EK Interview: Chris Boyle

No matter what the medium, Chris Boyle will utilize anything within the reaches of his artistic grasp to create it. Storytelling becomes the key to Boyle’s drive, while live events, short film, music video, video games, animation, and you-name-it become the paint to his canvas. Read more from our one-to-one interview after the jump!

Still from Airlock or How to Say Goodbye in Space (Short Film).

Welcome welcome! Thank you so much for spending the time to do this interview with me.Without further ado, let’s get to it. First, let’s give our readers a little background about yourself.

I’m a director and animator based in London, I’ve been working in film for about five years now.

Let’s get all the hard-hitting questions out of the way first. From viewing your collection of work thus far, the word “diverse” seems to sum it up pretty nicely. Did you always start with this mixed media mindset, or did you find one outlet and branch out from there? Did you go to school to learn all these various media, or was most of it in part just trial and error?

I think I try to find good projects and whilst it might be easier if they were all in one single discipline, it’s definitely more interesting to work across the board, from film to video games to live events. 

At base level it’s all storytelling so they share many of the same aspects. I didn’t go to film or animation college, I studied Ancient History, because I liked it and figured I’d never get the chance to spend that much time doing non-vocational otherwise. However, I did direct a bunch of theatre and comedy when I was a student which was great place to learn as it’s a pretty safe environment to create some real directorial train wrecks!

Still from God of Loneliness (Emmy the Great) (Music Video).

Not only do you utilize a variety of fields within your portfolio, but you also stitch together these differing crafts within almost all of your individual projects, like the music videos WASPS (Emperor Yes), RESET (Three Trapped Tigers), and TATTOO (The Who) just to name a few. To me, that sounds like an intense workflow. How do you tackle these multifaceted projects? What’s the step-by-step mindset you go through from fruition to completion (excluding your live event projects, unless they follow the same guidelines)?

I see mixing media as just different, often compatible options to tell the story. It’s a great way of heightening action as well as really putting a visual stamp on a project. Additionally animation was a really useful option to have as I could do it myself and it was (and still is) cheaper than shooting live action.

I don’t really have a unified principle in how to approach a project but generally I like to know where it’s going to end up in freakish detail before I start so there’s a lot of rehearsing / story boarding / animatics etc. giving some sort of method to the madness. I think that’s key as once we’re up and running it’s vital for cast and all the crew to know what exactly we’re doing and the best way to do that is to be able to show them.

Still from Tattoo (The Who) (Music Video).

While working within and around so many different artistic fields, what kinds of advantages and limitations have you come to learn? What has been the most rewarding experience? Do you believe that it is more beneficial in today’s art industry to have a multi-layered set of skills, than to be a master in one specific scope?

I think each one has its constraints and caveats but generally it’s the old boring issues like budget / creative control / timeframe. Honestly, I believe a multifaceted approach is the way our industry is headed – we all have to do [a] variety of commercial projects to fund the passion projects, whether that’s commercials for theatre, or video games for film, whatever – but at the moment I’d like to think that I’ll always work this way and never have to pick just one.

I feel working this way is beneficial, it’s down to personal preference, but I like to have my fingers in a bunch of pies. On a smaller scale I love to know how stuff works as it helps to inform the overall picture. Directing is often like herding cats because you’re trying to get people from many disciplines to work as a single unit so it’s invaluable to have at least a basic grasp of everything from editing to lighting to rigging 3d characters so you have a rough understanding of what they’re after and you can accommodate them within the process.

Aside from directing / animating some humorous shorts and projects, you’ve also handled more serious subject matter like the in-game footage for CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS / MODERN WARFARE 3, and the short film AIRLOCK OR HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN SPACE (2009). How do you go about switching back and forth from one to the other? What kinds of hurdles do you have to face when dealing with one project dealing with several layers of artistic know-how, compared to another that requires a more straight-laced and minimalistic approach? Is there really a difference to you?

