Meet Rich Weston, one of our Brown Bag Films Toronto (formerly 9 Story) icons, who is currently manning the wheel as director on the new Magic School Bus series!
We caught up with Rich to chat about the importance of a creative team, his recent Canadian Screen Award nomination, and to get the lowdown on how daydreaming about alien worlds and galaxies far, far away led to a career directing all sorts of animated adventures.
1. What do you do in Toronto?
I’ve been with the studio for around eleven years now, so I’m pretty much a fixture at this point: Doorknob, wall hanging, desk lamp, take your pick. I’m also an artist and a director. Most recently, I directed the prime-time animated comedy Fugget About It and I’m currently directing the reboot of The Magic School Bus for Netflix and Scholastic.
2. What do you love most about your job?
I love being part of a creative team. I love storytelling and problem solving. The best part of my job is when I’m given something that on the surface may seem impossible to do, but then through brainstorming solutions with my crew, we come up with something incredible to make the impossible possible! I’m constantly inspired and impressed by the talent around me.
3. What is your origins story? Aka, how did you get to where you are today in your career?
This is going to sound strange, but I owe much of the success I’ve had in my adult life to a single night when I was six years old. My parents took me to a drive-in to watch Star Wars. So that’s corny, I know, but I became fascinated by the film. As a kid I loved everything about it, and since my mother was working for a paper company she would bring home giant rolls of paper for me to draw on. I drew endless scenes and characters from the film. For months it’s all I did. Then my family moved and I transferred to a new school. I had no friends and no connection to anyone. On my first day I sat at my desk and started to draw Darth Vader from memory. Suddenly, one of the kids in the class pulled it off my desk and passed it around and I became ‘the kid that draws’. I continued to draw and eventually made a career out of it. I’ve been in the industry for over twenty-five years now, I’ve made some great friendships, and even found my wife because of my decision to get into animation. None of which would have happened if not for those first few months and years sketching and daydreaming about alien worlds and galaxies far, far away. See how corny that last part was?
4. Who is one of your biggest influences or what inspires you?
My list of inspiration is too long to write out, but to break it down generally; mostly non-fiction science books, films, and old radio plays. X Minus One, Inner Sanctum, Theatre of the Mind. Anything that lets me close my eyes and imagine a world.
5. What have you found is the most challenging thing about working in the animation industry?
I think the hardest part about working in the animation industry has to be how you deal with your creativity after hours outside of work. I got into animation because I loved to draw, but once you’ve been in the industry for a while, sometimes you kind of want to find a different outlet for your creativity. I’ve never really been the kind of guy who could draw all day, then go home and draw all night for myself. I’ve always envied those who could though.
6. What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in animation?
Stay flexible and take advantage of the time you have to practice. Work on your visual library.
7. You were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Direction in an Animated Program or Series for Fugget About It this year, can you share your thoughts on the nomination?
I loved working on Fugget About It, we had a great team. So much of it was a collaborative effort between myself and the writers, the animation leads, the design and layout teams and the editor that I feel like there should be more than one name on the nomination.
8. Any great stories to share about working on the nominated episode “What The F#@k is the Grey Cup”?
First of all, I know nothing about football. If there’s a negative value for how much someone can know about a thing, that’s how much I know about football. So I actually had to learn about it in pretty much the same way the characters in the show did. I had to look at it like an educational show, but in this case an educational show with guns and vomit and explosive flaming diarrhea.
9. Final question about this episode, what’s it like to direct the most epic “puke” scene in animated history? (See a little sneak peek of the insanity here!)
The best part about it was how many times I actually had to act a few of the sequences out. Sometimes those are the best notes you can give.
10. Outside of work what is your story? (Outside interests and pastimes)
I’m kind of a science geek and sculptor. In my spare time I’ll sit in my living room surrounded by my fossils and oddities (bugs, trilobite fossils, triceratops ribs, spinosaur, mosasaur and megalodon teeth, meteorites, ammonites, and various rocks from around the world) and read or sketch or write while watching science fiction or documentaries. I sculpt and create masks and creature suits, juggle, and ride an electric unicycle. I’m probably the oldest ten-year-old kid you’ll ever meet.
11. And last up, could you leave us with a favourite quote before you head back to work bringing a certain magic bus back to life?
“The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
For more examples of Rich’s incredible artwork check out his Instagram!
And here is a little bonus content, a list of just some of the odd things you might find in Rich’s house, or even possibly on his desk at work!
Rich’s Collection of Inspiration and Oddities:
Tooth from a Spinosaur
Tooth from a Megalodon
Trilobites (that I dug up myself)Tooth from a Mososaur
A meteorite that was found in Siberia in the 1800’s
A bronzed human skull
A small piece of the moon (meteorite)
A piece of the great Pyramid
Sand from the floor of the Colosseum
A replica skull of a Paranthropus Boisei
Unicycles (electric and traditional)
Juggling balls and pins
Silicone masks that I’ve made along with a full body Groot Suit and an unfinished seven-and-a-half-foot forest giant in my bathroom