Chris: You said that as a kid you drew all the time, what did you draw?
Sarah: I drew a lot of Sailor Moon, there was a period for probably two to three years that was all I drew and I’d make my own original characters and I would put them in my own comic books, and my sister and I would write stories about them and we would act them out and come up…I didn’t even realize at the time I was storyboarding, storyboarding animation transformation sequences. That was kind of my for fun thing to do because I was so into it, I definitely was the typical nerd that just drew Zelda and Sailor Moon and just thought it was just the greatest stuff ever, and I still think it’s the greatest stuff ever! So not much has changed.
Chris: That’s great, I was just thinking that, oh my how times have changed.
Sarah: Yeah, so again, you kind of have to think about the stuff that really drives you and that’s kind of what’s led me to a magical girl show at Nickelodeon. You’ve got to follow the things that really excite you, so for me it was definitely…I definitely started off drawing Disney and just my parents or whatever and then Sailor Moon I feel like a big motivator where I drew all the time. I still have all the journals at my parents place just tucked away in my closet. Yeah, I should bust those out sometime, they’re pretty embarrassing.
Chris: It was something about Sailor Moon that was a real catalyst for…so some sort of mixture of story elements it sounds like and character.
Sarah: Yeah, it was a lot of things. I feel like there was…the storytelling in television which I’d never really seen before because you know feature film, it was finite. You saw your hour and a half movie and you were done and for Sailor Moon, especially at the time when it was still airing, it was new content. It was a continuous story and things happened to the characters. I remember like playing Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers as a kid and drawing those things but they didn’t speak to me and definitely as a female, I was drawn to just the fact that these are girl characters doing the things that boy characters normally do and they look pretty doing it and they do it well. Those kind of ideas were not really happening in American cartoons. She was a princess, but she was like kicking ass and saving the guy. So I was completely slothed, which it just blew my mind as a kid, that definitely motivated my work even now. I mean, I draw female characters because that’s what really speaks to me and they’re not over-sexified and they’re strong, beautiful characters or women because there’s so much more that they have to say, not to get on my feminist rant but you know. It was not what you normally saw in American animation. So and now you definitely see it, I mean we have Cora, we have so many other strong…I mean Frozen even, this is like a new age of animation for females which is amazing. The creator of my show at Nickelodeon is the first female show creator, that’s crazy! In a great way, and in an awful way.
Chris: Okay, so is it Ringling and then there were two…what did you say two years of sort of ambiguous or was that my story was two years of ambiguous…
Sarah: Mine was a year and a half. Yeah I was definitely the ambiguous, oh god what do I do now kind of…
Chris: Right, right. Now was there any…but there had to be some sense of you know, what were you trying, like what were you experimenting with or drawing? And how did that change from day one at Ringling?
Sarah: Sure. Senior thesis, let’s start there. I did book stuff, I did book covers but it wasn’t the book cover stuff I do now which is middle grade children’s books. It was very serious, classic literature kind of stuff basically geared towards editorial illustration.
Chris: Ah, oh that’s interesting! The story’s sneaking up on you. And you’re still focused on the affect but the storytelling is still bubbling up underneath.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. So the focus was almost like I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing and I don’t mean this in a knock on the illustration academy because it was a wonderful program, but I took illustration kind of twice. I attended it twice when it was hosted at Ringling during the summer time and that had a huge influence on me because I was all about editorial illustration and I was like oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing, that’s it! So that’s what I focused my thesis on and then I graduated and I went to Richard Solomon Art Agency representatives…
Sarah: Yeah, I did an internship there a couple months in New York City which was a cool…
Chris: What the heck?
Sarah: Very cool experience.
Chris: Oh, that’s so cool! C.F. Bean was one of my teachers at CCAD, yeah.
Sarah: Yeah, C.F. Bean, he taught me at illustration academy.
Chris: Are you serious?! Oh my god, that’s awesome. Actually we were just discussing getting him on the show.
Sarah: He’s a wonderful human being. So, that was a really interesting experience because that was my first exposure to the business side of kind of what happens, like I would hear Richard on the phone negotiating contracts. Honestly most of my time was spent gathering contacts and putting them in Excel spreadsheets, typical intern stuff. But I was like a fly on the wall and I got to hear everything so that was a really interesting experience. And then after that, I moved back home and Shane ended up giving me an apprenticeship at Reel FX and so there’s literally nothing in Tampa, Florida that had anything to do with what I wanted to do so I decided to pack up my bags and move to Dallas because I had been talking with Reel FX a little bit in the sense they knew who I was and that I was interested. They knew that my portfolio was light, so it was this weird, “We don’t have a position now but maybe we will” relationship. So I moved out there because I was going to be sitting on my butt working on stuff at my parents, I might as well move in with Shane and try and build out our network in Dallas.
Chris: Well and you get to go lunches…if you’re just around, then you’re around.
Sarah: It was over halfway to LA. So…yeah.
Chris: Stop #1.
Sarah: Yeah, it was the middle of the country, so getting from Florida to LA is not really easy so it was kind of something that Shane and I talked about. It would save us both money moving in together because we’d split rent and you know, all the good things that come from having a significant other to share an apartment with. And yeah, like he said being around it was actually a very good thing for me because they ended up, I want to say I was out there for three or four weeks and I got called in to work on a freelance pitch. Yeah, and my first assignment out of school was on a Charmin Bears toilet tree pitch, and I was literally painting the toilet paper bits on the butt of a rendered bear. So that’s my big break. So you never know what your first job (inaudible) is going to be.
Chris: That is the greatest story I’ve ever heard.
Sarah: And you know, that only lasted a few weeks and it was a one-time freelance thing and then I ended up doing a few other freelance jobs for them. But they were every month or every couple of months, they weren’t consistent. I’d be in for like a week or a couple of days, so it wasn’t like a full-time thing, it was enough to get by but barely. The days I wasn’t in house freelancing, those were the days that I laid in bed and marathoned Lost.
Chris: Yeah, sure.
Sarah: And yeah, my portfolio though, I mean what are you going to do with Charmin Bears?
Chris: So hang on, hang on. What was that handout like? How does someone pitch you this gig? So um okay Sarah, we need maybe 18 or 20 bits of toilet paper to just kind of encircle, to festoon the bear’s butt?
Sarah: I have to tell you the spot idea I storyboarded. It wasn’t my idea, I had to do it for the agency and it was terrifying.
Chris: Oh my.
Sarah: I don’t think I can talk about it. But it definitely involved candles and mood music and a bathroom. So…
Chris: Oh my, wow.
Sarah: There’s only so much that I can put in the portfolio.