Mark Kirkland 11/16/16

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Mark Kirkland is a three-time Emmy award-winning director (The Simpsons), an award-winning filmmaker, writer/director, antique movie camera curator and cinematographer. He is an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and he has served as a Governor for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

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29 thoughts on “Mark Kirkland 11/16/16

  1. Disclaimer: with the exception of the crossover episode with Family Guy, I’ve never seen the Simpsons (scandalous!). I know how iconic it is, though.

    The thing I found most interesting about Mark’s presentation was the theme he was drawn to of documenting his work and life environments artistically through photography and keeping a sketchbook. That’s something I’ve been thinking about doing more of through photography and film, but haven’t been sure it would be worth the time. Mark validated that it can indeed be something valuable to do, as well as good practice for skill sharpening. On that note, I appreciated his reminder that honing your eye and artistic ability are lifelong lessons that need to be exercised regular.

    Mark put a lot of emphasis on drawing ability when it comes to storyboarding, layout, and character design. I like drawing and I understand how useful it is, but I don’t love it; I don’t live to draw the way many others do. I love the idea of becoming a layout or storyboard artist because I’m drawn to the creativity behind it and I think my background as a photographer lends itself well to compositing and lighting within a frame. However, I’d rather explore content in this way through other mediums, and I’m not sure if studios will go for that. I’m going to try to develop my own style of storyboarding/layout (that is hopefully compelling) anyway.

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  2. Another phenomenal presentation! Mark Kirkland’s advice inspires beyond animation. I’ve always admired artist who can have a professional life and still find a way to work on personal projects. As a traditional medium artists, i really enjoyed Kirkland’s input on the studio transitioning to digital rather than continuing to work on paper.

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  3. I like his concept of a show being a universe, and I really enjoyed him sharing production procedures and secrets of animated TV series back then. I like the fact that even the writers are more in charge of the story, he still provides input and shares his idea just in case it gets used, and I think it does feel great to see your idea becomes a reality especially on a show you really care about. I think the Simpsons is a brilliant show and every episode and special shows there are a lot of thoughts been put into it, it is indeed a very detailed show as people working on it are creating another reality that they truly believe in. It is one of the reasons I wanted to do animation is because I was able to create my own world and give it colour and soul, in order to do that, one has to always take from the reality and adds one’s own imagination. I feel like Mark’s show does a great job of that and I am rather inspired by his idea of working small at first, I think for my next project I will start with some thumbnail drawings to see how they look together.

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  4. It was great to see Mark’s presentation on Wednesday. I enjoyed watching his early works and how those led him to his professional career. A point that stood out to me was when he mentioned the wisdom of the great Jules Engel, “Solve the problem small” when it comes to storyboards and designs is a great idea that I look forward to trying out. Also when he explained that even if you’re assigned a bad idea, you have to do it to your best ability, if even just to show the higher ups that the idea doesn’t work. The final piece of advice that really resonated with me was when Mark talked about having a life outside of animation. It’s super easy to get sucked into the details of this medium and It was good to hear him talk about that. I was happy to have Mark here for a presentation and found it to be inspirational and interesting.

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  5. I and a bunch of my friend love Simpsons show, many thanks for Mark to share his experience of making this great work. And from what he shows I am inspired so much about how to this show comes out and how to better operate my own work. The most memorable thing for me is that they really done a lot of work, like storyboard and still picture in very small scale on paper.I really want try and retire to paper from digital for a while and now is time to try. Simpson guys do that! Also, from his talking, I’ve got know how their manage the story, how the team discuss and push the story forward until it is finally showed. That is so helpful for me cause I really wish I can have a team to make animation feature,short or show in the future. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Simpsons is a fantastic animation, and it brings us too much fun. My friend and I love Simpsons for many years. I bought a Simpsons toy 3 years ago and it still stand on my computer desk. Mark’s hand drawing is perfect, and I gained many inspirations of his works. I love entertainment animation very much and decide to create as my future career. I was so excited about he shared his sketchbook with us. Because I have my own sketchbook and carry it in my bag every day, I love to record my life on it. He showed us many interesting character design on his sketchbook and all of them have their own special part. I would consist to draw on sketchbook in the future and never give up. Moreover, I like traditional animation that does animation on paper. We have a class like this and I am really enjoy, even it is hard and tired. All in all, this seminar is really wonderful and leaves us full of happy memories.