I think there’s very little of my work that doesn’t have at least some humour within it. I see it as an absolute constant in any given context of life, but obviously projects have separate tones. The script usually dictates this kind of stuff and then I just follow suit. The more complex projects basically just require having someone on board who can advise and / or take care of it, there isn’t really much of a difference. Having said that, there is absolutely a freedom shooting simple live action as you can see what the end result will be in-camera and a much smaller crew makes the process much more nimble.

Where do you see the future direction of art heading (big and deep question I know, so let’s break it down)? Do you see relevance in your own work compared to the current and ongoing stages of today’s art world? Do you sense that the art world’s growth in innovation will soon hit a plateau? Do you even believe that art can be measured in such a way? What trends do you see on the rise / decline in contemporary art? How does your work reflect these changing memes?

Owch! I’m a little wary of talking about Art with a capital “A” so maybe in terms of moving, visual media?

I think it’s in a state of flux, it always will be, and while I don’t think that it’s going to plateau as such, I do feel that we’re at the midpoint of a couple of revolutions that will resolve themselves in the fairly near future.

Firstly in the way that we consume media. Audiences and creators are connecting in an increasingly direct manner. The death of scheduled TV and the rise of crowdsourced projects means that whilst there will always be the billion dollar summer leviathans there’s now much more room in the sea for smaller projects. Hopefully this will lead to a surge in non-mass demographic projects because if you can find 50K people who have agreed to buy a ticket / download that flips the old business model on its head. Which is obviously really exciting for creators.

I think the other revolution is in technology – and that’s manifesting itself in loads of areas; the DSLR revolution democratizing the film making process, the advent of the video games as a viable story telling medium, to the general rise in interactive media – the list goes on and on. Most of these new mediums haven’t yet worked out exactly what their language is because that takes time, and the audience itself needs to be educated, but that’s to be expected –  when they watched the first edited montage in Battleship Potemkin in 1925  – that was totally innovative, and presumably as disorientating as a first time gamer picking up a playstation controller or moving the camera in an interactive music video.

I think my work inevitably reflects how the landscape is changing simply because I’m working in it. 25 years ago no one would have believed that this year I’ve made video games to pay rent and music videos as a hobby as there is so little money in the industry. Maybe Duran Duran was the 1980’s version of Call of Duty?

Still from Bunny and the Bill (Live Event / Film).

Who or what has been the biggest influence to your career and ongoing profession (name a max of three or less)? What has each of these influences taught you in your ongoing development as an artist?

Impossible question – I’ll go with just three inspirational people.

Terry Gilliam and David Lynch for their love of comedy, mixed media, filmmaking, and stone cold perseverance. Gabe Newell for founding Valve, making Half Life and sponsoring the evolution of video games. I’m not sure if I could work within a company, but if I could it would be there. (case in point: http://newcdn.flamehaus.com/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf )

What are you favorite films, TV series, musicians, video games, blogs, etcetera that share some similar characteristics to your own work, or that you just plain love to enjoy.

Too many to mention. But right now.. I’m burning through Community / It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia / Sons Of Anarchy playing Fallout New Vegas (and Black Ops 2 obviously!) and I’m addicted to Reddit.

Have any interesting dreams / nightmares that you’d like to get off your chest? Any recurring ones? Don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of psychological analysis or anything like that, but all that leftover imagination / creativity has to be channeled somewhere in your sleep.

Haha. No, I don’t sleep much but when I do it’s soundly.

Again and again, I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to do this interview with me. The EK team and myself wish you the best of luck to your future prospects! But before we close this interview, are there any upcoming works-in-the-making or potential projects you’d like to share with our readers?

Pleasure! Well… Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is just out so, you know, buy that. I’ve got an animated / live action film called HOMESCHOOL out in the next few weeks watch that. Finally, I’ve just gone in to development on my first feature – a tiny black and white film that hopefully will be shooting next year, so look out for that!

Still from Rest (Three Trapped Tigers) (Music Video).

Full short film for Airlock or How to Say Goodbye in Space (2009).

Call of Duty – Black Ops II Flashback Series (2012).

Chris Boyle