Patrick Smith: Behind the Scenes

Patrick Smith: Behind the Scenes

Lorís Simón Salum

For those of you that were unaware of Literal’s debut in the film world with Ensoulment (2013), let me tell you right now: Literal produced a feature documentary last year, and it’s called Ensoulment: A Diverse Analysis of the Feminine in Western Culture. I recommend that everyone run and watch it right now, not only because it’s the greatest masterpiece ever made in the history of all human creative expression, but also because of the little jewels it holds in its animation. Patrick Smith, award-winning animator and founder of Blend Films, makes an exclusive appearance through his ink and paper. Previously known for his work directing the MTV series Daria, Smith has now 8 short films under his belt, and currently working on 3 further projects. Even though the technique is entrancing to the eye, what’s most valuable in his style is the message behind the pen. Without further delay, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Patrick Smith:


When did you first realize you wanted to become an animator? Did you ever think about doing live action filmmaking?

When I was young I wasn’t interested in film and I was vaguely interested in graphic design. I spent my time skateboarding and not really thinking about art. I got seriously injured when I was 20, and while I was recovering, I stumbled upon a book about animation in my college library, and I immediately felt the calling to be an animator. I’m not sure how it struck a chord with me, but since that day I haven’t stopped working at it. That was 22 years ago.

What made you go for more traditionally hand drawn animations instead of modern/digital techniques?

I don’t like computers. They hurt my eyes and they annoy me in a myriad of ways. I got into animation because I was entranced by the medium of hand drawn animation. I had no interest in clay, CG, cut-out, or live action film. Seeing drawings move is the element that fascinates me. That said, I realize that computers are a necessity and I would not be able to make films without them, but I try to keep them as a minimal role.

It feels like you started with some rather light-hearted work, like Daria or other commercials, but your personal films are a bit on the darker side, like Masks (2011) and Puppet (2006). Do you see an underlying theme in all your films?

masks_03Since the beginning, I’ve wanted to do more thought provoking, adult themes. I’ve always disliked that the medium was hijacked as a children’s medium. It’s capable of so much more. I’ve worked for a lot of TV shows that didn’t push any type of boundary, like Doug or Daria, but those were never my favorite types of shows. I loved working on Beavis and Butthead because I thought it was brilliantly new and funny. When it comes to my films, I like the unconditional freedom, therefore I draw exactly what I would like to see.

When you worked on Ensoulment, what were some of the obstacles you faced? Was this the first feature length project you had worked on?

Ensoulment was, by far, the longest project I’ve ever animated, I think the animation came in as over 30 minutes. Also, it was the first time I worked entirely digitally, using the Cintiq. The Cintiq served me well, because there was just no way I could have animated that much footage on pencil and paper, it would have taken years.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 12.54.45 PMTell us about the new documentary you are working on, Orchard. What is that all about and how are you incorporating your animations?

Orchard is part of a three segment project, all based on interviews with extraordinary people addressing a particular subject. Orchard is the name of a well known brothel in Singapore, and I have collected interviews with many of the working girls. I don’t have an agenda to the film. I simply want the film to bear witness, to observe and uncover many of the hard truths behind legalized prostitution in Singapore.

Pull, is it out yet? What’s that about?

Pull is the final film in my first body of work, the imagery is similar to my other films, Puppet, Masks, and Drink, all of which address identity through symbolic imagery. In Pull, the two main characters are literally attached, Siamese twin style. The overwhelming goal for the charters is to separate themselves. As I have observed in my own life, it’s impossible to hide from the many facets of your own identity, and that’s where the story takes shape.

What’s next?Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 1.06.18 PM

Pull will be my next film. After that Orchard and the two other films that go along with that, that will hopefully be packaged together to make a longer format film. Outside of my films, I’m busy doing the show Blank on Blank for PBS, a show similar to my approach I’m using for Orchard, basically interpreting interviews with imagery. Similar to Ensoulment, this show is drawn entirely on the Cintiq.

Follow Patrick Smith’s blog. 


LorisLorís Simón Salum is a psychotherapist in private practice in Houston, TX. She is the author of Ensoulment: Exploring the Feminine Principle in Western Culture (2016), as well as the film director of the multi award-winning documentary Ensoulment: A Diverse Analysis of the Feminine in Western Culture (2013). She was the Creative Director for Literal Magazine for over 10 years. Some of her projects included Literally Short Film Festival, Literal’s short international film festival, and Literally Everything, Literal’s podcast. You can find her at


Posted: June 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

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