Nick Cross

Nick Cross is an award-winning ani­ma­tor and inde­pen­dent film-maker liv­ing in Ottawa, Canada. He’s played a key role in the pro­duc­tion of sev­eral ani­mated fea­tures such as Ren & Stimpy ‘Adult Party Car­toon’ and Rupert, not for­get­ting his per­sonal projects: The Waif of Perse­phone and Yel­low Cake. Nick’s port­fo­lio con­tains clients such as Nel­vana, Spumco, Nick­elodeon and New Line Entertainment.

You have been in almost every job on the ani­ma­tion pro­duc­tion line, from set dec­o­ra­tor to edi­tor, pro­ducer, writer, ani­ma­tor to direc­tor.
In which role do you feel most comfortable?

I think that the role that I enjoy the most is the art direc­tion aspect of mak­ing films. I really like to play around with mood and colour and plac­ing char­ac­ters into those set­tings. I guess I just enjoy the idea of cre­at­ing new worlds and envi­ron­ments; that’s the best part of ani­ma­tion and film-making for me.

Your per­sonal projects have taken many years to pro­duce. Do they stray a lot from the orig­i­nal idea in that time or how do you man­age to stay on course?

Since all of the edit­ing in an ani­mated film takes place at the begin­ning, it gives me a firm frame­work to work around. If that weren’t the case, it would be really hard to resist the temp­ta­tion to keep chang­ing things as I go until the final film no longer resem­bles the story that I orig­i­nally intended to make. It’s like being a long-distance run­ner, you need to have dis­ci­pline to make it to the fin­ish line.

How do you fund your projects?

I fund them with my com­mer­cial work. The sad real­ity is that short films rarely pay for them­selves so they have to be more of a labour of love. The down­side of hav­ing to self-finance my work is that I have to pri­or­i­tize my time in favour of work that pays the bills. The fact that I pay for the films myself gives me all the free­dom that I want, but on the down­side, that’s one of the main rea­sons why my films take so long to produce.

Most ani­ma­tion stu­dents have at least one idea for an ani­mated short but they don’t have (yet) the advan­tage of earn­ing for com­mer­cial work. What advice would you offer them in order to see it finished?

Just have con­fi­dence. It’s inevitable that a film­maker will lose moti­va­tion as they work on an ani­mated film. It’s just such a long and some­times a tedious process. You always get to a point where you start to ques­tion your­self and the valid­ity of your work. You just have to push all of that aside and have con­fi­dence in your orig­i­nal vision, in what got you inter­ested in start­ing the project in the first place. That’s all it takes, really — per­haps it’s eas­ier said that done, but that’s the one thing that I’ve learned in 11 years of mak­ing my own inde­pen­dent films.

How would you sum up the under­ly­ing social mes­sage in the Waif of Persephone?

I think I would have a hard time sum­ming it up. I don’t usu­ally start a new film intend­ing it to have a moral or a mes­sage. They usu­ally just encap­su­late a lot of ideas that I have in my head at that par­tic­u­lar time. How­ever, I think the main theme for that film is about how good inten­tions are almost always destroyed by greed.

What’s the ani­ma­tion work you’re most proud of?

That’s hard to say. Like a lot of artists, I am pretty crit­i­cal of them, but I think that I have reached a point where I’m start­ing to feel proud of some of my most recent work and Yel­low Cake in par­tic­u­lar. I think that all the dif­fer­ent parts from story to ani­ma­tion and back­ground styling came together quite well in the fin­ished product.

Indeed, the style and grad­ing of Yel­low Cake are very unique. What do you reckon is the secret ingredient?

I don’t know if there is a secret ingre­di­ent. The style is just my nat­ural way of work­ing; the only real look that I intended to put in the film is a height­ened amount of con­trast between the light and the darks. I wanted there to be deep, dark shad­ows to empha­size a sense of fore­bod­ing in a sub­tle way.

Is there another Nick Cross short in the pipeline? Can you give us a hint about what it is?

I actu­ally have two new films that I am work­ing on right now. One is still just a zygote of an idea and doesn’t really have a solid plot yet. The other is a shorter film then my last few; it will only be about 5 or 6 min­utes in length. It takes place on a farm and involves a fox steal­ing chick­ens. That’s about all I can reveal at this point, since I’m still sto­ry­board­ing it and I don’t quite have all the plot points fig­ured out yet.

If aliens stole your ani­ma­tion and artis­tic pow­ers, what could you do for a living?

I orig­i­nally wanted to be a biol­o­gist and a lot of the jobs I had before I got into ani­ma­tion were work­ing with ani­mals. When I was a lit­tle kid and peo­ple would ask what I wanted to do for a liv­ing, I would always say that I wanted to be a zookeeper. I still love sci­ence and I’m addicted to nature pro­grams, so I don’t think I would be totally lost if the art thing ever fell through.

  1. Pyatyletka Nick’s per­sonal blog.
  2. Nick Cross on Vimeo Watch his per­sonal work.
  3. IMDb Read about his long film credits.
  4. Buy The Waif of Perse­phone on DVD Sup­port Nick!

Cre­ator of one­huge­eye. Founder and direc­tor at Lon­don based Stu­dio Tinto. Dad. Cof­fee addict.