Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stephan Franck talks about Silver - courtesy of the CTN


"You have to be your own person, or die." ~Stephan Franck  
The Creative Talent Network (CTN) often hosts interviews with creative individuals in the animation industry doing especially interesting work. Below is the text of a recent interview with Stephan Franck, animator, director, storyboard artist and now the author of a highly successful series of independently published graphic novels - Silver. Stephan also happens to be a former kumrad from many an animated film, and a friend of FLiP Here, Stephan talks to CTN about how he got Silver off the ground. 

My name is Stephan Franck. I have been writing, drawing, and telling stories all my life, most of them in animation. With my new project called  SILVER, I have the opportunity to explore another great love of mine: COMICS!!!

How do you measure success?   

I found that artistic success is a hard concept to internalize, because the artistic engine sort of runs on feeling unsatisfied with the work you've finished, and the temporary certainty that the next piece will get you closer to the truth. It really is chasing a rainbow. The journey is the destination.

So to me, the only way to measure success is through the eyes of an audience. This year, I've been incredibly fortunate that I had two projects that have been well received. On the studio side, I've directed The Legend Of Smurfy Hollow, which received fantastic press and is nominated for an Annie, and on the comic book side, Silver. It was really fun to see people come by at CTNX on friday, get the first book, read it that night, come back on the second day to get the second book, read it that night, and come back on the third day to get more copies of both for their friends. That felt a lot like success. Other times, I've been in situations where I built it, and no one came.
What's one mistake you made early on?   

I feel that I've made--and I am still making--every possible mistake, big and small. But that's the only way I know how to learn.

On a tactical level, I have to say that I regret having sold certain original projects that I knew deep down would ultimately not get made, because they were beyond the scope of what the animation industry could digest in an original project at that time. Those projects would have been better served by first coming into existence as comic books or regular books. That is one of the reasons, why I created Dark Planet Comics.

What's the toughest part of being in charge?  

Being in charge means that there will be moments when things go wrong, and the entire room falls silent, and every head literally turns towards you for an answer. If you don't like being put on the spot like that, you may find leadership positions very tough. Personally, I love those "rally cap moments".  

In a studio situation, I find that the toughest part of leadership is that your autonomy is very relative. You have bosses who also have bosses, who are all ultimately responsible for the money you are playing with. Delivering your specific vision, which, at some point, got everyone excited, while navigating the anxieties and differences of opinion that are natural in that context, is the real challenge.

With Dark Planet Comics, that I fully control, I do have some anxieties, but they are only about "Is this page good enough?", "Is the book exciting enough?" "can I make it better?", which are good fears to have for artists.

What is your best motivator?    

I don't think any external motivation like money or status is enough to sustain someone on an artistic journey. I think people who venture into our business just as a job usually don't stay very long, because there are easier ways to make a living, ways that don't require constant self-examination and soul-bearing. For the real lifers,  it has to be an inner need to interact with the world that way. To me, it's really about a passion for story. The visual aspect comes second.

What's your proudest accomplishment in your business? 

In the last year, I have been very proud of the two projects I mentioned earlier. I grew up loving the Smurfs comic books in France, and getting to give my take on them and what they're about in SMURFS: THE LEGEND OF SMURFY HOLLOW was a fantastic opportunity. The funnest part was getting to do part of it in hand-drawn animation. 1) I felt that, in the past, the Smurfs hadn't had that many opportunities to exist in 2D at a feature-quality level, and 2) it was fun to revisit 2D almost 15 years later, and work with old friends again. The other one is my comic book miniseries SILVER. I just finished issue 3, and I'm having a blast. 

In the past, I'm very proud of CORNEIL & BERNIE, a TV show that I co-created and that is a cult hit around the world. And of course, being part of IRON GIANT and DESPICABLE ME was incredibly exciting.    

What have you sacrificed?   

 Watching TV has clearly gone out the window. At some point, you have to ask yourself whether you'd rather watch another episode of The Walking Dead, or get a page of your own comic book done.

I must also say that I haven't been able to do much music lately. I miss it because music has always been a big part of my life. Many people don't know that there is a great country-rock tradition in LA, with a lot of fantastic musicians. One of the reasons I love living here is because I've been able to get involved with that world as a guitar player. I've really been missing working with those amazing musicians in the last year or so.

What have you learned?   
I have learned that your identity as an artist--let alone an author--has to be self-appointed and self-motivated. Someone can give you a directing job, but no one can MAKE you a director. And no one will give you a directing job unless you ARE a director. And I don't mean this in a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum kind of way. I mean that you have to define yourself by your own work, and you can't wait for anyone to authorize you to do that. You just have to do it, and if the work connects, people will want in on it.
CTNX 2013

It's even more true on the business side of it. These days, even very well-known directors need to develop and raise money for their own movies before a studio will jump in. On the comic book side, many publishing company will, not only not pay you a meaningful advance, but even ask you to share the printing costs. So it's the world we live in. You have to be your own person, or die.   

What's next?

On the studio side, I am at Sony Pictures Animation, developing new projects. We should see what shakes loose very soon. On the Dark Planet Comics side, I just finished issue #3, and I will have the first trade paperback version, to debut at Emerald City Con, and go to the stores. Meanwhile, other series are in the works, as well as a line of Silver-based collectibles. Of course, Silver is a new IP, so the challenge for the collectibles is that they must function on their own artistic merits. So far, I think it's looking great. I think people will be excited when they see the first piece.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'd like to thank everyone who has been supporting us online and at the conventions, buying our stuff, and talking about us on social media. The response has been incredible! I can't say enough times that Silver and Dark Planet Comics are built completely independently of any big corporate overlords, so we need all the help we can get in getting the word out. So PLEASE, tweet, share, post...whatever your weapon of choice, and see you out there!

Stephan Franck

Stephan Francks Kickstarter for this project just launched.
Join him at:

No comments:

Post a Comment