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  7. I appreciated how Mark showed us many behind the scenes process of making the Simpsons. It was interesting to see how they shifted and adapted from paper to digital. Simpsons team seems to have strong bond and a family vibe environment. It’s inspiring how even though Simpsons has become so big, they still stick with many of the values they started with. I loved the explanation on how Lisa is vegetarian! I think it was helpful how Mark gave the advice to have a hobby outside of animation. It was charming how he shared his collection of old film cameras and his silent movie. Think it is important to keep a balance.

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  8. Mark Kirkland’s behind the scenes look of The Simpsons really give a good feel of how an animated work comes together as a team. Of course, one might say Starting from a storyboard and/or script and ending to create a completed animation, the behind the scenes look provided me more information on with how collaboration within the animation industry works. Further on the subject of collaboration, he seemed really fond of the team he worked with. It may seem cliché to say, but I could really feel he cared for them like they were a family. After working so many years with them, I would not doubt if they all grew on him, even the ones who might be a little annoying (they know who they are)!

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  9. It was such enjoyable to see all the behind scenes of his work. It could be seen like he was so lucky that he had many chances to expand his work . On the other hand, even though he got the chance, but It would be possible to success if he was not ready for it. He has unique style and skills to catch attention from many people.
    Moreover, his the most famous show Simpsons, as we know the series are loved by people for long time and it still has the power. I loved openings form each episode and always wait for the special opening scenes such as Halloween or Christmas.

    I am so glade to see him and his work from university.

    thank you.

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  10. It was such a great evening with the man behind one of the most beloved and successful animated shows like “The Simpsons” sharing stories about his experience in animation industry. I really appreciate Mark Kirkland presentation on how he and his team worked on the show production, from analog to digital, voice acting and the idea of creating the show with a very complete world of its own. One of the things that I really loved about his presentation is how he took pictures of the laughters when they are screening the show. It is a special feeling to watch how the audience feel about something that we created. I can really feel the special relationship between him and the show’s character like Homer. He really knows how and when to make the audience laugh and that is what very special about The Simpson.
    I also appreciate his sense of humor as he showed us his short film. It was fun to watch and very entertaining.

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  11. I appreciated the chance to hear about how a Simpsons episode is made since I enjoyed watching “The Simpsons” growing up, and fondly remember the episodes that Mark Kirkland mentioned during this seminar. It was interesting to hear how even though prime-time animation shows are led by the writers, the animators can still provide some input, as Mark Kirkland did in the evolution-of-Homer couch gag with the appearance of Lenny the dragonfly. It is encouraging to know that even when an animator is following another person’s outline/vision, he can still add his own personal flair.

    Finally, I really enjoyed Mark’s animal-cracker student film. The way he combined striking visuals — neon flying crackers! — with the African soundtrack was effectively entertaining.

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  12. Mark Kirkland’s presentation was inspiring. I like watching Simpsons, the Simpsons is a really successful TV cartoon and sitcom, the show ensures an exciting plot it has extremely funny scenes; and it could be hilarious to any child or adult. They keep things fresh with each new season. I all enjoyed Mark’s silent film” The moving picture co 1914”. It was an excellent film and I am very happy to see it, I really admire his passion to collect all those cameras and make a film of it. Glad to have him here for the seminar, a wonderful experience.

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  13. Mark Kirkland’s lecture was a true treat for us animation students. Not only is the simpsons a staple of american television, but a behemoth in tv animation. It was awesome to hear about the process of the show, and how story works behind the scenes. I especially like that the story artists often use post it notes when planning out a story.

    A bit of wisdom I appreciated from Mark was about how when he is given a gag he struggled with he would try to story it out anyways, but also include his own ideas as well. He trusted his team and that gags that fit would make it through. I think Marks’ attitude shows that being a good team player is really important to success, as it lead him to a wonderful career on the show.

