Peter Sluszka interview: Youth In Revolt

Animator Peter Sluszka talks about creating his sequences for Youth In Revolt, as well as the work that didn't make the final cut...

One of the highlights of the now-on-DVD drama Youth In Revolt, starring Michael Cera, was the animated sequences in the film. They were put together by Peter Sluszka, and we had a chance to fire a few questions in his direction, which he’s kindly answered right here…

What kind of brief were you given for the animated sequences of the film?

First I was given the script with notations for where Miguel Arteta and Michael Cera wanted animated sequences. Then I presented proposals on how to approach each segment.

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It’s a terrific opening for the film that you’ve put together. Can you take us through what was involved, and how you had to shape and mould it together? 

We knew that there should be a slick transition from the live action opening to the animation, so we coordinated a camera move to clear sky and overhead trees. They shot the live action first and we matched the camera move with motion control on our fabricated set. Since the key actors were already introduced, the shift to animation puppets was even more interesting. It was also fun playing with scales, intentionally using a tiny car for the travelling aerial shots and intercutting with the larger car and characters.

Where in the production process did you come in? Presumably you needed the tone and direction of the characters absolutely locked down before you could get to work? 

I was introduced to the project fairly early on in pre-production and got to see the script evolve over several drafts. Initially there were more animation sequences but things were trimmed as the script developed.

How long did it take to do the work? How closely did you work with Miguel Arteta on the film?

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I worked on the project sporadically for well over a year with several months of intensely focused production. Mostly, I worked in New York but also had the opportunity to go to set in Michigan several times to work with Miguel and the actors directly. 

There were sequences you did that are on the disc that didn’t make the final cut. When did you find out they hadn’t made the cut, and were you okay with that?

That’s disappointing, of course, but inevitable on a feature, it seems. I was especially disappointed that the heart attack sequence, where we pixellated Zach Galifianakis was cut. Ultimately there are a lot of issues that the editor and director are grappling with, so you can’t take it personally when, in the best interest of the film, your work gets cut. 

Do you find stop-motion the purest and most rewarding form of animation? 

It’s the medium I enjoy working in but I wouldn’t call it pure or the purest. Maybe it’s the most gruelling in that you’re working on set under hot lights with rigs and characters for hours at a stretch, essentially tempting fate to screw with you in too many ways to count.

Do you have ambitions to make a full-length feature of your own?

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Definitely, although I enjoy taking on a variety of projects, it would be fun to focus on a longer format project for a while.

Finally, of which of your work are you proudest

That’s way too hard to answer, especially since it always changes. Hopefully it’s whatever I’m working on at the moment. Youth In Revolt definitely stands out as one of my favourites.

Thank you, Peter Sluszka.

Youth In Revolt is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 12 July from Momentum Pictures. You can find lots of Peter’s work right here.