Featured Mentor: Mark Behm
AnimationMentor.com:
What inspired you to become an animator?

Mark Behm:
I grew up with Star Wars, Disney and Ray Harryhausen. I initially wanted to be somehow involved with special effects. My father was an artist and constantly fed me with inspiration of all kinds. He bought me the Illusion of Life for Christmas when I was 9. All those old Preston Blair Walt Foster books. Some years later I got the big black ILM book for Christmas and an old movie camera. As a kid I did everything from stop motion and 2D to miniature pyrotechnics and 3D makeup. Almost every book I owned, and many of my school books, had every outside margin filled with flip books. As it turns out, according to all my teachers, that's not what they're for. Much to the chagrin of those same teachers, I drew all the time.

I thought it was impossible to actually work as an animator so I focused on illustration as a trade. I didn't even know of schools that taught animation until I was almost out of college. After I was working in multimedia and doing the occasional animation for work, I saw Toy Story I knew that's what I had to do. So I invested a ton of time and money in an SGI and a copy of PowerAnimator and started trying to translate what I had learned as a kid.



AnimationMentor.com:
Who would you consider your mentor to be in animation?

Mark Behm:
My first real mentor was Chris Gilligan. He co-ran a small studio called Pitch Inc. in NYC and had been a stop-motion animator on James and the Giant Peach. We did some commercial work for him and he had set up an informal training program for artists. We did everything as a stop motion animator would have. Everything in CG was on stepped keys. You did what you would have done on a stop-motion set; only you could go back and refine! That was how he treated CG. We set keys, did another pass of breakdowns, then went straight ahead and filled in our in-betweens. All on 1s (sometimes with the luxury of 2s or 3s), no interpolation whatsoever. It was grueling, but it really taught you a lot about spacing and the importance of every frame. He was tough and very exacting. I wish I could have stayed longer to learn more. I've tried to find people wherever I work to do casual mentor situations where I could bring them thumbnails or tests I was working on to get feedback. At Big Idea I had time with Tom Bancroft and online with Doug Dooley. You can't ever stop learning in this business.



AnimationMentor.com:
What was your first animation job?

Mark Behm:
Well, I animated at the multimedia studio a bit, but first purely animation work I got was at Pitch Inc., the first story driven work was at Big Idea Productions.



AnimationMentor.com:
If you could do one thing differently on your journey to becoming an animator, what would it be?

Mark Behm:
I suppose I would have enjoyed the chance to go follow a traditional hand drawn path into Disney back in the early 90ís. Of course it would have been amazing to have something like Animation Mentor back when I started out.