My short bio: My name is Harry Chaskin and I've written and directed stop-motion projects for Adult Swim, Warner Bros, FunnyOrDie, College Humor and Mattel. I've worked on shows like Robot Chicken, WWE Slam City, Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole, and Dinosaur Office, along with dozens of commercials and music videos. I can make anything out of hot glue and popsicle sticks, and I'm currently fundraising for my next short film 'Steel Cut Oats' on Kickstarter.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/15134597/steel-cut-oats

Ask me about stop-motion, working on Robot Chicken, directing, oatmeal, voice acting, kickstarter, and anything else that tickles your fancy!

My Proof: http://imgur.com/Y1vrKgh

EDIT: Huge thanks to everyone for stopping by this AMA and chatting with me! This was fun!

Comments: 111 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Senno_Ecto_Gammat12 karma

What's the most annoying part of your job?

What's the most fun?

harrychaskin24 karma

When animating, the most annoying part is how much my feet, back, and other extremities hurt after a day of pushing puppets. The most fun part is seeing inanimate objects come to life at the end of the day, seeing how the shot takes shape. It never gets old.

When directing, the most annoying part is scheduling-- Logistics, , figuring out the math behind staying on schedule. The most fun part is seeing all the amazingly talented people I work with bring their ideas, talent, and sensibilities to the project, and watching my seed of an idea grow into something greater.

iWant_To_Play_A_Game6 karma

Is that your real hair? How do you tame it?

harrychaskin5 karma

Hahaha! It's very real. And relatively tame. For now...

sock20145 karma

Have you included any industry jokes in your animations, such as referencing O'Brien, Harryhausen, Allen, etc?

harrychaskin7 karma

Great question! My last short film, Bygone Behemoth, had pictures of both Harryhausen and O'Brien hanging on the main character's wall. The apartment complex in 'Friendship All-Stars', the series I co-created for L/Studio, was called Harryhausing apartments. Some people think it's a joke on my name, but it's all about Ray.

hanselpremium5 karma

Can you tell us how you started out?

What were your influences in the beginning? How about now?

Also, when and how did you decide that this is going to be your career from that point on?

harrychaskin5 karma

I started animating with a super 8 camera when I was 10 years old. I'd animate matchbox cars crashing in my parents' driveway and douse them with lighter fluid, haha.

The obsession started when my dad showed me a VHS tape of Harryhausen's Mysterious Island. I became obsessed with the giant crab monster and was determined to figure out how they did it.

My influences now are all over the place. I'm most often inspired by the work done by people I work with every day. Almost everyone has a little home workshop or shooting space where they make personal projects, and I love seeing what's meaningful and unique to them. But the digital revolution has made stop-mo so easy and accessible; I see a lot of cool work on Youtube and Vine!

FartsForKids5 karma

Are you a stop-motion "purist" or do you use post/CG when it's a (cheaper or better) option?

harrychaskin7 karma

I consider myself a purist whenever possible, but I think CG is a wonderful tool when used sparingly. For example, you're always fighting gravity in stop motion when a puppet has to jump or throw an object. Being able to paint out wire rigging with CG allows for much greater control over the animation than the old-fashioned method of flying objects with invisible monofilament. But my personal philosophy is to strive for practical solutions whenever possible.

exhausedalpaca5 karma

How do you estimate how much movement needs to be done for every frame to make it look consistent and real?

harrychaskin7 karma

A lot of it is practice. You start to develop a mental library of how many increments it takes to take a step or throw a convincing punch. It also depends on frame-rate (24 vs 30fps) and whether you're shooting on 1's or 2's. I find acting out the action helps-- You feel it in your body and can mentally time how long each part takes.

SchuylerL4 karma

First of all I'd like to thank you for doing an AMA. Hopefully you'll have fun and enjoy sharing your experiences. I am a photographer moving to video with DSLR. I've always been fascinated with time lapse. It is similar to stop motion in that the film is played at a faster rate for presentation. I've always struggled with capture speed. Can you explain how I would figure out what frame rate to film at to make movement believable when the film is played at normal speed? Hopefully this makes sense. I'm having a hard time wording my question!

harrychaskin9 karma

Time lapse is similar to stop-motion in that it's essentially stringing still frames together to create the illusion of movement. As far as frame rate, it depends on what you're shooting. If it's a glacier melting, I'd recommend something slow like a frame every 5 minutes. If it's clouds flying by, I'd recommend a shot every 15 seconds. But to get a smooth effect, you'll want to play back whatever you capture at least at 12 frames per second.

