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Meet Brian Kaufman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Kaufman.

Hi Brian, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in middle of nowhere New Jersey, in a small town called Newton. My first job was as a Janitor at our local Synagogue, the same one where I had my bar mitzvah. This was the kind of town where you had to make your own fun and my older brother made plenty of it. From as early as I can remember we were making our own little short films with friends and family, so we have a massive catalogue of embarrassing B-Movies between all of us. During this era my brother showed me how to do Stop-Motion with Legos, we did it the old fashion way. You double tap the record button, then you move the Lego pieces, double tap again, and repeat for hours and hours. This was my first introduction to Animation. The best part is, when our family gets together we still shoot our silly little B-Films. My brother, William Kaufman, went on to create a successful Live Action Production company and became an award-winning cinematographer and editor.

Fast forward a decade or two later and I’m off to New York City to study Animation at the School of Visual Arts, I met many talented friends whom I continue to work with to this day. From there, I landed my first gig as an Animator at Bunko Studios on the MAD series for Cartoon Network. This was a very unique experience as we used Photo Cutout Animation and much of the time, I was the photo model. So I’d wear various costumes, get some photos taken in front of a green screen, and then animate myself. From here, my career took me to Titmouse New York in midtown Manhattan where I worked on a variety of projects for several years. But eventually, I learned that the bigger projects and money were in Los Angeles. So my wife and I fit whatever we could in our little car, including our dog Roo Roo, and drove cross country without any job or place to stay. All we had was a few thousand in the bank and dreams of making it in LA. As we drove through Texas, I got a fateful call from a friend I had worked for in the past, Scout Raskin, whom offered me an Animator position at 6 Point Harness. I worked there for a few years before hopping over to Titmouse LA, Warner Brothers, and DreamWorks.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I’ve been very fortunate to have support from my wife, friends, and family all along the way. Without their support there is no way I would be where I am today. My parents took a big chance on letting me take the Animation Course at SVA, they believed in me even when my art teachers didn’t have much faith. That said, I’ve had my share of challenges, but those struggles pushed me to work harder and become a better artist. I remember clearly my first day at SVA, it was Figure Drawing class and I had never drawn a live model before. As I finished my first thirty second pose sketch, I looked around to see the other artist’s work, I was way out of my league. Looking back at my scribble, I realized I had a lot of catching up to do! That drive to get on the same level as my classmates continued through those four years of school and I came out so much stronger than I went in. I continue with that way of thinking to this day, I see all the amazing artists around me and it pushes me to be better. There are the career instability struggles that everyone in this industry faces as well. It is rare to have steady work in Animation and you are always thinking about what the next gig will be.

One of the scariest moments of my career was that drive out to LA, no idea if I would be able to find work or have enough money to get by. We didn’t know if we were making a big mistake at the time. Thankfully it all worked out. But you never stop worrying about the next job, I sometimes see us as Mercenaries for hire but with way less killing and way more drawing. The other struggle is the one everyone in this industry will tell you about, imposter syndrome. I think in this field its really easy to constantly question your own abilities and if you’ll still have your job the next day, it’s a competitive industry where your personal work is constantly on display being critiqued by professionals around you. We have to constantly grow, I think sometimes those looking in on the industry tend to think “Wow, I wish I could draw that well!” or something along those lines. As if you just draw well and it’s done, the truth is we are endlessly working at getting better. Constantly adapting, learning, growing, and if we don’t we will fade out. It’s a grind to stay relevant in this industry and it is a struggle every day. All that said, I get to make cartoons! So whenever I get too fixated on these things, I remind myself of this and just feel so fortunate and lucky to be where I am.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My current role is Animation Director on the Little Ellen show and in this role, I am overseeing the animation that is coming in from overseas and giving notes on how to improve or fix the animation. Some of these notes we handle with a small in house team and some we send back to the overseas studio to fix. I also manage some additional animation we handle independently from the overseas studio with our in house animators. I’ve had the great pleasure of wearing many hats in this industry and Animation Director is just one of them. I’ve also worked as a Director, Story Artist, Revisionist, Animator, Clean up Artist, and Compositor. I feel that is one of my specialties, I am a bit of a chameleon in that I can take on many different roles and many different styles. I’m very proud of that in fact, my diverse portfolio of work. I’ve worked on adult cartoons like Superjail or China, IL for Adult Swim. But I’ve also worked on shows for much younger audiences such as Doug Unplugs, Turbo Fast, or now Little Ellen. And I’ve worked on everything in between from Niko & The Sword of Light to Mortal Kombat. The diversity of projects and roles is what keeps it fun and interesting. I never know what I’ll be on next and I learn something new from every project.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
You can find a reel of my work and means to contact me at my website: http://www.briankanimate.com/ I’m always open to new projects and love to help lend my knowledge to anyone whose interested in pursuing Animation. Feel free to reach out!

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