We had the good fortune of connecting with Casey Follen & Alexis Deprey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Casey & Alexis, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Well… we aren’t exactly a business—what we are is a collection of animation artists that come together to bring joy to the masses! We compile our light-hearted short-shorts into episodes, while also strengthening the connection, collaboration, and diversity of our animation community. We share our episodes on our YouTube and Instagram and feature our creators and their work individually on Instagram too.
Animation Wild Card (AWC) provides a platform to amplify the unique artistic voices in our industry and gives momentum and exposure to a new wave of rising directors. We are really excited to be involved with a project that showcases the breadth and variety of both our medium and the artists who create that work. We hope our episodes can broaden the scope of what people think animation can achieve.
Animation Wild Card grew out of quarantine. Our founders primarily work in a niche of animation called stop motion animation (which requires physical space, sets, and puppets), and our corner of the industry was essentially shut down. Our friends and creative partners were out of work with no end in sight, and we started to think about what we could do for our community. We came up with the idea to create an animation challenge and recruit friends and colleagues in the animation industry to participate. Our community of animators continued to grow as the months went on, and we found ourselves making more episodes and expanding our vision for Animation Wild Card beyond quarantine.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We started Animation Wild Card (AWC) when Covid shutdowns began because our primary network of talented stop motion animators found themselves out of a job (including ourselves). We wanted to initially create a space where we could gain online traction as a group and boost each other’s social media presences while the industry was shut down. We set a short-term goal of producing one single episode, but it became clear very quickly by the enthusiasm and needs of our friends that we were going to continue to make more episodes and build an online community. Discord became a space for us to connect about how we were handling the transition and the difficult circumstances of being out of work. Over the summer, the narrative shifted as the country delved into the throws of the long-overdue racial reckoning that was brewing all along. We realized the organization we had started had the potential to facilitate community, support, and exposure even more than we had anticipated. So we got back to the drawing board and began to figure out how to support and expand our growing network—lots of folks had been reaching out to be a part of AWC episodes too.
Our first foray into opening up to new talent was with our New Friends episode (episode 7) that came out last fall, and we’ve been expanding ever since. We’re still not entirely public, but we’re working towards how to be better friends and allies to burgeoning, less represented talent at home and abroad (while working our full-time jobs too). This has really been a passion project for us organizers and has made our year feel rewarding and brighter than it would have been otherwise. Most recently for our Season 2 episodes, we’ve been hosting virtual meet-ups and a private Discord channel for the creators to get to know the other episode contributors. Our last meet-up coordinated folks from France, New York, California, and Vietnam!
We have now released 13 episodes and have featured animators from all over the world. While the core of AWC is a shorts program, our organizers are actively working on new ways we can show up for our community. We want to grow and connect an international community of animation artists while providing resources that tackle the socio-economic barriers barring entry to emerging animation artists.
We’ve found that supporting independent animators through AWC has created a space with the potential to change the animation industry for the better. We’re proud that we’ve prioritized gender parity in AWC, but there is more work to be done. We want our community to grow and truly reflect the world we live in, and it’s not enough to fight only for gender diversity and equality. There’s work to be done for racial equity and an abundant need to share these stories.
The future of AWC is ripe with opportunity, and this community space for animators may just be the incubator needed to help create change in animation. Although sectors of the entertainment industry are slowly going back to work, AWC has built a safe space for animation artists to gather and continue to prioritize their personal projects & growth. We hope to continue to evolve as we move into Season 2 and beyond!
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?
Welp, it’s still a pandemic, but maybe when you read this things will be better, so we’ll share some of our current faves, and former faves that will hopefully be back in no time:
– Anywhere giving out those sweet, sweet vaccines!
– See a show at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater
– Volunteer with the LA Regional Food Bank or Tree People
– Take a ceramics class at The Pottery Studio (in Cypress Park or Sherman Oaks)
– Visit the Huntington Gardens
– Hiking! Our favorite right now is the JPL hike—it’s shaded, has a big stream, and loads of parking
– See a show Hollywood Bowl
– Putt Putt Golf at Sherman Oaks Castle Park
– Get a Tiki Cocktail at Tonga Hut
– Catch a movie at Rooftop Cinema Club
– Find treasure at the PCC Flea Market
– Take in art and picnic at the Getty
– Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology (it’s super weird/fun!)
– See the Annenberg Space for Photography (their curated exhibits are amazing)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our shoutout goes to all of our contributing artists and our community of supporters! Over the past year, we have released 13 episodes of Animation Wild Card. Each episode was made possible by the animation artists that contributed their short films. Our first 13 episodes are made up of a total of 87 short films from 50 contributing artists. With more of Season 2 right around the corner, we look forward to including even more artists and looking at new ways we can help support our animation community. You can find all our contributing artists on our Instagram and on our website.
We also want to shoutout some wonderful organizations out there that are also working to shape the future of animation: Women in Animation, Black N Animated, Rise Up Animation, LatinX in Animation, & DiverseToons.
Image credits are included in file names.