FourDays4 karma

Any specific spots on Robot Chicken that you particularly worked on? What's your favorite?

harrychaskin9 karma

There are so many sketches in each episode, I've worked on more than I can count, haha. But two personal favorites of mine were Dora the Explorer sketch in Season 5 where she gets lost in the mountains and everyone freezes to death, and the Two Face in the toilet scene in the first RCDC special. I got to handle most of the animation in both of those sequences, and it's always really satisfying to see it cut together. Two Face was especially fun since the whole thing had no dialogue-- I got to animate entirely in pantomime, which is a unique challenge to make emotions and actions read.

Q-XVII4 karma

Do you work with the same people a lot? Do you have friends/ a team that you prefer to call on for a project, when you're heading it? And what sorts of roles are there on a stop motion set?

harrychaskin3 karma

Stop-motion is a fairly small community. I've been collaborating with most of the same folks for nearly a decade, and definitely have a key team I like to work with.

Roles on a stop-mo set are very similar to live-action filmmaking since everything exists in physical space. We have everyone from costume designers to lighting technicians, set dressers, etc. The only difference is we shoot very, very slowly.

mostfacinorous3 karma

What are you working on right now? How much are you allowed to talk about your projects?

harrychaskin4 karma

Right now I'm working on several different projects with varying degrees of secrecy :) I'm working on a music video for a band I unfortunately can't name (but will be announced very soon), a TV show with the Robot Chicken team, and a personal short film that I'm currently fundraising through kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/15134597/steel-cut-oats

34587903 karma

I've written a film script. What should I do next to get it out there?

harrychaskin10 karma

First off, congrats on finishing your script! I've written several features and I know first hand how hard it is to complete one. I'd recommend entering the Nicholl's fellowship screenwriting competition. There are a lot of contests out there (not all of them good) but that seems to be a great way to fast-track your idea if you can get attention through there. Otherwise, I'd say don't be afraid to show it to everyone you know and get feedback. Writing is re-writing, and you never know who might read it who knows someone who knows someone, etc.

Mansbear3 karma

I am going into my senior year of high school and really want to apply to film school. What advice can you offer me? How did you come across your story for Oats? I hope you raise what you need! This movie looks awesome!

harrychaskin2 karma

Thanks Mansbear! If you're applying to film school, I'd say work on your portfolio and try to finish a short stop-motion film. Keep it super simple but take it from beginning to end. You'll learn so much by taking it through each phase of production.

I came up with the story for Oats by combining several things that have always inspired me. I saw the silent horror film, The Golem, when I was a kid, and always liked how it's kind of a weird version of Frankenstein where the monster is literally sculpted. I combined that with my love of film noir, cheesy sci-fi movies, and the generally pervasive nuclear paranoia of the 1950's that's always been fascinating to me.

zptbph3 karma

Where do you get your hair cut? My mum wants to know. (P.S. She thinks you're quite the 'spunky tadpole')

harrychaskin3 karma

I get my haircut by a drunken barber in the depths of hell (a.k.a Fantastic Sam's)

ElevatedNuts2 karma

How difficult is this to get into "professionally"? After speaking with many CGI and animation professionals it seems to be an industry with little to no job security. Is there a risk of getting kicked to the curb even after previous successes?

harrychaskin4 karma

Like anything in the film industry, stop-mo has it's ups and downs. I think if you're good at what you do and people like working with you, you won't get kicked to the curb-- but it's definitely good to save up a nest egg for those times when work is slow.

As far as difficulty getting in professionally, it's completely do-able if you're willing to work at it, and work your way up. I've worked in pretty much every department you can think of; sweeping studio floors, building tiny props, animating puppets, rotoscoping rigs. You find what area is the best fit and start working your way up.

Ive_come_to_say_this2 karma

Did you have a part in the Final Fantasy skit for Robot Chicken? That is easily my all time favorite clip from any show I can think of.

harrychaskin5 karma

I didn't work on the Final Fantasy sketch but that's a great one! There are so many sketches in each episode, it's always interesting to see which ones end up getting a ton of attention :)

1900grs2 karma

Did you ever get to use the Nintendo Power Glove?

harrychaskin3 karma

I haven't animated with it for any length of time, but inventor Dillon Markey is a close friend and I've definitely taken it for a spin once or twice.

Simpsolover2 karma

What was the first experience you had that made you think you might be able to really do this for a living?

harrychaskin3 karma

When I was in college, my animation professor Stephen Chiodo was kind enough to hire me on for a couple of days to help animate a project at his studio. It was my first professional job in animation while I was still in school. In retrospect my animation was not so hot at the time, but the fact that he took a chance on me made me think 'hey, maybe this is crazy enough to work!'

