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The team here at Print is excited to announce our latest Designer of the Week: Liz Blazer. A filmmaker, art director, visual artist, designer, animator, author and educator, Blazer is committed to challenging our perceptions through storytelling and animation.
Read on to discover what she learned as a child that still serves her today, find out about her recent book, and hear about her favorite animated documentary short to date. Plus: Get the scoop on the challenges she’s facing with her current animated documentary project. It’s one we won’t want to miss.
Name: Liz Blazer
Location: New York-ish, OK New Jersey…
Design school attended:
University of Southern California (USC), School of Cinematic Arts
How would you describe your work?
I work in several creative disciplines: as a filmmaker, animator, author and educator. I especially enjoy making animated documentary films about regular, inspiring people. Whatever I create, it’s driven by storytelling, and aims to challenge audiences’ perceptions about a subject using animation. [Check out Blazer’s design predictions for this year.]
Where do you find inspiration?
Strangers and junk. I think that’s why I like flea markets so much. You get to talk to random people buying and selling the most unusual things. The objects all have stories behind them, and flea marketers love to share. I also talk to people in line at the supermarket, the mechanic’s shop, at the post office, etc. I must have gotten comfortable talking to strangers when I was a kid working in my father’s retail store. I learned that while people may look busy, they secretly want to connect, and love sharing stories.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Old favorites: UPA, Mary Blair, Lotte Reiniger, Dr. Seuss, Saul Bass. New favorites: Jorge R. Gutiérrez, Ariel Costa, Kim Dulaney, Lauren Indovina, Julia Pott, Jordan Bruner, Jamie Caliri.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
I have two favorite projects, one a piece of filmmaking, the other a piece of writing. I recently published the book Animated Storytelling: Simple Steps for Animation and Motion Graphics [interior shots pictured below]. I aimed to write the kind of paired-down, clear and simple guide a younger version of myself would have really benefitted from. Writing the book was a huge labor of love and I’m really proud of it.
As for the film, my animated documentary short about the romantic lives of senior citizens, Backseat Bingo, stands out as a favorite project. I made the short in response to watching my grandfather fall helplessly in love at eight-two years old. It made me realize that “old folks” can have very active and deep love lives, indeed. I was lucky enough to interview some amazing subjects for Backseat Bingo, and animated documentary provided the right medium through which audiences could let go of preconceived notions and see aging from a fresh angle.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I’m currently working on an animated documentary about 99-year-olds called “Green Bananas” [see stills below]. I’ve recorded about a dozen interviews with some amazing near-centenarians. The film poses questions about the keys to longevity and plays with the idea that living well and long is at least partially the result of keeping a youthful attitude. My subjects exude an energy (and even optimism) in their interviews that is so disarming—I think it’s important footage. But there’s a juxtaposition to work with —I have “old people,” with weathered sounding voices, and yet their words and ideas are so very young. I am struggling to capture that contradiction in the design of the film. How can animation reflect the sense of wonder my subjects are experiencing as they face their last years on earth? I’m getting closer through experimentation (I’ve even enlisted my nine-year-old son Evan to draw for me!), but I’m not there yet, and it’s a challenge!
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the lives of seniors and hope to spend some time interviewing kids in the future. I think creating an animated documentary about elementary education with children’s voices and children’s illustrations would be really revealing. I’d like to hear everything from real workable ideas about school to their ridiculous fantasies.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Work on the edge of your skill set so that you are always learning. Take the creative risks that bring you to uncomfortable places. Being forced to discover new possibilities in the use [of] your craft and working in that uneasy place is where magic happens. It’s easy to get in a groove and keep doing what you’re known for—but the biggest rewards come outside of your comfort zone.