Interview with director Rob Bohn

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that film making is your way of telling stories?

Yes! The first time I made someone laugh with a drawing was the moment – It started as single images, then progressed into making comics and developing series of stories and concepts. Finally, in high school, I learned to animate and put it all together to create films as a device to tell stories.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Essential? No. Helpful? Yes! Anyone can learn to animate or make films in their living rooms if they have the passion and tools to do so – Institutes teach you how to create relationships and the fundamentals that are helpful to the art of film making, but watching films, shows, and reading comics and art books are also great teachers – However, I think experiencing life is the most valuable lesson – this is where the stories come from. An institute can teach art – but no institute can teach how to be an artist – that comes from the journey within.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It is most difficult to get started – to find a firm foundation in which you can build months of work on is tough. Even beginning the first few shots – it is difficult to stare at a blank canvas and lay down a confident line. Animation is great because you can jump around easily – so I usually start with the minimal shots to get my hand up to speed with my brain – once I feel comfortable with that I move back to the beginning of the film and continue working forward chipping away until I am done – once the flow is in motion it usually stays in motion as long as the passion stays energized – so constantly filling the reservoirs with inspiration and good music keeps it going. Finally, trusting that in the end the piece will be something you are proud of and can celebrate keeps the vehicle in motion.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The hardest thing for me to learn was abandoning my love for classic animation styles. The days of pencil and paper and even cells are more or less gone. Yes, it is still being done and it is great, however, the majority of animation and film making is now digital – so it was hard for me to learn to let go of my stubborn love for the old methods to make ‘contemporary’ films. Of course, I was able to find a modern alternative to the Rapidograph on acetate method, that I am very happy with and will continue to cultivate and polish over time. As a result, creating works digitally has broadened my skills and my audiences exponentially.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Animation is super flexible and fluid – it is the wild card of film making in my opinion – it allows for weirdos to draw in their living rooms in their underwear. I am the writer, director, actor, animator, designer, background artist, compositor, editor, sound editor, etc. I built a recording booth out of sleeping bags and plywood in my basement – got my best friend to record voices with me – we made each other laugh and directed from the heart – naturally – the performances were recorded in one night and we edited the audio over the course of a week. With a little bit of money saved, I was able to focus for a couple of months on making this film. It has been bubbling in my stomach for years – I self-produced a film and played all the roles. That part of making a film comes without compromises – it’s from the heart – in this sense, it is a true work of art. Money is the challenge. It is a race against the clock to make a film without having a regular paycheck coming in – eventually I had to go back to my day job so I wasn’t able to put as fine of a polish on this film as I would have liked to. That is the reality – its a thin line – how much can I sacrifice to achieve my goal.

  • Everything was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

First, bringing an idea to light and sharing it with strangers and then calling it finished. Its never perfect – there are always things you find post-production that can be improved – scanning the shots – thinking critically frame by frame – pose to pose – its most difficult presenting, then letting go – its one challenging motion that happens simultaneously.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

My producer Nate Milton is my best friend. We have collaborated for the past 14 years. We co-created an animated series called, ‘Liverspots and Astronots’ for Facebook Watch in 2018. We have spent a lot of time together and have taken turns supporting and encouraging one another over the years. Honesty, a creative drive, and passion for creating art is something we have in common – we push one another forward and challenge our ideas. I think when people see this drive to continuously create passionate work it is inspiring and they want to share the energy with us. The further we go, the better the work gets, the more people want to collaborate – it is rewarding to know people are reacting to our work. With an open mind you are always learning from working with others and you are able to evolve personally.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Audiences don’t know what they want – the surprise of seeing something you wouldn’t expect is the thrill of seeing inspiring work. Anyone can be a filmmaker, and everyone has a unique story to tell – the filmmakers unique role is to tap into that personal space and make something interesting with that wisdom – the only thing a person should worry about is being truthful and trying to improve themselves and their work moving forward.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I have only had one previous film – my thesis ‘Orderly Confusion’ play in festivals in the past – it was exciting but raised a very high bar for me at an inexperienced age – I kept thinking I had to make a bigger better film – when I wasn’t really ready to – It is definitely an honor to be featured and screened in front of an audience – of any size – anywhere! But it is also a great responsibility to produce something meaningful for the viewers. A festival creates a unified environment where a mass can share emotions and socialize in real time. I think it is best to be present and tuned in to absorb the moment.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Classics were once fresh and original – there is certainly space for homages to great forms – and there is still room for evolution – a filmmaker should be thoughtful and truthful to their own voice – if it means they copy a classic style or they have something original and fresh – just make great art and don’t worry about how it is classified.