01.10.12 by Jeff

Kirsten Lepore / Interview

Kirsten Lepore is one of the most talented people I’ve encountered on the Internet. Her animation “Bottle” earned her accolades from around the globe, and Creativity Online named her one of the most influential creatives in 2011. Originally from New Jersey, she moved out west to attend CalArts and is currently finishing her MFA thesis film there.

She’s put together an amazing guest post for Booooooom that will go up later this week, so I thought it would be nice for you to get to know her a little bit!




stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore Interview


Jeff Hamada: I thought maybe we could both describe where we are so everyone reading along can imagine us and feel like they’re right here too.

I’m sitting in my apartment, in a part of Vancouver called Mt. Pleasant.  It’s so hot that I’ve actually got two fans facing me, one directly behind the other.  I’m hoping that the closer one speed boosts air directly to my face, like the arrows in Mario Kart.

Kirsten Lepore: I’m sitting at my desk in my room, in a part of Los Angeles called Echo Park.  It’s 3:18 pm but it’s also super hot here, and I’m sitting directly below my ceiling fan which is making the sweatiness bearable.  I’m listening to the new Jessie Ware album and my fingers smell like the red peppers I just roasted and jarred in garlic oil.

JH: I liked her song “Wildest Moments”.

KL: That’s a great one.  “Devotion” and “110%” are my favs too.

JH: “Booty Clap” is the closest you’ve come to making a music video, are you interested in that at all?  Is there a musician you’d be interested in collaborating with?

KL: I’m totally interested in doing music videos, in fact that’s where I draw a lot of inspiration from.  I end up watching wayyyy more music videos than animated films.  I grew up as a musician too, so the careful pairing of visuals to music has always been captivating to me.  I’m hoping to get more into music videos within the next few years (live action or animated).  There are tons of musicians I’d love to work with — I think I’d just have to be into the track.  But in terms of dream bands, I’ve always thought it would be the coolest to do a video for The Knife… or maybe a huge hip-hop artist.

JH: I’ve always wanted there to be a video for “Colouring of Pigeons”.  It was part of The Knife’s soundtrack for a dreadful experimental opera that didn’t come close to doing the music justice.  It has your name written all over it!  It would be amazing as an experimental stop-motion animation.

KL: Oh man, it’s soooo weird that you say that because that song was actually one of the biggest inspirations for my thesis film.  I think the song is such a masterpiece — I would listen to it obsessively on my drives back from Frazier Mountain Park after shooting the snow scenes for “Bottle” and it sparked some of the initial visuals for the next film.  I would get so excited envisioning what I could do to “Colouring of Pigeons” that I didn’t even want to finish “Bottle”, I just wanted to work on the new film.

JH: It was meant to be!  Are you still working on it?

KL: I’m still putting the finishing touches on my thesis film (a 10-min stop-motion short) and hoping to release it before the end of the year.

JH: I’m really excited to see it.  10 minutes isn’t long for a short film but for a stop-motion it’s an eternity!  Have you always been a patient person, or has working on stop-motions changed your personality at all?  I could see it being really meditative.

KL: I think there are definitely personality types that gravitate towards stop-motion more than others.  I’d say most of the stop-motion animators I know are innately pretty laid-back, easy-going people, myself included.  The medium can be so extremely frustrating and tedious that I don’t know how anyone could do it without extreme patience, and a lot of time on their hands.  I suppose different parts of the process can be meditative, but I feel that I’m not so much relaxed when doing it, but more in a focus trance.  Hours fly by.


stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore Interview


JH: Have you ever felt like the constant repetition might actually drive you insane?  Like that scene in “The Aviator” when DiCaprio says “show me all the blueprints” a thousand times!  I had to cover my ears in the theatre because I actually felt the film unlocking something in my brain that I might not be able to recover from.  Maybe you’re unaffected by it? Richard Williams spent 28 years hand-drawing “The Thief and the Cobbler” and he didn’t go crazy.  Or maybe he did?

KL: I think if I were hand-drawing the same things for years I might start to go a little cuckoo, but other than the repetitive nature of photographing all the time, I think there’s enough variation, tactility, and brain racking involved while animating to keep it fresh.  (But then again maybe I’m crazy?)

JH: Creativity named you one of the 50 most influential creatives in 2011 after your film “Bottle” kind of took over the entire internet.  Your name is now synonymous with stop-motion animation.  Do you feel like you’ve found your calling, or is this just one way of expressing yourself for the time being?

KL: I feel that I’m mainly associated with stop-motion specifically, which I have no qualms about.  Although I do feel the latter – I’ve just had a ton of ideas in recent years that required a stop-motion treatment, since it was integral to the story in some way.  But I’m definitely not married to the medium.  I love animating in Flash from time to time (relaxing compared to stop-motion), and I’ve been getting more and more live action ideas lately.  We’ll see if I can work up the courage to “go there.”



