Dylan Glynn is a Toronto-based director whose short films, including “Service Magique” (above), have screened in festivals worldwide, earning him distinctions including a Canadian Screen Award nomination. His shifting, playful style and bright, bleeding color palette have splashed across campaigns for Redbull and Columbia Pictures and onto the pages of The Huffington Post and Vice Magazine. He is soon to be a published children’s book creator and is Animation Director for the art+literary journal Nat.Brut. Dylan and I discussed French bureaucracy, the freelance route, and a famous drag queen horse.
When did you know you wanted to make art professionally?
It’s funny: I went to an arts high school, but I never thought about doing it professionally. I was sort of socialized into the whole ‘starving artist’ stereotype and believed it. My mom really expected me to bring home As, and I was pretty good at math, so I figured I’d go into business or something. But an older student at my school who was super talented and working hard to pursue animation at Sheridan encouraged me to consider that path. So by the end of 11th grade, I was drawing everyday and really motivated to get better, because I knew I wanted to go to Sheridan for animation.
How did you like the Classical Animation program at Sheridan?
It’s a great community of talented artists. I think the community is Sheridan’s greatest asset. And there are some really incredible teachers. Tim McCormack, I’m lucky to have as a friend; he’s an amazing person and mentor. And Chris Walsh, who encouraged me to have broad tastes. They made me feel like my voice and personal style was valid and worth developing. Sheridan focuses on preparing its students for the industry, especially in Toronto. I thought I would work as like a concept artist or pre-production designer but after a couple years out of school I learned that I actually had a pretty naive and inaccurate idea of what those jobs actually are. Gradually I stopped focusing on trying to work as a pre-production/concept artist and focused more on creating a portfolio of animated shorts with a consistent “brand”. It was a relief to have professors encourage me to deviate and do my own thing. Sheridan also produces fantastic artists, probably because there’s a big culture of life drawing there. I used to really love life drawing and still like it. But I actually think Sheridan is too centered on life drawing.
It’s like life drawing is emphasized over other important areas of filmmaking. There’s a notion at Sheridan that if you can succeed at life drawing, you can succeed at anything. But something like storyboarding requires so many skills in storytelling and filmmaking that you just don’t learn drawing figures. So although Sheridan produces awesome artists, there aren’t as many awesome films coming out of each year’s class as there probably should be. Which is a shame, considering the talent in that pool.
Did you always know you wanted to be independent?
Pretty much. I did my co-op at Imaginism Studios, which is a very independent, artist-driven studio a bit apart from the core Toronto industry. After graduation I was a gymnastics coach for two years while figuring out how I could do what I’m doing now: be an independent illustrator, animator, director. I didn’t have the portfolio built yet. A year out of school, I was fretting about not being part of the industry and feeling like I should be, so I started doing tests. If I’d gotten one of those jobs, I probably would have taken it, and things would have been very, very different. Instead, I went back to school.
And your ‘big break’ happened in that directing for animation program?
Yeah – I made a film called “Lost Daughter” that got me visibility on Vimeo which led to my first client gigs. Which was totally my goal making it – I worked my ass off on it. I flexed all of the technical ability I had at that time. My graduation film from Sheridan was messy, so this was another shot at making something that could be a game-changer for my career. And it was – I got contacted by a company called Booooooom, and they commissioned me to do a spot for Redbull. After that I got a 1-minute animation job from CBC (the Canadian Broadcast Commission). And I’ve been taking freelance jobs and making films since.
What client work are you most proud of?
I just finished up a project with Vevo, the music video platform. They have a series of interviews with musicians called, “The World According To,” and they commission animations to complement them. I just did one, “The World According to Princess Nokia,” that I loved working on. Vevo was very easy to work with and I had a lot of fun with it. I’m also working on a kids book now that I’m excited about. I’m the author and illustrator. I can’t say much, but it’s called Rain Boy and it’ll be published in spring 2020 by Chronicle Books.
That’s so exciting! Where do you usually derive inspiration for your work?
From life. The classic answer. But it’s often stuff that I’m thinking about a lot. Or personal stories. I’m kind of known for melancholic films and images, which I didn’t even realize until someone close to me pointed it out. I never really thought of my work as sad… I’m honestly just not really into drawing characters smiling! It’s cheesy to me. I like depicting peaceful settings, and characters at peace. I have a reverence for nature, so that’s a major inspiration. And some of my work is more comedic. I mean, my friends all know me for always cracking jokes. My comics are often just transcribed conversations that I’ve had. Like I did a zine called “Asian Mother Alert” by just writing and drawing actual conversations I’ve had with my mom.
Ha, that’s the best. What inspired “Service Magique”?
I was in France for grad school, and France has a super rigorous bureaucracy. Administrative bodies hold you back from doing anything and everything. The character in the short is a caricature of my friend from school, Krishna, who’s from India. He was constantly dealing with tons of paperwork just to stay in the country. In fact, just this month he moved back to India! So it was sort of a satirical look at bureaucracy, but through the frame of an amusement park. It was also just like, embracing the fact that I don’t fit into a studio pipeline. Sheridan was very Mickey Mouse oriented. They’re training kids to be Disney artists, so they kind of force a Disney POV. It’s almost cultish. And the other inspiration was, I worked at a theme park when I was 17 going on 18. Once when I was going through bag check they found a tiny bit of weed on me. And it was a whole big deal. I got fired and they took me to this grey holding room that was kind of like a prison cell.
Disturbing…. what are your favorite films and artists?
My favorite films are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American Beauty, The Tree of Life, Harold and Maude, and Her. I guess I do gravitate toward things with melancholic vibes. I’m a huge fan of the homoerotic figure painter Louis Fratino, as well as Jillian Tamaki, Phoung Mai Nguyen, and Reza Riahi, who was the Art Director on The Breadwinner. I also love Mogu Takahashi, the childlike naivete in her designs. And Tara Booth.
What is your Dream, if you have one?
I guess just doing what I want to do. I was talking with another artist the other day, Hallie Bateman, about how when you achieve one dream, it opens up room for another. She’s written editorials, published comics, illustrated books, made music – and now she’s getting into live action film. The beauty of being a freelance artist is that you have no obligation to limit your work to one or even a few mediums. I have a dream of co-directing a live action film that uses animation sequences for memories, fantasies and dreams, very stylized in contrast to the live action, the look of ‘real life’. I love music and want to continue making music digitally, and experimenting with how image and sound complement each other. I have animated TV show ideas that I would be thrilled to see come to life; one is called “Pony Tale” about a drag queen horse – Coco Chantilly Desert Rose Moon-Glitter Shine-Bright – who lives with her butch cowgirl Jo and believes she is a star. Another is called “What’s Up Dog?” about yogi dogs living in LA – very much inspired by the Instagram account OverheardLA.
Wow, it sounds like you want to do it all!
I do! I want to continue growing as an artist and filmmaker, continue finding new ways to challenge myself creatively. I guess that is my dream. ❀
Thanks so much for the interview Dylan! You already know the love I have for your work (& especially Coco <3) Can’t wait for Rain Boy and to keep up with all your awesome projects!
– Cooper ❀