- Interview with Richard Bolland
With Google Buzz all the rage now, it’s hard to think that only a couple months ago Google Wave was blowing up the interwebs with people dying to get their invite and “get waving”. Google Wave launched with only 100,000 invites worldwide and began spreading with people dying to get their hands on the invites. I got my invites from Google and my first experience of the collaborative platform was an interview I did. It so happened that this interview was with the talented Richard Bolland.
The story of the interview is also one to share. It shows the magic and serendipity of the social web. I got to find out about Motion Graphics Artist and Filmmaker Richard initially through Twitter, where I stumbled across his profile and his blog and that’s where I saw some of his work including his Loerie Award-winning animated short “Sid Knobodi” and the video he co-directed for SA band Captain Stu. The rest was history, and the channel of information leading to this post is something to note: From Twitter to the blog to GMail and from GMail to Google Wave (a sign of things to come, maybe?) Anyway, enjoy the interesting life and times of Richard and where he is, how he got there and where he’s going.
African Digital Art: Give us a bit of a background to where you picked up art from.
Richard Bolland: So I grew up with my parents, who were potters, literally and figuratively. My dad made all types of pots, mainly selling them to tourists at the waterfront. My mother eventually moved onto mosaics and she is still doing that today. Both my grandmothers are artists. Marguriette Bolland was a resistance artist during apartheid and Gina Howard was a watercolour artist. My uncle is a glass maker and artist and specialises in stained glass windows. My other uncle is a carpenter. So it runs in the family. So i come from a pretty arty family.
So art runs in all the family?
Ironically my brother doesn’t possess a single ounce of art juice. He just plays and studies sports.
And at what point were you sure that this was the path you’d choose for your life?
When I was about 16 I was asked for the first time what I would like to become when I was older. It was one of those fill-out-a-form things. I wrote: Cartoonist, with Beavis and Butthead being my favourite cartoon. From then on I started doing cartoon/animations in FlashMX which was quite fun. I used to make cartoons that would rip off friends. I did art throughout junior and high school. And was always interested in the subject. During high school I would spend most breaks in the art room and paint throughout my free time. When high school came to an end I started looking for somewhere to study. All I wanted was to do FLASH and carry on with my cartoons. A friend of mine, Ryan McArthur, got a scholarship to Vega School of Brand Communication. They offered a Flash course as part of their Multi-Media degree. DEAL! I was sooo stoked.
So you applied…
Yeah, and I got accepted. From there I learnt how to do more Flash stuff and eventually learned how to work in After Effects and Final Cut Pro. Slowly but surely I realised that After Effects held a lot more animation techniques and wonders, so I eventually made a full swing into that programme. I began to really dig compositing and 2 and a half D animation within After Effects. I stayed up late every night at Vega and worked on my own projects as much as I could. In my final year I decided to do a risky mockumentary on my previous High School. I dubbed the high school: Chesterfield High – and began to gather a crew together and write a script. I decided to make the school into a off-the-wall high school education institute that believes in racism, sex with children and violence.
Interesting, so where did you start?
It was going to be a Investigative Journalism documentary into why this school is like this. I went into the school with the crew, shot about 10 hours of footage and interviews with various teachers and pupils. Then went into the editing suite and changed all my questions in the post into very provocative questions such as: Do you enjoy sleeping with your pupils? (in which they would answer: Yes, I enjoy it thoroughly) etc… After I finished the mockumentary I showed it to my lecturer who proceeded to think it was a joke that I had spent 3 weeks doing. He thought that I had hired actors and friends to act as the teachers and pupils. News slowly spread around and the head of Vega offically banned the documentary from going on any public forum. It was completely illegal: filming under false pretences, character defrauding and a couple other charges.
So was that the end of it?
Someone managed to get hold of this documentary and spread it around. Slowly I would get feedback from people on Facebook and at clubs/parties that they had seen this documentary. I began to become very scared as if the school ended up seeing this documentary I would be in huge trouble. I entitled the documentary “How media can manipulate footage” and began to use that as my excuse should it ever be discovered by the school. To this day I am not sure if my old school has seen the documentary and I have only ever been back once.
Did you start to pursue film from then?
I decided that filmmaking would be another path that I should follow. I was concerned that I hadn’t studied filmmaking so I pursued post-production and ended getting the Top Student Multi-Media award for 2008. That was a hugely humbling and amazing experience and I was very grateful that Vega has awarded me with that.
Speaking of awards, tell us where your Sid Knobodi animation came from.
I did the Flash animation Sid Knobodi in my 2nd year at Vega. My lecturer at the time didn’t really enjoy it, but I persisted with her and eventually she agreed to enter it into the Loerie Awards if I changed the music. So I changed the music, entered the animation and waited. Soon I was informed that it had received a nomination for Digital Media and I pretty much thought that would be the end of the road there. I didn’t bother attending the awards ceremony and instead went to play poker at a mates house. Late in the evening I received a call telling me that I had won! It was a good night! I won the poker game too!
So did that open any doors up as far as opportunities?
Yeah, I’m currently at Orijin doing Cinema 4D and lots of post-production and compositing stuff and it’s great here. But freelance I’ve still got some cool projects I’m up to. Last year we shot our first documentary at a Music Festival just outside of Cape Town called Rocking the Daisies – where we asked a bunch of people: if they could change one thing in the world, what would it be. We also documented some of the bands there and the general vibe. My colleague has already edited a short piece which he entitled: General Pass (mainly because we applied for a Media pass and weren’t granted one – all we got was a general pass).
Another project I’m excited about is a new documentary about a young man called Dowayne who was part of the Hard Livings Gang in Manenberg, Cape Town. He was addicted to TIK (Crystal Meth) at the age of 14 and became involved in gangs at the age of 16. An intervention happened when he realised that his life was going nowhere and made a complete turn around through a organisation called The Warehouse where he gave his life to Jesus and has made a pretty good recovery.
Impressive. When can we expect to see the documentary?
Hopefully by the end of February. Giving it the finishing touches now…
Interview by Mark Kaigwa.