked best and where.
This is the first official music video for Chillhop. Were you aware of this while making it? Do you intend to help with another Chillhop video down the road?
I actually wasn’t really – maybe it had been mentioned once or twice but it definitely hadn’t sunk in. And I’m quite glad or I’d have felt a lot more nervous! I still feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity and I’d love to do another music video for you guys in the future – so watch this space I guess!
Your short film Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood reminds me of a more gothic version of Sylvain Chomet. I love it. What directors/artists have inspired and influenced you throughout the years?
Thank you! I actually only heard of Sylvain Chomet recently – I was in Paris and I got chatting to this guy about animation and he introduced me to him. I watched The Triplets of Belleville as soon as I got home and loved it! So I can’t say that Sylvain Chomet was an early influence but he certainly is now – lots of French animators are, in fact. I’ve got to say I love anything retro – Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet is a huge influence for me, and I love the animations from the 50s, by UPA for example. I’m very into mid-century illustration, there was a lot of early Disney concept art that’s absolutely amazing. And coming from a background in Classics / Literature, I’d say I’ve been equally influenced by books as by visual art – the stories of Angela Carter, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, all these things contributed to my interests and the style of film and the kinds of stories I enjoy working on.
Outside of Chillhop-related work, what else are you working on?
Right now I’m working on another music video! I think they’re great briefs for ‘new’ animators like me as they tend to be very creative briefs, and clients tend to be quite relaxed about letting you do your own thing with them – so you get to really experiment, develop your style, and make something super interesting for your showreel. I love the band so I’m excited to see where it goes. And that’s it at the minute – animation is such an intense process that you pretty much have to work full-time on a project for 8 weeks or so, I haven’t figured out how to work on two projects at once really! I’ve a couple of personal projects in mind that I’d love to work on this year, maybe a new film…We’ll see how it goes.
If you can, please describe your workspace. What are some essentials?
My workspace is in an old warehouse in Hackney. It’s a bright room with five desks in it, huge windows, and lots of plants – my fellow studio mates and I love plants. Even if I’m not great at keeping them alive…I’d say natural light and plants are essentials for me! There’s not much I need to work besides my computer and drawing tablet – right now I’m only a digital artist drawing, I animate traditionally but straight into Photoshop using a drawing tablet instead of onto paper. So there’s not much mess. I’d love to explore drawing on paper at some point but it’s such a crazy slow process…Not sure I have the patience yet! And yes, coffee is essential – we’re lucky in that we’ve so many amazing cafes nearby. I barely get out of bed without coffee.
Being as how Chillhop is a music label, what have you been listening to recently?
I’ve a pretty broad taste in music! This morning I’ve been listening to Neil Young, yesterday some disco by Diana Ross. I find Beach House great for working to. Fleetwood Mac. I’m a big fan of the oldies. In terms of new music, I’ve been getting a lot into a more electronic direction – I love Paradis, L’imperatrice, Bonobo, Stavroz, Four Tet. But yes, quite a mix!
Do you have any advice for artists/animators working on their craft? Or perhaps a better questions, what’s something you would have like to have known when you first started taking your craft seriously?
Hmm that’s a great question! To be honest, there’s so much about animation that I don’t know and am still learning – I think an undergraduate from a traditional animation course would have been very helpful to me, where they actually teach you how to animate. I loved my time at the Royal College of Art but as it was an MA, they already expect you to have the technical animation skills from undergrad – so I spent a lot of my time catching up. But equally maybe an animation undergrad might have helped my technical animation skills whilst, sort of, dampening my individual style? I’m not sure. What I would say though for sure is once you’ve graduated and you need work – be proactive with emails! In the beginning clients won’t find you, you have to really work to find commission – make contacts wherever you can. And also – try and publish only the sort of jobs you’d be happy to work on for the rest of your life, because it’s those jobs you want to get similar commissions from.