JH: Your Tumblr is one of very few that I follow, I love it.  You posted this gif awhile back asking about the source, and I think I watched it for three minutes straight.  So funny.  I don’t know if someone’s already showed you but here’s the original clip, it’s an ad for some shake.  The gif is just so much better.

KL: Thanks so much!  I never know if any of the posts will be interesting to anyone else, but they’re all things I absolutely love.  That gif is THE BEST!  But you’re right, the gif is much better than the real commercial.

JH: It would be cool if there was a comic where every panel was an animated gif.  I’m sure someone has done this, I’ve just never seen it.

KL: I saw this gorgeous one last year!

JH: Wow, yes!  That’s exactly the kind of thing I was imagining!


stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore Interview


JH: Are any of your closest friends into making films? I ask because most of my closest friends are not artists.  Sometimes I think I’m an anomaly here, but I know you made “Bottle” on your own, and your family helps out with music and stuff.

KL: It wasn’t this way when I was living in New Jersey or during undergrad in Baltimore, but since moving to the LA area I feel like most of my friends are involved in film to some degree.  It’s been incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by a supportive filmmaking community, and I feel so lucky.

However, I still pretty much make my films alone.  I’ve struggled with the question of whether or not that’s a bad thing, but I do know that it’s much more comfortable for me when I can call all the shots and make everything exactly as I envision it.  And since I grew up a musician, I’m hypercritical about sound and music in my own films, so I like to work with my sisters on music when I can since we were raised with very similar musical sensibilities.



JH: I like that there is no music in “Bottle”, it really made the characters feel more alive because you could hear every little eye blink. I think people are quick to put music over top of everything (especially musicians).

KL: Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel.  It was a very intentional choice not to use any music in “Bottle”. Not only did I want people to be able to better take in the sound design and ambiance, but I felt that adding music would be too emotionally persuasive to an audience.  I didn’t want to manipulate people’s feelings with some sappy soundtrack, but rather have the whole thing feel more true to life and make the idea of moving lumps of sand and snow more believable.  Music often takes me out of the experience with a lot of other short animations I’ve seen.  I’ve never quite understood why most animators feel compelled to include music, as it can be very distracting.

JH: I know you’re a fan of Jim Henson. “Labyrinth” is one of my favourite films, and I often find myself describing the scene with the caterpillar where Jennifer Connelly goes inside the wall (usually I’m describing it to someone who doesn’t care at all).  There’s also a scene in his short film “Time Piece” where a girl does a striptease and until she is a skeleton.  I don’t know why but I think about these two scenes a lot.  Are there any film scenes that have stuck in your mind?

KL: Jim Henson is so genius!  One of the greats of our era.  I think about a lot of short films probably more than scenes from features.  For instance, I’ve always been floored by PES’ concept for “Western Spaghetti”.  I love that it’s so accessible, yet not at all a conventional narrative.  My mind often goes back to that when I get too hung up on traditional methods of storytelling, which can be pretty boring. I’m a big fan of anything that’s experimental, while still retaining accessibility.

Also, sometimes I think about this.

JH: Haha! Youtube needs a loop button just for the sake of this video.  Maybe we can finish this up with some sort of truth that you’ve discovered or a revelation that you’ve had making these films (could be big or small).

KL: That previous link is pretty much a revelation.  But besides that,  I’d say the biggest things I’ve learned have been 1) the power of story/concept and 2) the importance of follow-through.  Visual inconsistencies or bad animation are easily forgivable if the piece succeeds conceptually.  This revelation isn’t anything that new, though.

I think the more recent revelation for me was the discovery that most people start things without ever finishing them, and I’ve always felt that if you’re going to put hours and hours into something, you might as well finish it or else all those hours spent were in vain.  Even if you were in a different place when you started, or think it “sucks,” just finish it.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I freaked out halfway through both “Sweet Dreams” and “Bottle” and almost abandoned them before I even started shooting.  If I had, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be doing this interview, or even film for that matter.

Pretty much every incredible filmmaker and artist I know is full of self-doubt and thinks their work is (in the words of my British animator friends) “a bit crap”.  That attitude is part of the process, and that’s how they push themselves to do great things.  But first they have to push themselves – they have to follow through, or there would be nothing to show.  With that being said, my last piece of advice is that you shouldn’t necessarily trust any of my advice because I just disproved both of my points by posting that raving ducks link…




Jeff Hamada is the Founder and Editor of Booooooom. He lives and works in Vancouver.

  • Bring The Guest Post On!  You just couldn’t read this without opening all hyperlinks in new tabs.  cool post..

  • benny

    Oh, thanks for doing this.  She’s one of my favorites.  Very nice read.

    • if i can find more time i’d like to do more interviews

  • Thanks for this. 

