If you are a Lanakilan, you surely know Jordan: he’s a longtime and beloved counselor, Head of Arts, and all-around amazing guy. But you might not know that he is an award-winning filmmaker and animator in his non-camp life! Jordan was kind enough to sit with us for an interview about his work, and he includes some tips about how to make movies and do art as a living for interested campers! (this article also relevant for any Hollywood producers or investors reading along…)
ALOHA ROVING REPORTER (of GENERAL HAPPENINGS): When did you first realize you were good at art and wanted to keep doing it?
JORDAN: I first realized I was good at art the same place I realized a lot about myself: at camp! I was definitely a quieter kid my first summer but one of the counselors brought me in to help on a mural and I really liked the feeling of creating something. Everyone at camp is so supportive so it did take me a while to realize I was actually good, and I wasn’t just getting the same support because that’s the kind of community we are. But yeah, there was a point when I was a bit older when I could really catch the expressions of the counselors when they’d see a piece I made and I’d think to myself… “Hmm Jordan, you might have a knack for this…”
ARRGH: You are good at a lot of different kinds of art. How did you decide to get into animation?
JORDAN: That’s a great question because to be honest for a long time I didn’t know this is what I wanted to do. There’s a part of me – and ok sure, everyone feels this way at some point – that wishes I could live 4 lifetimes to really pursue and get good at different disciplines. But yeah, in the beginning it was painting: I wanted to be a famous painter… like that even exists anymore. Then I transitioned to film and animation, then I explored music, then teaching, then I’ve come full circle back to film. And because I have that foundation in painting, I try to use that element in my films. My last film literally has hand painted frames on paper. I haven’t counted but its gotta be in the hundreds of paintings.
ARRGH: I know you have done a lot of schooling to improve your skills in art, including right now (or before Covid, at least). What kinds of things do you study? What have you been learning?
JORDAN: I’m sort of an old soul – my counselors can attest I’ve always been that way. And despite being sort of tech savvy, I’m nowhere near tech savvy enough for my field. It’s sort of moved entirely away from paper and even the software I taught myself on is a relic of the past. So in school I’m mainly focused on learning software because I have confidence in my drawing ability (although I love to improve and there’s always room for growth), but in order to make a big production you’re gonna need the help of software and other artists who will be proficient in said software.
ARRGH: What’s different about trying to do an animated film versus other forms of art, like drawing, painting, collage, etc.?
JORDAN: Time. Time. Time. Dedication. It’s such an absurdly long process. You have to figure out ways to shorten your workload and to keep motivated to even finish. This kind of motivation is always hard but you can’t imagine the scale of an animated film. I’ve done murals that took days or weeks and I’ve done films that took years.
ARRGH: How long does it take to make a short film? What’s the hardest part about it?
JORDAN: That depends on the time you have, and the time you require to tell the story you want. I actually made a one-minute short film in about 2 or 3 weeks. I worked on it at the beginning of quarantine and the amount of free time and motivation really helped push it forward. My last film, which is only 2 and a half minutes, took about 3 years, but I was working and traveling and living outside of a bedroom.
ARRGH: When you are making a film, you are not only the animator but also the director. What’s that like?
JORDAN: It’s interesting. It’s actually the only way I learned to do it. Now I’m working with producers and other artists or composers, and yes I miss some of the freedoms that come with creating something that is 100% yours. But at the same time I’m not a perfect artist or storyteller or audio engineer or what have you, and adding more cooks helps create some really cool things. I’ll often look at a shot and be like, hmm I wouldn’t have thought of that and its really dope.
ARRGH: What are your favorite animated movies? Or your favorite artists? What are your biggest sources of inspiration in terms of art and animation?
JORDAN: There’s a French animated film called “The Illusionist.” Breathtaking backgrounds and all hand-drawn animation. I highly recommend. I’m sort of a sucker for good visuals. I really like Brad Bird who directed “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” and “Tomorrowland.” All those pieces have this really cool aesthetic where it’s sort of in the 1950s or 60s but it’s also in the future. Inspiration-wise is any cartoon from my childhood. It’s cliché to say “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” but I mean… “Hey Arnold” was one of the biggest shows of my childhood – it even got a movie release – and it’s a show literally about nothing. It’s just the everyday life of a kid and his friends. That wouldn’t work with today’s kids – they all need a talking dog or something wacky kitsch.
ARRGH: What are your goals coming up?
JORDAN: My goals? Oh, I’m actually announcing my bid for Kanye West’s running mate for the 2020 presidential race. Haha kidding. I definitely want to stay with 2d (two-dimensional) animation. Not only is it more of my wheelhouse, but now that I’ve had to do CG for class it really feels more like math than art to me and God knows I can’t do math. A part of me cringes when I see Disney remake some of those magical cartoons of the past. It boggles my mind that a Hollywood exec saw the original Lion King and said: “You know what this needs? More reality.” But yes, I do want to sell out to the big wigs for sure. I’m currently working on creating a television series that I’ll be pitching to a network. Hopefully within the year it’ll be finished for the world to see.
ARRGH: What advice would you give a young artist who wants to learn animation or to make animated films one day?
JORDAN: My advice is to start making films ASAP. In addition to learning the basics of animation and just practicing your doodles and all make fully realized stories. All the great opportunities I’ve gotten or cool connections I’ve made have been due to the films I’ve created. Leave the doodling for Instagram and put those films out there on festivals.
Here’s a quick look into Jordan’s process, on Instagram:
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Here’s an award-winning short film Jordan made, adapting the famous book “The Giving Tree”: