365: One Year, One Film, One Second a Day the new short from the Brothers McLeod, has an unusual concept. It is a compilation of brief clips that were animated by Greg McLeod (pictured right) at a rate of one per day throughout 2013; the results were first released as a series of monthly chunks, which have now been gathered together into a single seven-minute film. Cartoon Brew spoke to Greg about the creative process behind the film and the business model of creating a self-funded short film and then selling it online. The film was subsequently posted online for free on January 12, 2015.

Cartoon Brew: Was the idea for the film a sudden burst of inspiration towards the end of 2012, or something that you had in mind for a while?

Greg McLeod: It was a sudden burst—I was looking to make a new short film and had toyed with a few ideas, but 365 struck me as an interesting challenge and one that wouldn’t be tied down by a traditional narrative structure.

Cartoon Brew: The film contains a credit for “rules.” Can you let us in on the guidelines behind the film?

Greg McLeod: Each day had to be a second, so I had to post a still from that day on Facebook with an explanation of the image. Then each month, we’d post that month’s installment. My brother Myles then made sure I didn’t redo any animation after the fact and didn’t re-use animation. That was it, really. 

Cartoon Brew: Most artists keep daily sketchbooks; what you have here is essentially an animated daily sketchbook. Would you recommend this process for other animators, even if they may not wish to publish the results?

Greg McLeod: It is a challenge and time consuming, over a thousand hours’ work. However, it forces you to generate ideas that you feel worthy of animating. Even on a boring uneventful day, you have to search for inspiration. I found it very rewarding. It was like an animation gym with a workout every day. I’d say I’m pretty fit now!

Cartoon Brew: By releasing the film first as monthly half-minute segments, and later as a complete seven-minute short, you made use of the fluid formatting approaches that only Internet distribution offers. Has it inspired you to try further experiments with format?

“We’d normally get thousands of views if we made the film free. We’ve only had 40 purchases so far. That says a lot.”

Greg McLeod: It’s been interesting watching it grow online and it seems to have gone down well. Non-traditional forms of narrative have always interested me. Most of our commercial work is heavily narrative and we love doing those projects, but I enjoy breaking those conventions in my personal work. Whether people will be prepared to actually purchase the film is an interesting question. So much is free online now that I think that’s what people expect. However, if people get used to purchasing high-standard short films, then this can only benefit the filmmakers and may mean they can make a modest income from working on their own projects. So far, it’s been a slow start on the downloads. We’d normally get thousands of views if we made the film free. We’ve only had 40 purchases so far. That says a lot.

Cartoon Brew: Did you ever consider varying the art style more significantly—doing the occasional stop motion or CGI piece, for example—or was consistency of style a factor from the get-go?

Greg McLeod: I always wanted a consistent style. I figured the viewer is going to have to work pretty hard anyway without the style shifting as well. It also made the project more practical as I had to have a remote setup so I could animate wherever I was.

Cartoon Brew: Any plans for further projects along the same lines?

Greg McLeod: I’ve started a film with sound designer extraordinaire Tom Angel called Consequences. I animate ten seconds and pass this to him, he adds sound to my pictures and adds a further ten seconds which I animate to and so on. No idea where it will end or what it will be about, but we are having a lot of fun doing it. When it’s animated we will print out the frames, all done in simple black and white, and have a big coloring-in party with paints, pencils, felt-tips and beers, nibbles and many friends. Then we’ll photograph them all and comp together with the soundtrack.

[This interview was originally published on Cartoon Brew on February 19, 2014.]

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