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  14. I really appreciate both Mark’s works and his style of presentation. I thought it was really unique for him to mention the importance of having a sketchbook as an artist/animator and to keep updating it. He has inspired me to buy a horizontal sketchbook which I hope will encourage me to draw larger scenes and help me with composition. It’s really amazing how the Simpsons have so many episodes yet each episode is self contained and special. The sheer number of episodes allow the production team to create their own universe. For my production 1 project, I’ve decided to work with Daniel to create a large collection of short animation sequences with I hope will be greater than the sum of its parts.

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  15. I really didn’t expect this lecture to be that good, it was very informative and useful for me. I got a lot of information about storyboarding and directing positions in TV production. It was also a good chance to know more about TV projects pipeline. I didn’t like the silent film that much but I admire the effort of making a silent film in this era.

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  16. It’s always fun to converse with people about their passions and what really drives and excites them about life. The genuine joy Mark had for his old cameras was refreshing and made me think about expanding areas and interests in my life that are not linked to art. I really enjoyed the silent film he made though I didn’t expect too since my attention span seems too short to fully appreciate a majority of older silent films.

    Mark expressed that Ollie had encouraged him to have a life outside of animation. While this is an appealing idea I often wonder when and where one (especially students (especially, especially animation students)) find the time to do anything but art and animation. Most of the time, I forget I even have interests other than art until I take a break away from school. The last statement from the lecture, which I think is worth mentioning, is that student films come in 3 lengths: Long, Too long, and Much too long.

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  17. This was such a fun seminar! I grew up on Simpson’s jokes and quotes, it was so much fun seeing Mark’s career progression and the inside scoop on the show. For instance, the back and forth (I believe with Bono?) with Lisa becoming a vegetarian and that she has to stay one the rest of the show. He seems very laid-back and easy-going, but the level of detail in his notes and artwork shows how dedicated and passionate he is. I also really enjoyed seeing his personal film, and how he got friends and family -and Weird Al!- involved. It’s a true testament that you need to have outside passions and a life apart from your work, which is something I think many of us forget. I know I do, especially while in school. Many of our seminar guests have emphasized this; I would really like to take our upcoming holiday break to brainstorm a new hobby that I’ll stick to or something that I would like to learn, and start this upcoming new year fresh!

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  18. The Simpsons might be my source number one of American culture. If I’m not having a crazy cultural shock is because I´ve been watching The Simpsons my whole life and so, getting a glimpse of how the show works and also, how it has evolved through all these years, was a great experience to have in seminar. I found curious that he showed us his graduation animation with what seemed like shyness. A project that was, in my perspective, very interesting. Also, I enjoyed seeing his side project. It gives you the whole perspective of an artist, because one of the things I’ve seen consistently in this first semester, not only in seminar, but also in history and fundamentals is that many times, animators that work in mainstream media, tend to have side projects happening simultaneously, during all their lives.

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  19. Mark Kirkland’s presentation is absolutely helpful and interesting for me. His good sense of humor can let me know why and how he can create Simpson Series which tell dark, ironic and hilarious jokes and stories so well and precise. And I do enjoy seeing how he deals with storyboards with very tiny thumbnail drawings. He explains to us that it’s always the best to solve the problem when it is small. For me, it is not only for creation of art but also for life too. When people can tell big story but with simple precise design, everything must start from small and basic. Things need to be figured out at first so that will be able to express efficiently.

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  20. It was such enjoyable to see all the behind scenes of his work. It could be seen like he was so lucky that he had many chances to expand his work . His presentation was also absolutely helpful and inspiring to me. I like his sense of humor and that was the most important part to create a successful tv show like Simpson Series. It was also really luck to have the chance to know the story behind the show . And I appreciated all the handdrawing work they did for the show.And the slice film he played at the end was funny. I admire the poison and hard-working they offered to the whole industry .

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  21. Long-live Simpsons!
    Sometimes, there are some moments that I realised that I’m really in America. One of them is when I meet creators of animations that I loved watching in S.Korea. My brother and I always like Simpsons since we were young, still mimicking Homer’s “D’oh” together.

    Mark Kirkland’s presentation is very inspiring and informative – especially the fact that he’s never stopped learning though he’s been in this industry for quite a time. I tend to forget refresh myself and spare some time to learn/be inspired when I get busy on stuffs(like assignments…) It’s good to be reminded that keeping my learning muscle flexible!

