June 22, 2020
Leon Simone graduated from CIA in May 2020 with a degree in Animation. His BFA thesis animation, Work Song, recently won Best Animation Award in the Madras Independent Film Festival.
I decided to make my film about a personal struggle that I thought a lot of other creatives could resonate with. I have depression and anxiety and it can be hard to make things that aren’t about living with that. A lot of writers often say things like they’re not sad enough to write, and even a lot of comedians with depression think that if they lose their sadness they won’t be funny anymore. I wanted to talk about growing past that and making work celebrating the little joys in life too. I think spoken word poetry is really powerful too and I write a lot of poems myself. I wanted to combine two of the things I'm most creative in to express these kind of difficult emotions about growth and creativity.
How long did you work on it? When did you start?
I actually had a different idea for my BFA film that I worked on up until the middle of the first semester [of my senior year]. It was a more traditional kind of short about a puppeteer named Marvin attending something I called Puppet Therapy with other puppeteers and ventriloquists. It was traditional in the sense that it had a linear narrative and would be animated and produced with a typical animation pipeline. I decided I really just wasn't passionate about this idea and ended up scrapping it entirely to make my film Work Song. It was a lot less traditional and a lot more experimental in the sense that no ones done something like that before. It was kind of scary and I had to convince my professors to trust me a lot, since a lot of it was me improvising on the spot, but in the end they did and I'm really grateful for that. I worked on it the whole year along with my other classes.
In addition to the film festival circuit, what are you hoping to do with the work?
I'd really like to make more animated poems like this. They don't all have to be my own but it was a lot of fun to share my work like that.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I've always kind of kept my plans up in the air. In the long run I'd love to make a name for myself as an experimental animator and filmmaker. Right now I'm working on freelancing jobs and creating non stop to just get out there more.
Why did you choose to study at CIA?
I'm originally from Buffalo, New York. I chose CIA because I really liked the size of the school and the community around it. Cleveland reminds me of Buffalo a lot. It's also three hours away from where I live so it's not too far from home but just enough that I got to be somewhere on my own.
What advice would you offer to a high school student looking to pursue a career in art and design?
Make what you want to make. You don't have to please everybody. If what you make is honest and from the heart I promise there will be someone who loves your work. That sounds really cheesy but I swear I mean it.
For more information about this or other CIA news, contact us here.