Quople2 karma

Do you think that stop motion filming is more profitable as a film or a TV series?

harrychaskin2 karma

Totally depends on whether it's a hit. Both mediums require a fairly substantial investment upfront, plus lots of marketing and the need to find an audience in order to succeed. In terms of paycheck, commercials are the most profitable when you can get 'em!

TheGreatGojna2 karma

What's your favorite medium (clay, found objects, armatures, etc.) to create stop motion films with?

harrychaskin1 karma

My favorite thing to animate is traditional foam rubber puppets like those pioneered by Marcel Delgado on King Kong. But I've worked with everything from clay to sand to paper. And soon oatmeal!

TubasAreFun2 karma

[deleted]

harrychaskin2 karma

I love the feeling of something tactile in my hands, and the idea of bringing it to life. I especially like it when they don't do what I've got planned for them and I have to figure out new acting based on what THEY want to do.

mostfacinorous2 karma

How do you come up with the ideas for your animations, and how do you retain interest? I understand it's not a quick process. Are there any projects you've given up part way through on?

harrychaskin3 karma

Ideas and inspiration come from many places. I read a lot and try to be receptive to things around me: old folktales, paintings, 50's b-movies, film noir, dreams.

It's a very methodical process, but I never give up once I've started building for a project. The best way to approach a stop-motion film is to sit with the script as long as possible, and really decide it's a story you NEED to tell before building a single prop or shooting a single frame. Once I start building, I never look back until it's done.

Totallyn0tAcake2 karma

What's your most favourite Wallace and Gromit episode?

harrychaskin4 karma

Wrong Trousers. No question. Love that penguin with a glove on his head!

MrBanji2 karma

This man knows how to do an AMA. The vast majority of questions have been looked upon and with great answers to fit. What is your favourite medium to animate? as in, do you prefer using puppets, or with clay or even something else I don't even know of yet?

harrychaskin1 karma

Thanks MrBanji! My favorite thing to animate is a traditional puppet made of foam rubber, but variety is nice. Recently I had a great time animating a piece of ribbon transforming into various shapes. Was totally different from the character animation I'm used to and a nice (rather meditative) change of pace.

GGen1 karma

Can I intern with you lol?

harrychaskin1 karma

Unfortunately I don't have an accredited internship program, but there are lots of great programs at various stop-mo studios throughout the country! Ask around, and check studio websites for more info.

Q-XVII1 karma

You have a kickstarter going; have you done them before? Any drawbacks to funding a project this way? And what's it like during the campaign itself?

harrychaskin3 karma

Great question. Steel Cut Oats is my first Kickstarter and it's been a great learning experience. The main drawback is that you don't get to keep any of the money unless the project is fully funded. But that's been an important point for me because I don't want to promise backers a bunch of stuff I won't be able to deliver. At the end of the day, it's been a great way to share my project with the world months before I'd normally open my studio doors for a peak behind the curtain.

And it's forced me to think about the film as a whole and why I'm making it very carefully. Launching a Kickstarter is a huge endeavor and I had to feel really strongly that this was the project to do it on before taking that leap.

The campaign itself is grueling but rewarding. It's great to post storyboards, concept art, and new rewards, and then see people get excited about the project.

invictusmonkey1 karma

Did you ever do anything with "celebrity deathmatch"?

That show was awesome and it made my childhood a little more fun

Also: what is the most frustrating part of stop motion which seems to require an artist with unlimited amounts of patience

harrychaskin1 karma

A lot of my friends and colleagues worked on Deathmatch but I was a little too young to work on that show when it came out. I do remember watching its premiere during the Superbowl and laughing my ass off though.

The most frustrating part is when you kick the camera halfway through a tricky shot and have to start all over.

invictusmonkey1 karma

Damn, I can't imagine the frustration of having to get the camera perfect again.

Did you ever doubt that this would ever be an endeavor you could make a living in? And why stop motion? Obviously, you are talented, but why this specific medium?

harrychaskin2 karma

Thanks! I sort of stumbled into stop-mo. I'd always played around with it but I also worked/struggled as an actor, a screenwriter, a designer, and plenty of other jobs before finding a steady-ish niche with animation. I made a stop-motion short film in my early 20's that got some attention, and that thankfully lead to more work.

I'm drawn to how tactile and handmade it is, and how many different skillsets you get to hone and practice over the course of doing it.

erniehudson141 karma

How big are the different monsters in Oats in real life?

harrychaskin1 karma

They'll each stand around 11 inches when they're complete. But they'll look 10-12 feet tall on screen!

