Father's Flicks
Movie Reviews
Film Links
About Us
Contact Us
Vicky Jenson, Live-Action & Animated Director

Vicky Jenson, Director

Vicky Jenson on the set of Family Tree

I first made contact with Vicky Jenson through the deadCENTER Film Festival. As I was researching films last April, I came across a film titled "Family Tree". Family Tree was an interesting live-action short, with just a little twist. I found out the director of this short was also the co-director of Shrek. Ok, now I was intrigued. An animation director who directed a live-action short and a pretty good one at that. There must be not only an interesting story behind this, but an interesting person as well.

I was hesitating at first to contact Vicky, not knowing if she would respond to some small film festival person in Oklahoma. It turns out that Vicky was very approachable (as approachable as you can get through email). I invited her to screen her film at the deadCENTER Film Festival. Not only did she screen the film, it represented the first time that an invite got the opportunity to show their film in the 35mm format. I had seen the film several times before it showed at the Noble Theater, but was even more impressed as I watched it on the big screen. For those who missed the screening, I am going to try and set up a screening through the Boffo Film Series, so stay tuned.

So let me introduce to you a lady who is one of the nicest and wittiest persons in the filmmaking industry.....Vicky Jenson

Vicky Jenson on the set of Family Tree

Shark Tale (2004) (filming)

Family Tree (2003)

Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party (2001) (V)

Shrek (2001)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) (layout designer)
... aka FernGully 1 (1992) (USA: short title)

"Ren & Stimpy Show, The" (1991) TV Series (background stylist)
... aka "VH-1 Ren and Stimpy Rocks" (1991) (USA: cable TV title)

"Mighty Mouse, the New Adventures" (1987) TV Series (background designer) (color key)

"Kwicky Koala Show, The" (1981) TV Series (background artist)


Vicky Jenson with Shrek Co-Director Andrew Adamson
  Answer This?
Q & A with Vicky Jenson

Film Addiction: How is directing an animated film different that directing a live action film?

 Vicky Jenson:Directing animation is similar to directing live action, only it takes a lot longer because you do one step at a time. For instance, in animation you rehearse a scene by storyboarding until you get a story reel that works. When it does, you record it with your actor. Meanwhile you're developing the art direction and look of the movie just like you would a live action movie: character designs, sets, lighting etc. In CG animation there's a stage we call layout that is essentially your cinematography stage. It's where you block the scene with stand-in characters and sets. The idea is to lock down staging before you begin to animate. When the animation is approved, the scene goes into lighting and where final texture and color is added.

The main benefit to this process is you have the ability to continue finessing and making adjustments through out.

The main DRAWBACK to this process is you have the ability to continue finessing and making adjustments through out

By comparison, in live action, the actual moment of directing is very hectic. All departments come together when your actors are in costume, on a lit set, with cameras ready and you yell action. After you yell cut, fifteen people dive at you with questions: the DP wants to know if the camera move was right, the actor needs guidance, the costumers want you to choose between the blue sweater or the red for the next scene and the producer needs you to move faster before the entire crew goes into overtime. Its great!

FA:What is your background in the animation field. Are you an animator as well?

VJ:Nope, I am not an animator though tried it a couple of times ages ago. I didn't have the patience. My background in animation in both art direction and storyboard.  I jumped back and forth between the two. I was a background stylist on stuff like Bakshi's Mighty Mouse, John Krisfalusi's Ren & Stimpy, and the Kroyer's feature FernGully the Last Rain Forrest. In between I storyboarded for all kinds of projects from He Man and the Masters of the Universe to Jem to live action commercials and features. I did a bit of producing too, at Universal Cartoons before joining DreamWorks. Before co-directing Shrek I was a production designer and storyboard artist on The Road to El Dorado.


Out promoting Family Tree

FA: You latest project "Sharkslayer" is loaded with an all-star cast. How did you get that much talent to commit to this project?

VJ:It's actually called Shark Tale now. I don't know how we did it, we pitched the idea to one fabulous actor after another and they all said yes! It is a little easier to get a cast like this for animation then live action because we can be flexible about recording. We dont have to get everyone together for the same six weeks like you would for a live action project.


FA: This question is from left field, but I must ask: Hollywood has the trend of setting a release date for a movie even before production starts. I noticed that for example Shark Tale has been set for a November release. What is the reasoning behind this? and Does this add pressure to have a project complete in a timely manner still maintaining the films integrity.


VJ:Actually I havent the faintest idea. I dont have an education in marketing or distribution so Ill leave all that stuff up to the team at the job is to make the best movie possible."


FA: Your live action directorial debut- The Family Tree was a real success (at least in my book). What other live action projects can we expect from you? If any at all?

Thank you so much! Im very proud of the work we all did on the short and I know learned a tremendous amount from doing it.

I am considering several projects right and you will be the first to know when one is close!


FA: Do you plan on eventually making the transition to directing all live-action or will you always stay with animated works?

VJ:I am already making that transition but I will not be leaving animation permanently. I plan to remain connected with DreamWorks if (knock wood) Shark Tale enjoys enough success to allow a sequel or another project invites my participation.


FA: Last question, I promise. Do movies like Sharks Tale represent the death-knell to hand drawn animation? (Are hand drawn animated projects going to cease to exist?)

VJ No, I dont believe traditional animation is dead. I dont believe its the medium but the story that attracts an audience. CG wont save a bad story. I do think the look of computer generated art and animation is just beginning to bloom. We are already beginning to see more stylized images and less photo real work emerging. But it isn't easy. Computers don't really make movies go faster, cheaper or better all by themselves. There is no magic key that says: make funnier.

I firmly believe when a truly great and wholly original traditionally animated movie (like Spirited Away) arrives to great box office it will be all the vogue again.


A Closer Look: Family Tree

Plot:Inspired by Ovid's tale of Baucis and Philemon, "Family Tree" revolves around a Thanksgiving get-together by a family that seems to need their conflicts more than they need each other for love or support.

Cast:Harland Williams, Talia Shire, Ethan Phillips, David Clark, Jackie Katzman, Gretchen German, Alix Koromzay, Ford Austin,Ryan Elmore