You’re from Germany – what made you decide to come to London?
I finished my study in communication design in Dusseldorf and then moved to London.
While I was studying I started a company with my friend called Lichtfaktor.
We got a couple of jobs here in London. And I thought OK here’s a bigger market. It’s really great here. There’s so many creative agencies. They are quite open to new ideas, and erm.. a bit more open minded.
You prefer it here then?
Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Can you sum up your childhood and tell us how it has affected your work?
My background is graffiti. My father is working as a decorator – but a bit more posh. I had access to paint all the time, so that’s how I started to get more and more into painting. My aunt is quite creative. I do illustrations.
I started to do illustrations and then I got more into graphic design. And through Lichtfaktor I was completely falling in love with stop motion techniques and animation.
What do you think the differences are in the creative process between linear 2D forms and 3D model animation?
I think it’s quite similar because you always need a concept behind it – an idea. The only thing that’s different is the making of it. Because you do drawings or then plasticine.
Do you always start out with one idea and then you evolve it from there?
Yeah. It always starts with a concept of a brief and then I work from there. I think that’s the most important thing – to have a concept behind it – an idea.
So, with Chit Chat Roulette what was the initial idea and how did it evolve?
It was me and a friend Adam. We always wanted to do something together. I had the idea for a couple of characters and he had the idea for a script, in a way.
Was it created specifically for something?
No it was just a completely personal project.
You focus a lot on characterisation. How do you first come up with a character? I think it’s interesting that you manage to humanise, say, a Rubik’s cube.
I think it’s just mostly, just, finding things. I like to go to car boot sales. In the end it could be anything that you’re giving a soul. It could be a cup of tea, or, say, a pen. It’s just – in the moment you’re giving this object two eyes and a mouth, and it’s a soul. And, yes, so mostly I just start with a drawing. I have to ask myself – is it a lifesize or a miniature? And then decide the voice – if it’s a big character it needs a big voice. If it’s a smaller character it’s more funny.
How important is comedy in your work?
Yeah yeah it’s well important. I’m really not this kind of director who’s doing all these kind of films about how shit their life has been or blah blah blah, or a thing about cancer. I think there’s enough sadness out there. I prefer to make it a bit more funny, give people a laugh. And make it colourful and a bit more playful. I like to remind people to be playful and take it easy. My work’s always a bit childish, you know, it’s a bit more positive. It’s also the techniques I’m using. It’s stop motion. Even my parents understand what I’m doing. But for instance if I do a magically CG 3D animation, my father would never get what I am doing. But you see what I am saying – people understand what I’m doing so I’m quite close to the audience.
Yeah. And in Chit Chat Roulette as well you make the audience involved in the video with the character saying to us ‘don’t just stare at the screen!’
Yeah. Exactly, exactly. And this way you understand how it’s done. It’s just a hand puppet.
You give your characters different forms like a sock puppet or a pom pom. Are these forms intentional or just random?
Actually when I start building them, I know exactly what I want to look for and how to approach it. I always have a concept behind it. When I’m doing them I just start off with a drawing. And a character. So, which kind of voice is this one going to have? It’s not random. But I definitely get inspired by wandering around and seeing, passing, a flower shop for instance and seeing a bunch of roses, and thinking ‘this could be a character’.
What about the personalities of the characters, are they influenced by anyone?
I think for this character set I can’t really take the whole credit because I had help with the script.
How did you find working collaboratively with other people?
I really strongly believe in working with a team. I have really enjoyed working with others. When you stick together as a team the outcome is always better than if you are just working alone.
Were there any hurdles you had to overcome in working collaboratively with other people?
No, no. I worked with a friend on Chit Chat Roulette, and he is really nice. We share a studio. No, it’s really really enjoyable.
You’ve done live action filming in the past, does that come naturally to you?
I’m kind of new to it, I’m coming at it more from an animation perspective. What I really enjoy doing is mixing medias. So like live action with animation and 2D illustrations. Yeah, in camera effects as well.
How do you work through difficulties in the creative process, such as objects not fitting together in a stop motion piece?
It sounds silly but because it is all planned I don’t have problems. I got a storyboard, it’s really precisely laid out and I know exactly what I’m doing. Because, when you’re working in a team, if you’re standing there and you don’t know what you’re doing, you start to waste their time. I don’t want to waste their time because they’re just doing me a favour. I need to be confident and professional in what I’m doing. Everyone knows what we’re doing and everyone’s on the same page. But I love to do experimenting. Trial and error – making mistakes.
Roughly how long does it take to make one of your animations?
Chit Chat Roulette took about three months.
What order did you shoot Chit Chat Roulette in?
I did all the shooting in about nine days in a row. The life size characters were shot on the weekend in two days, and the stop motion parts and the small hand puppets were a few days later.
And do you make all the objects yourself?
Yeah, together with a friend.
Where do you get most of your inspiration from?
I think I get inspiration just from life. I think when you’re going to a pub or a flea market you’re seeing all these odd characters and they’re selling weird things. There’s a story behind it, and I think ‘oh man’ they are real people. But yeah, just mainly wandering around London. London, or Berlin. They are so inspiring. All these people on the streets.
Do you like making humans the subject of your work then?
No, no, not really. It could be anything.
Are there any specific designers or animators whose work you take inspiration from?
That’s a good question. Not really. I like going to exhibitions. I have a Tate membership. But I wouldn’t say there’s a specific artist; it’s just a mixture of things. Even things I don’t like inspire me as well. If I think ‘oh no’ that looks really weird, I think of ways that I could change it.
What’s your favourite material to work with?
I love plasticine. I also love working with paper – papercraft. You’re just having a sheet of paper, and then you’re cutting it, and gluing it, and getting your hands dirty. I like working with different colour combinations. I also studied colour design. I definitely enjoy thinking a lot about colour palettes. I think it’s really really important, for a character. I did this music video called Body Hotel, and the concept on this one was intended to take each sound, each shape and give each of them their own colour, and its own movement. That’s how I work – I give every character its own colour palette, its own materials and its own techniques.
What is your dream job? Are you living it?
Absolutely. I don’t want to do anything else. Especially in my new studio now, surrounded by nice, creative people. I only got into this job through luck. I got into animation and illustration accidentally. I thought ‘oh this is really nice’, oh maybe I should study it. Now i’m here and it’s really cool. I’m quite a happy person with what I’m doing job-wise. I’ll never be rich but it’s not about money. It’s about nice friends and nice relationships. That’s real richness.
Have you got any plans for the future?
For the future I just want to be making more Chit Chat Roulette’s all the time. And just find the right clients who trust you. But I love to be critiqued. When people say they don’t like something I can think about it differently.
Has there been any piece of criticism that has really changed your work?
Yes. My girlfriend is really harsh. But she’s just honest. And you need honest criticism, it’s the best thing you can get – honest criticism. It could be just the voice of a character that I change, or the eyes. She’s usually right.