We had the good fortune of connecting with James Fairbanks IV and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi James, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
Having a career in general regardless of your profession is all about risk taking. If we are too afraid to leap out of our comfort zones, we will never discover what we are truly capable of. In the early stages of my career I found out first hand that if I wasn’t willing to take the kind of risks I thought were impossible, I wouldn’t even come close to where I am now. If there is one thing I have always said about myself it’s that I was always too stubborn to try anything else or in this case accepting a new career path. Once I finished college and got my BA in television screenwriting I knew learning how to animate and draw was the next step in my evolution. However that’s against the so called “status quo” of what individuals who claim to know how to get into the entertainment industry follow. These status quo beliefs of how to actually get a job in general is just plain ridiculous. My generation has this idea that life is a sprint and that if I don’t get from Point A to Point B at a certain age in my life I will never get there at all. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When I first started art school I was at a novice level, but compared to what others thought I just didn’t care. It was my mindset that if anyone including myself was capable of learning how to animate and draw (regardless of their age and background) then there is no time like the present to learn how. For me there was nowhere to go but up, every instructor I learned from opened their doors to me and gave me the exact kind of attention and education they would give someone who was either years ahead of me or was a student of the arts as well. That was the biggest risk I ever took, it was thanks to me jumping into art school right after college with no previous art training that enabled me to help bring my storytelling skills to their full potential. It was due to this risk I was able to convey my animated concepts more clearer to industry professionals, it was thanks to this risk I was able to forge my own art style which in turn would lead to pitch meetings with networks, meetings with talent agents, and be able to create my own animation production company with my family with four new series currently in pre-production co-created with my brother Cole Fairbanks and myself. These new animated are”Connie The Conjurer”, “Maddie’s Batty World”, “Crystal & The Northern Lights” and finally “Into The Light”. Above all taking that first big risk I was able to become the storyteller I knew I was capable of, it just required a little more time to learn one important skill to have it all come together. Therefore I leave you the reader with this bit of knowledge, never be too afraid to try something new. Take that risk! You will always doubt yourself when faced with adversity, but always keep in mind that walls were meant to be shattered. It happened in Troy, it happened for Pink Floyd, and in the case of the guy with no previous art talent sitting in a life drawing class at 9pm every Wednesday night…it happened for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There are so many types of art/artists in this world it can be hard to pinpoint just what type you would identify yourself as. One thing I was taught back in art school is that you are either one of two things, a “Real World or a Character Artist.” In my case I would find joy in making caricature forms of humans and animals rather than perfectly draw every knuckle on every finger. This style stems from my passion for 2D Animation, I’ve also believed animation to be a gateway from reality. Anything you believe in can happen in animation. At the end of the day, it really is up to you the individual to decide what influences your creative process, everyone is different and none are more unique than the other. If there’s one thing I can say about finding your way in this industry is that immediately you should expect yourself to fail and fail a couple more times before learning how to balance. We all lose our footing whenever we are faced with the reality of not knowing where to go or how to progress, however the one thing I would recommend is to expect yourself to lose balance when trying something new, but always keep at it until you are no longer intimidated by it. Get that fear out of your system, it will enable you to take risks and the more bolder you get the more doors will begin to open up for you.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Born and raised in LA Country, I know my way around the city of angels. There is a lot more to do here than just gaze up at the Hollywood sign on a sunny day. The first place I would recommend visiting would my favorite hang out spot in the city, Little Tokyo. From the rich eastern delicacies to shopping that displays every anime under the sun; I can say you will no doubt feel the cultural richness Los Angeles has to offer. Don’t forget to visit the wishing tree in the main plaza, it’s a must do for first time visitors. If you want to experience LA’s night life without getting lost in the city, I’d recommend visiting the famous Universal Citywalk. A great place to just shop around, dance, and try the variety of places to eat. (No doubt try Voodoo Doughnut, this is also where my girlfriend and I first hung out together!) Finally if you want to just get away from all the noise of the city, I would definitely recommend visiting the Natural History Museum. There is enough history within it’s walls to fill up an entire days worth of activities. I could spend hours in the Dinosaur Hall alone (which I do anyway whenever I bring an art book to sketch with) but there’s a little something here for everyone you just have to open your eyes a little more to find it.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wish I could use this segment to thank everyone who was involved in helping me get to where I am, but if I could highlight just one person at this time it would have to be my father Jim. One problem artists in this industry encounter is that while we thrive in creativity, more often than not we have our shortcomings in understanding how a business fully operates. However having my Dad around to help develop our production company with his 46 years of success in being a Business Contractor we were able to create a sustainable and concrete vision for what we wanted our company “4th Scope Productions” to become. Doesn’t hurt to mention he has some entertainment experience after being a working actor in his youth. I remember taking business trips on the road with my Dad across California. From those long drives we would just talk about life and what our strategies were for our animation company. What can we do to separate ourselves from the competition? Where do we see ourselves 10 years from now? These are just few of the questions my Dad, by brother Cole (another co-founder of our company.) and myself pondered as everything was falling into place. My brother and I encountered many hardships in the time leading up to our careers beginning, but our Dad always found a way to help keep our minds leveled and focused through all the anger and confusion of getting things set up. Waiting is a small price to pay for success.
All concept artwork provided was drawn and illustrated by James J. Fairbanks IV All artwork for Connie The Conjurer, Maddy’s Batty World, Crystal & The Northern Lights, and Into The Light are the sole property of James J. Fairbanks IV, Cole R. Fairbanks & James J. Fairbanks III of 4th Scope Productions. All artwork and story concepts are property of and fully copyrighted by 4th Scope Productions.