Bill Plympton Talks Kickstarter and His New Feature, Cheatin’
It’s doubtful you’ll find anyone in animation more genuinely humble than Bill Plympton. Nor more prolific. Or driven. From his early days drawing comics for Penthouse, Screw and The New York Times, to his most recent feature film production effort, Bill’s productivity is as legendary as his thematic penchant for sex, violence and ironic humor. He draws constantly, travels the world continually, promotes his work incessantly and always has several shorts, features, comic books and other creative endeavors in various stages of production. The more the community points to him as a shining example of the spirit of independent animation, the more he downplays his accomplishments, his longevity and the tremendous impact he has had on more than one generation of artists.
Both his 2011 marriage to Sandrine Flament and the recent birth of his first child seem to have re-invigorated him physically and creatively. I recently had a chance to sit with Bill, both in Stuttgart and in Annecy, talking about the realities of life as an indie animator, his new film Cheatin’ and the Kickstarter campaign that allowed him to finish its production.
Bill Plympton: Guess what? It’s my birthday in two days.
Dan Sarto: That’s great. Happy Birthday! What’s it like turning 40? [Laughs]
BP: [Laughs] Well I’m feeling good. I got married, I’ve got a new baby and I’m starting life anew. It’s a new beginning.
DS: Congratulations. So tell me about the new film and the Kickstarter fundraising campaign that helped get it finished.
BP: Cheatin’ is a story of two star crossed lovers. It’s a perfect romance. This is Romeo and Juliet times ten. But outsiders are jealous of them. They want to break up their relationship because it’s so beautiful and so perfect. So they plant little seeds of jealousy and suspicion. The couple actually starts to suspect the other is cheating on them. Hence the name Cheatin’. And so eventually they come to blows. They try to kill each other. It becomes very, very violent. A typical comedy from Bill Plympton [laughs].
DS: [Laughs] Just a little conflict.
BP: But it has a wonderful, happy ending. Nobody dies, it’s just for fun. But it’s a darker film. It definitely has some viciousness to it. I’m inspired a lot by James M. Cain, the guy who did Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. I love those Hollywood noir films from the 30’s and 40’s, where these beautiful women are very seductive but yet are killers at the same time. I kind of use those types of characters in this film. So it’s a very Hollywood noir kind of story.
Cheatin’ is a real diversion for me. It’s watercolored animation. I do the original drawings in pencil with a lot of shading and cross hatching, building up on the shadows. Then they are scanned and go to our colorists. We have five or six colorists who put a watercolor technique on top. It’s really luscious. It’s just so delicious to watch these scenes come in when they’re finished.
The problem is it’s very expensive and very time consuming to put on all these layers of watercolor. So I found that I was running out of money quicker than I expected. On a film like Idiots and Angels, the budget was about $150,000. Cheatin’ is approaching $400,000. I just don’t have that kind of money. My pockets aren’t that deep. So we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign. We opened it up I think the 1st of December . We knew that was the Christmas holiday season and we wouldn’t get a lot of money in December, so we extended it through January because we were hoping that people would be generous after Christmas and take part in it.
We had lots of great gifts for people who wanted to join in. We had lithographs of the art work, which are really beautiful. We had my original pencil drawings, DVDs, copies of my new book. I have a brand new art book out with Rizzoli Publications. If you pledged more you got to have your name in the credits as a producer, have dinner with me, get a portrait of me or a portrait of yourself done by me. So it was pretty cool stuff. We put the goal at $75,000. We thought that was fairly safe. Well, we exceeded $100,000 so we were very successful.
DS: That’s fantastic!