    I liked this personal works too. Thank you for sharing your works to us. It was really inspiring!!

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  22. The Simpsons such a great show. I remember watching it when Bart was mostly the main character. The show has changed in different ways through out the years. One might garner that the show moved along with the culture of Western life, or so it may seem from Mark Kirkland’s presentation.

    Mark Kirkland shared a great presentation on his early work, and how he moved into directorial work on the Simpson. He talked about many of the changes that took place with the Simpsons, like: Lisa’s progression, and Homer’s. Story is key. So wonderful to hear and see how much is put into the writing and story for this fantastic show.

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  23. Mark Kirkland’s presentation was very inspiring and interesting to hear.
    The Simpsons is a very popular show in Japan, and I watch the show since I was a little.
    So I enjoyed his stories behind the scenes…
    And I enjoyed watching his projects and works. I love he uses grains as filter and gives the tastes of vintage. I love the atmosphere and feeling.

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  24. I can’t believe Mark Kirkland started to animate at 17! For a person who is in the same industry for over 40 years, I can tell he really love his job. The gang writing that he introduces looks really fun! There are so many people work together to try to tell the story good and funny, no wonder it is a long live show!

    Keeping the sketchbook as a diary is a great suggestion for me. I don’t draw too much except for specific character design or storyboarding. Maybe I should start to draw more instead of writing. It will help me more of the visual thinking and improve my skills. Perhaps I will have some good ideas while doodling!

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  25. When I went to university to study animation, I was the same age with Mark starting to animate! I remember that time I know nothing about how to make animation. But now I could make a short animation film just by my own self. How amazing time changed me!

    I can see passion on Mark about animation, it encouraged me a lot! I have ever kept a sketch book with me before. But now I have draw by hand less and less, I always do digital works. But I feel it’s very helpful to keep a sketch book dan do more hand-drawing. I will have a new sketch book and doodle more!

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  26. This was really a fun seminar. The Simpsons is my favorite cartoon when I was a child. And it also a famous show in Taiwan.
    And I realized that the true master in their specialty is the people who never stop learning thought his life. Keeping sketch book is really a good reminder for me. After getting into undergrad, because of heavy workload, I spent most of time finishing assignment instead of doodling. And what really scared me is that I almost totally forget how fun the art is.
    After getting in to USC, I got some feeling back. I met lots of great people and attended wonderful classes here. I feel like I should start creating something again!

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  27. Mark’s suggestion about keeping a sketchbook was a really great reminder for me. This is something I did for a while and honestly thought I had been doing the last year… until he mentioned it. See, when Mark mentioned this I realized that I have been switching off from carrying my usual 4 journals to carrying around 2. I used to have a journal, a sketchbook, a book for lists and a calendar, but in the last year I’ve kept it to just a calendar and sketchbook which has meant chaos because my philosophy one how to categorize things changes on the regular. I think the reason for my downsizing can be attributed to the fact that I have become so used to carrying around the all-in-one tool smartphone. With a new year coming up, my resolutions are set.

    Back to Mark Kirkland. Mar reminds regularly that we should let things come to us. Mark Kirkland’s life is a great testament to this. Here’s a hard-working artist who has stayed true to himself and steadily moved towards opportunities that have given him the chance to be at his most observant and creative self. While there’s a degree to which you, of course, do have to go after the things you want, Hollywood seems to push this idea like steroids. While certainly, not everyone who works had ends up with the great fortune of a steady job working high up in the ranks for one of the smartest shows in history, I get the sense that Mark Kirkland wakes up every day with the mindset and openness of an artist. The race for him is slow and steady (as his passion project short films demonstrate) and every moment is packed to the brim with meaning, observation, and experience.

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  28. I really appreciated Mark’s presentation, he’s suggestion of keeping a sketchbook with you to help you build inspiration is so useful. One thing that really stands out is even if he is a professional in this industry, he keeps refreshing himself. Besides, I like his personal work too,I really enjoyed Mark’s animal-cracker student film, I really admire his passion.

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  29. In China many people know Simpson, but few people see this work; but in the United States, Simpson has been part of the history of the United states. My reflection is more, what time can have a Chinese like Simpson’s works can be a part of history, the most important thing is to have mark like artists pay for his years of effort to building a great work.

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