  • Meg Walls

    Great interview! I’ve read a bunch of interviews she’s done and the questions she’s asked are usually pretty similar. Yours, on the other hand, were interesting and felt spontaneous and made for a really great posting. Really looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

    • thanks meg, ya i know what a drag being the interviewee can be, having to answer the same questions you’ve already answered in every other interview – kirsten made this really easy though she had really insightful things to say, i enjoyed doing it

  • ross

    Great interview.  Seriously Bottle is quite possible my favorite thing.

  • Nikolai

    I love it!
    Super nice!

20.10.16 by Staff

Artist Spotlight: Joseph Minek


Cleveland, Ohio-based artist Joseph Minek experiments with traditional photographic processes to create images that resemble modernist abstract paintings. See more of Minek’s work below.

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20.10.16 by Staff

Exhibition: Evan Hecox’s “Northern” and Drew Leshko’s “Heaven is Whenever”


Amsterdam-based Andenken Gallery is hosting concurrent solo exhibitions of American artists Evan Hecox and Drew Leshko. “Northern” showcases Hecox’s ongoing series of paintings based on photos from his trip through Iceland and the Netherlands last year while Leshko’s “Heaven is Whenever” captures the transition and decay of urban life through dollhouse-scale sculptures made from wood and paper.

Check out more images below or on display at the Makerversity Amsterdam space from October 28 until November 14.

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20.10.16 by Jeff

Photographer Spotlight: Lluís Tudela


Photos by Lluís Tudela. More images below.

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20.10.16 by Jeff

Opinion: How to Email an Illustrator

We recently came across an article proposing the most efficient way to communicate with an illustrator, and it’s relevant for anyone looking to hire creatives of any discipline. Illustrator Kyle T. Webster wrote the article to act as “a guideline that will lead to improved communication, fewer revisions, better artwork, and fewer headaches for all involved”.
If you’re a freelance creative and have any thoughts to add, or you’re an art director with a counterpoint, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

1. Your first email to an illustrator should not read: “Hey, are you available for an assignment?”
This kind of email is a waste of everybody’s time, because all of the important information is missing: size and number of illustrations, context, timeline, and budget. In order to reduce the back-and-forth between the individual assigning the art, and the illustrator, simply take a moment to include the important information in the initial email request.
For example: “Hello, John – we are publishing a story about the ongoing conflict between hedgehogs and walruses. We will need a cover, a full page, and two spot illustrations. The deadline for sketches is March 1st, and the finals will be due March 8th. Our budget is $3750. Are you available / interested in working with us on this assignment? Please let me know by 5pm today. Thank you.”
With one email, you have now given the artist all of the info needed for him/her to decide whether or not to accept the job. This used to be the standard introductory email for all assignments. I’m not sure what happened, but I, and many illustrators I know, rarely get emails like this any more. Let’s fix that.
2. Please do not expect illustrators to read minds.
Details are very important. When sending emails about your job, give as many relevant details as possible to an artist, if the assigned artwork has specific requirements. Illustrators are very capable of drawing anything you need, but we cannot guess what that might be if we are not told up front. For example, if you tell an illustrator to draw “a car on a street,” then the illustrator will assume the make and model of the car are not important. S/he will also assume the street can be any kind of street. Therefore, it is not fair to the artist to reject the final art because you expected a vintage Porsche on the Autobahn. Please be sure to communicate all required elements of the art in your earliest correspondence with your artist, and it will be smooth sailing for all.
Sometimes, very little direction is preferred, if the assignment calls for a lot of artistic freedom and interpretation. But, let us not confuse this with a lack of relevant information. For instance, the recent recipient of the Richard Gangel Art Director Award, SooJin Buzelli, is famous for giving her artists a lot of freedom. But let us note that when she assigns work, she actually has spent a good deal of time figuring out a way to distill a complex article down to its essential message or theme. She then sends this one or two sentence summary to a carefully selected illustrator, providing that individual with a perfect launchpad from which to create a unique visual solution. Concise and efficient.
3. Please write back. Please.
This is just common courtesy. I often get asked if I am available for an illustration and I then respond in the affirmative with some questions about the assignment or the budget or some other detail. Then, no reply ever comes. A week later, I will see another artist blog about completing the very same assignment that was initially emailed to me. While I understand that everybody is very busy, and emails are flying around at the speed of light, I urge you to please remember that it is unprofessional and quite rude to simply leave an artist hanging.
We often will put other things on hold or rework our weekly schedule to accommodate a project that we think is moving forward. A simple email to let us know that you will be working with somebody else, the job is cancelled, the issue is on hold, etc. is all we need to move on and stay on top of our other jobs. Thank you.

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20.10.16 by Jeff

Photographer Spotlight: Alexi Hobbs


Images by Montreal-based photographer Alexi Hobbs. More images below.

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