2012 has kicked off at breakneck speed here at Picasso HQ with some fantastic projects ushering in what is looking set to be a very exciting year. Added to this is the news that another fantastic talent has joined the family. Please extend your warmest welcome to The Saline Project.
This collective bring their unique charm, after years of acclaim stateside. We caught up with the boys to find out a little bit more about style, artistic values and their love for their home town of New York...
Picasso: So who are you guys?
We are Adam Toht, Ben Toht, Jesse Roff and Liam Kirtley
P: And where are you from?
Ben and I grew up in a small town west of Chicago, Jesse grew up in New Jersey, and Liam is a brit.
Cindy Crawford is from near our hometown.
Cindy Crawford! Take that everyone else's home town!
|BT: Winter Refresh|
P: And where are you now?
B: Adam and I both live in Brooklyn. Near Prospect Park. And our studio is in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
J: Hoboken, NJ.
A: And Liam is just making his way back from being in the UK for a stretch.
P: So who are Saline Project? How did you come about?
A: I started Saline in 1999 because I really wanted to start collaborating with artists and filmmakers I loved and respected and wanted to expand the scope of what I'd been doing. I'd been in tons of bands growing up, and it made sense that we could have a filmmaking band (basically) that could, like a band, be a small group that put out work together with a strong, unified voice. I'd been working in film, and had experienced this kind of splintered culture where everyone is a kind of lone gun- jumping from one production to the next, and this idea of a small group, working together and making work together project after project and growing and feeding off each other had a real appeal (and gratefully it ended up working out).
B: We definitely function a lot like a band. We go into the studio and work at making stuff. We share some artistic values and we each contribute in different ways. And we're always trashing hotel rooms and stuff like that.
J: The stuff Adam was making back in 1999 was the coolest stuff around, and I wanted to make really cool stuff too!
P: So when did the 'cool stuff' turn into animation?
A: We've basically been doing animation since the beginning but didn't completely realize it. We got big doing a kind of hybrid of live action and animation, with live characters, shot on green screen, set into worlds that we created- and one day we realized that all this "animating" we had been doing was… …animation! It was such an organic progression that we didn't fully process what was happening until we were doing full CG characters, in CG worlds and the whole process wasn't a big leap at all for us.
B:Yeah, really I think we just always wanted to do things that we couldn't do any other way.
J: I knew as soon as we got Cinema 4d around 10 years ago or so that we could make some really amazing stuff that had little to do with the "real" world. There has always been a drive to make something cooler and cooler- and I think that has led to a perfect fit with animation for Saline Project.
P: That process has led to a pretty unique aesthetic, how would you describe your style?
A: I would say we create something in motion that is more like a painting or graphic novel than what is normally seen on television or at the movies. We do very design and labor intensive work that hopefully still has heart and soul and an emotional resonance.
The whole thing began with a series of collage studies I began doing for paintings at art school that became better and more interesting than the paintings. The "collages" were layered, cut out images, assembled from bits and pieces of magazines that were then drawn and painted on to create a pretty seamless hybrid. I was living off of these collages when I started being exposed to film and decided I really wanted to make these collage/paintings move. So that sparked the initial idea, then starting saline and working with other artists the idea became bigger and more dimensional (and better).
|Dunkin' Donuts - Dragon|
P: Who/What has been your biggest influence in your career?
A: Funnily enough, I would say the fact that my TV viewing, video game playing and movie watching time was so limited (by our folks), and because I was missing so much was one of the biggest influences on me, creatively. I remember listening to a babysitter watching scary television shows and imagining what was happening- and when I finally watched these shows they were really not all that scary. So many of the shows and movies I heard described at school as a kid just didn't live up to my expectations. I think that created a kind of ideal, and an ability to dream things up that has made a big impact on my life/career. In later years, seeing tons of young artists and filmmakers using the computer to really do anything they wanted to do- in ways that would never been possible (unless you were born grotesquely rich or connected). I also storyboarded features for Darren Aranofsly and Wrong Turn director Rob Schmidt who both were amazing teachers and very generous with advice on how to make things happen in this wonderfully complicated process.
B: Shiiit. Well, Adam (who is my older brother) definitely heavily influenced me growing up (and gave me a start in the business). And our parents, who encouraged us all to be creative. Our sister, Betony, who is an amazing writer. And I've learned a ton with Saline and all of the incredible people that we've been lucky enough to work with.
A: Yeah, our folks limited the TV, but definitely encouraged drawing, and painting and writing. Pretty great combo actually.
J: Photography, Films, Adam, Ben, and other Saline guys who have worked with us along the way.
P: Where do you see the future of Saline Project?
A: I'd love to make a feature and/or a bunch of longer form short films. I think we do have a unique voice and I have had a pretty clear mental picture of the next generation of what we're creating. We're better at this than we've ever been, and now having dipped our collective toes into telling longer stories, creating worlds and writing, that world is kind of the next frontier for us. We have representation and interest and all of that, but are kind of waiting for a project we know we can make amazing. We're absolutely loving all the work we get to do right now though and want to continue pushing everything we do. It's a ton of fun.
P: Is there one specific project that you feel best sums up your style?
A: The test we did for Little Monsters and The Cure Alt End music video still embodies a lot of what we're best of. Both are dark, and graphic, but have a lot of heart and a good sense of story. Love that test and that video.
B: Ahhh, I can't pick one. I love The Hives video. The Jungle is still one of my favorites, which led to the Buxton commercial which is one of my favorite productions ever. I love Fly Trapped in a Jar, the Alien Musical we made with Modest Mouse. And I have a big soft spot for some of the stranger, more comedic videos that we've made, like The Three Cowboys.
J:Right now I'd have to say Little Monsters and The Jungle are closest to where things are moving visually and story-wise.
P: What inspires you?
A: All sorts of stuff really. We have a huge book collection at saline and are seeing amazing stuff all the time. It can really be anything. From an amazing music video to a great book, live music performances, shorts people make- killer television. There is so much cool stuff out there. I think we collectively believe in making new stuff that we love and believe in but that is fun for us, but also that the average person will really enjoy. Tim Burton (obviously a big influence) was like that for me (and I believe all of us) as a kid, where he made these movies that everyone would watch and love, that were jam packed with wonderful ideas and design. He didn't have to do that, but it's so wonderful that he did. We aspire to (hopefully) create something that communicates in that way.
B: Music is huge for me.
J: Light, colors, shadows, music, you name it...
|Modest Mouse - Fly Trapped in a Jar|
P: Tell us about Brooklyn, is it an inspirational place to live and work?
A: New York is one of the greatest places to live as an artist (in my opinion). There's just something about the energy and culture of the city that I just haven't experienced anywhere else. Not only is it filled with amazing artists, filmmakers, designers, and creatives of all types, but the fact that you get on the subway with homeless people, millionaires- people from all walks of life, all together living their lives in what is actually not that much space- there's just something about this city that is amazing. There's a sense of humanity and drive here that you don't experience that often. We've been in New York (and Brooklyn) since we formed and I can't imagine working in another place. We have a great view of the Manhattan skyline from our studio and we enjoy it all the time.