A Generation Y Artist Shapes the Future of Animation

by Megan -

For a 19-year-old, Charlie Collier is talented – and wise – beyond his years. “In my opinion, life itself is the most magnificent work of art perceivable by mankind. And to be able to not just experience, but capture even a fraction of this masterpiece is one of the greatest things about being human,” Charlie says on his website, Zapamation – pretty profound for a homeschooled kid who just graduated from high school. After only a few years of experience (and no formal training) in animation and filmmaking, Charlie has already been able to capture that beauty and translate it into something masterful – and something that has been featured on MTV Adria, a European division of the popular music channel.

Part of being an artist is being able to take even the most mundane of objects and “twist” them into something beautiful. So when Charlie began “messing around with twist ties” – something most people use to hold their veggie bags closed – at his local grocery store as a 10-year-old, he saw characters, and began wondering how he could bring his twist-tie figurines to life through animation. And so, Twist Ninja, his first ever stop motion film, was born.

“I was trying to figure out which software to use when I came across Boinx and did a free trial,” Charlie said. “It had everything I wanted in a software package. I’ve been using iStopMotion ever since. Twist Ninja was the first stop motion film I made. I realized how fun it was to animate things; it evolved into a bigger deal than I ever expected.”

So when popular Slovenian band Puppetz reached out to Charlie after seeing Twist Ninja (which was shown on the big screen at Taos Shortz Film Fest, I might add), and asked him to create a music video for their song Generacija Y (or Generation Y), it took him some time to realize just how big of a deal it actually was. Very humble, and maybe a bit green, Charlie was surprised at how much freedom he had in creating the video.

“They gave me almost total creative control over the project. There was a month of storyboarding, and Puppetz wanted the basic concept of the twist ties turning into the band, but whatever animation happened was totally up to me,” he said. “They wanted to let me express myself through the video. I was very surprised – I thought, ‘I’m just some kid from Texas, you guys are really trusting me?’ I was honored that they did.”

Not only was Charlie working with his first big client, but he had to deal with language and cultural barriers as well. “I could put the lyrics into Google translate, but it doesn’t really translate, so I spent a lot of time drilling the guys on not just the lyrics but also the social aspect of it. I didn’t understand their culture, I didn’t understand what’s funny to them or what the song truly meant from their point of view,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist like that – if the video didn’t really go with the message of the song, it would have really bothered me, so it was a challenge.”

What resulted from months of storyboarding, breaking down barriers, and meticulous shooting and editing was an expressive collaboration of handmade and digital art – a feat that was made easier through the use of Boinx’s iStopMotion. “I really like the built in chroma-keying and editing features. Other software just takes frames – with iStopMotion, I could get everything set up and just go right into cutting it all together. The user-friendliness and compatibility features were exactly what I needed.”

Though he’s not entirely sure where he will be in the next few years, he does have a few plans for the near future, including an invite back to the 2012 Taos Shortz Film Fest and another music video request. Charlie draws inspiration from film studies like Laika (creator of Coraline), and says his dream goal is to have that level of quality in animation. “What really inspires me is interesting and innovative concepts, using nonconventional methods of creating. You get out of it what you put into it – and if you put in a lot of passion, it shines through in your work.”