Creative Conversations: Daniel Savage + Chris Prynoski
This interview first appeared in the YGX Limited Edition Annual, which is available (for a limited time) here.
Daniel Savage: Tell me, how many Titmouse shows are shows where someone came to you with an idea versus shows that you guys pitched?
Chris Prynoski: Wow it’s a whole different number of ways that they come about. Some things we go out and pitch. I will have an idea or somebody at the studio will have an idea then we will go out and pitch. Sometimes we will team up with somebody who has an idea, like a writer or an artist who wants to partner up. Sometimes it’s straight just work for hire where the network will come to us. And sometimes it will be some weird combination where the network will come and will say, hey we’ve got this half baked idea that we need you to develop into something.
Dan: So it’s basically different from project to project? I am assuming you like pitching your own shows?
Chris: Yeah, there is something satisfying about that for sure, but then you are really tethered to that show. For me, weirdly enough, because I am overseeing the studio at large, when I have a show that I have created that we are working on it’s tougher because I have to be more focused on that show. But it’s cool and I can’t complain. It’s making cartoons. It’s fun and the shittiest day that I have ever had here is still better than other jobs I have had.
Dan: You guys just opened a New York City office. Is it just to expand? Or do you think that it’s important to be in New York as far as animation goes?
Chris: I am from the East Coast. I went to school in New York and grew up in New York. And in 1998 I was named a Young Gun. So I knew New York really well and there were just some job opportunities where basically two guys that I knew really well had TV shows and needed studios to do them. My neighbor in Williamsburg who I worked with at MTV did the first season of Superjail, at Augenblick Studios and couldn’t do the second season because he was doing Ugly Americans. So I needed a studio to do the second season and he didn’t want to move to LA. Then the guy who created Venture Brothers who goes by the name Jackson Public said that he wasn’t happy with how things were going at the studio that was doing Venture Brothers, I want to do Venture Brothers with you guys. So basically there were two shows that we could do and Adult Swim was real accommodating, they said they would support us with work if we opened up a new studio. Plus New York has an animation community and I knew a bunch of people from my days at MTV. It was a fairly easy decision. There are a lot of badass artists in New York so it’s good the way that worked.
Dan: Was Marty Abrahams still teaching at SVA when you were there?
Chris: When I was there he was teaching night classes, but I would see him all the time because I was working on my films and stuff so I had to sit in the room. So I ended up taking everybody’s class like that because I just stayed in the room. He’s been a big help with the studio too.
Dan: Do you guys have any interest in interactive story telling? Like doing stuff with the iPad maybe?
Chris: Yeah I would love to. We have done some little iPad things. Even before the iPad, we experimented with the iPhone. I want to get back into it at some point, but it’s just that it’s one of those things in business, you can only split your focus so much.
Dan: Yeah, going interactive is a whole other beast.
Chris: With animation I could pretty much do any job if I have to. Like I can’t do every job as well as everybody can do it, but if I need to I can do any job as in the animation technical aspect. With games, there would be programmers and I would be like, how long does it take you to do that? And they would say, three months and I would have to say, okay sure, if you say so.
Dan: One last question, what are your thoughts on running a studio versus being an individual director pitching on your on.
Chris: Man, it’s weird. I have to say this whole studio thing happened accidentally. I never planned to start a studio, it just kind of happened. When you come to LA there is just so much more work than there is in New York. So I was working during the day directing at the studios and then I would get offered freelance jobs and I would take them. Then I would realize that I don’t have any time to do this freelance job so I hired my friends to help. Then I convinced my wife to run the studio for me and then we just hired more and more people. So there is a big trade off on having to be responsible for business stuff, which is its own thing. It’s interesting and it’s fun in its own way, but very different than being solely focused on the creative aspects of your show. The weirdest thing about running a business is not the stuff that you would think, like the basic business stuff. It’s the people. 90% of my day is spent just walking around talking to people and making sure that this guy is happy, this guy knows what’s going on and these two people who are not getting along, trying to figure out a way for them to get along. And just making sure the client feels like they’re getting what they want.
On the plus side, having a studio you can set up your show however you want. You can make your pipeline work however you want. If you want to focus more on one aspect of production like having really fancy backgrounds, but crappy animation, or having really fancy animation but simple designs. Whatever you can come up with, you have more control over how to execute your show which is kind of cool, but it takes a little while to understand how to use that. I am glad that we grew slowly and got to try stuff. We got to do small jobs like commercials and weird stuff like that where we able try out different stuff on jobs that would only last only a month or two. We figured a lot stuff out that way.