TellMeWhyYouLoveMe1 karma

Was your first experience with stop motion similar to this? http://youtu.be/iE2T-LM2AZg

harrychaskin2 karma

Zirofax1 karma

What is your new film about? Is there a link to your kickstarter or any art we can see from it?

harrychaskin3 karma

It's a stop-motion/live-action retelling of the golem story from Jewish folklore. In our case, it's about a washed-up boxer who builds a giant monster out of oatmeal!

You can check it out here! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/15134597/steel-cut-oats

We've got less than two days to go and every little bit helps!

Zirofax1 karma

What is your all-time favorite stop motion film?

harrychaskin1 karma

Full Stop Motion: Nightmare Before Christmas Stop-Motion Effects: Jason and the Argonauts

AltairEgos1 karma

How long does the process take?

harrychaskin2 karma

Depends on the complexity of the shot, how many characters, what the action is, etc. For TV, I generally try to animate around 10 seconds a day.

SuaveMF1 karma

I may have missed my chance but here goes anyways. How was the animation for Bass/Rankin stuff done? What kind of materials for the puppets and what techniques/equipment used? - Thanks!

harrychaskin2 karma

I believe most of the Rankin Bass puppets were wood with steel armatures. If I recall, there is some good info on the Rankin Bass process in StopMotionMagazine issue 10, including an interview with animator Fumiko Magari:

http://stopmotionmagazine.com/issues/2011-2/

the_fanciest_pj1 karma

Would you rather animate 100 duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck? Ps: your new project looks amazing! Can't wait to see it!

harrychaskin3 karma

100 duck-sized horses. Ducks frighten me.

truthaboutcs1 karma

What do you think about the movie Predator?

harrychaskin2 karma

Carl Weathers and space aliens! What's not to like?

TheGodEmperorOfChaos1 karma

How often did you get frustrated over a scene not working out as you wanted before you got the hang of it?

harrychaskin2 karma

Still happens sometimes. Moving at a TV pace, there is rarely time for rehearsals or a pop-through. So each shot can sometime yield unexpected results. Over time you learn to embrace the spontaneity of it and turn mistakes into choices. And if all else fails, kick the camera and start over.

SassyTeacupPrincess1 karma

I hope I'm not too late to the party. Do you have any advice or opinions about integrating SMA into live action footage (Jan Svankmajer work, etc)?

harrychaskin2 karma

Svankmajer's work is interesting in that he animated his actors along with the puppets, as opposed to combining them via optical effects like Harryhausen. I think the best method of integration depends on the project. Animating something live in conjunction with your actors on set may not be appropriate for a realistic visual effect, but can be very evocative for more stylized or dreamlike sequences.

nofearnasir1 karma

Whats your opinion on this short film?

https://youtu.be/dNJdJIwCF_Y

harrychaskin2 karma

Big fan of PES' work! I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with him. Super talented all-around nice guy!

NostalgicClouds1 karma

There are so many puppets in your shows, how long does it take to make one? Do you have puppet wizards pumping them out every day for the animators. Or do all the animators make their own?

harrychaskin1 karma

On a big studio show like Robot Chicken, there is an entire department responsible for making puppets. On my own personal projects, I generally make the puppets myself or collaborate with one or two people who specialize in fabrication. I've learned over time that I'm not so good at armaturing, haha.

andrewfender71 karma

What's your favourite stop-motion movie (or TV episode) ever?

harrychaskin1 karma

Big fan of Nightmare Before Christmas, Jason and the Argonauts, and many many short films by my friends and colleagues. 'Fred' by Misha Klein is one of my favorites.

https://vimeo.com/65780763

TommyWisaeuLovesYou1 karma

Do you consider yourself an artist?

harrychaskin6 karma

Good question! One of the things I love most about stop-motion is how many different disciplines are required to master it. You have to be an animator, a sculptor, a carpenter, a photographer, an actor, etc. People try to draw a hard line between being an artist and being a craftsperson. I think if your work inspires emotion in others, you can consider it art. I hope some of my work does this.

erniehudson140 karma

Hey I went to your kickstarter page and it looks like you're doing something with live action and animation, why do you want to do both? I like both but it seems hard.

harrychaskin1 karma

Combining the two is definitely a challenge. We need to create two completely different pipelines in order to produce the thing. But I strongly believe that stop-motion is still a viable means of creating memorable creature effects in live-action movies. There's no substitute for having a tactile, physical object on camera under real light. Steel Cut Oats is ambitious, but I want to prove you can still make a monster this way, and that it can look unique, memorable, and perhaps superior to the CG that's become normal and expected for this type of storytelling.

erniehudson140 karma

Also what inspired you to make a movie about an oatmeal robot?

harrychaskin3 karma

Something about the mixture of organic and inorganic appeals to me. Seeing radioactive waves pulsing through a big oatmeal man sounds cool, doesn't it?