Some of Lori Schkufza’s mograph work is shown in the latest Off Book on PBS. You may know Lori as Gutter Rabbit; if ya don’t check her out.
1. Bio – Where do you live/work? Where are you from?
I was born and raised in New York City- in Queens specifically. And after spending what felt like five very long years in San Francisco where I went to University, I just recently relocated to Montreal where my tiny amount of New York accented French leaves very little to the imagination. I spent the last year working as a Flash Artist for Zynga Game Network (a lot of people don’t readily recognize the name until you say, the company that makes FarmVille) on a new IP. I just finished up my contract with them after having had an incredible run there and working with a lot of amazing people, and now I’m taking a bit of a break while I figure out where I will move on to next.So these days it’s full time animation on my short, Milan & Zlatorog. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to continue to wake up with the sun every day, make my coffee, and start animating on something that’s exclusively mine for the whole day. I know it’s only temporary, but it’s proving to be as romantic as I had imagined it being when I was still a student. Even my frustrating days where Flash can’t seem to do anything but crash after I set one key.
2. How did you start in on this particular project/field of work?
Gaming was never something that I strove for, that is to say I majored in Animation focusing on 2D Character based work. I never took a gaming related course, and I never went past the SNES when it came to playing them. I always had my sights set on cinema and short films. I got the job with Zynga and interestingly enough, I think it worked in my favor that I was new to it and new to their games in particular, immediately out of school and it became really clear to me that I was simply happy to animate- it didn’t really matter what the platform was. The principles don’t change- you still have story, clearly defined characters, and intent.
3. Who/what are your influences?
Ward Kimball is my I-D-O-L (that’s a joke from a game show appearance he once made). When I first started at Uni, I really wanted to be a classical Disney style animator, but I found that I didn’t really enjoy it, and as a result wasn’t that good at it. My stuff was stiff and the design was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t until my second year that one of my instructors, who later because my informal Advisor, allowed me to foster my tastes for limited animation and flatter characters. Kimball just appealed to me in a way that no one else really did. His bold design and simple, effective movement that characterized his work from the mid century onward quickly became my go to reference and work to aspire to. He could do everything: feature animation, theatrical shorts, educational films, advertising and straight up design.I’m a huge cinema geek, and I study live action probably more than animation. Or I dissect it more. Hitchcock is my first love, and Scorsese holds an awful lot of my affections. I never tire of movies like Taxi Driver, The Birds and Vertigo. They’re usually playing in the background while I work, and I find that when I’m having trouble with a difficult scene, I can usually find a solution in one of those films.
4. What are you working on now?
Right now my non-work animating time goes entirely into the first part of a short film trilogy- my labor of love- Milan & Zlatorog: A Slovenijen Tale. It’s an old Jugoslavian folktale about a hunter who loves the most sought after peasant girl of an alpine village, and on their wedding day a wealthy foreign merchant comes into town and takes her away from him. That makes up the first film in the series. Later on, in order to win the girl back the hunter goes in search of a mythical treasure that’s guarded at the summit of Mt. Triglav by a bock with golden horns. I’m working on it exclusively on my own and so it inches along ever so slowly. Six months was spent on pre production, mostly defining the story through all three parts, the characters, designing them, the environments, and the props used. A little less than a month went into building the puppets in Flash- the three main characters and the background villagers. When I first started working professionally, it unfortunately got relegated to the back burner until I was able to better balance my time and schedules. Only in the last three months have I really been able to devote myself to it again. If I’m lucky each part will take a year to animate. I have my good days with it and I have my terrible days where I can’t for the life of me focus and I bounce from scene to scene doing little things here and there, but nothing in particular.
My second major project is a print based series: A (Brief) History of Film with Migrant Workers. It’s an ongoing series of culturally significant films (both domestic and international) illustrated using my minimalist character: the Migrant Worker. Each film consists of a single panel drawing that sums up the theme or story of the film. The drawings themselves don’t take very long to do, but sometimes I’ll watch a film over and over again just struggling to find an appropriate scene to use. Rear Window took forever. I can’t say how many times I watched it before settling on the scene where Grace Kelly finds the wedding ring in Raymond Burr’s apartment and signals to Jimmy Stewart. The goal is to make a series of prints from them and eventually compile them into a book.
5. Any new projects on the horizon?
Good god, I’m trying to just focus on my two huge projects right now. Although little things always come up and sneak in. Sometimes I just need a break from it all. I keep telling myself that I need to take advantage of the amazing period of time that is Summer in Montreal and break my cameras out of mothballs. But I think I’m better off just keeping that as a hobby and not getting myself in too deep in a new project.
You can see more of Lori’s work here: www.gutterrabbit.com