What do Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Elvis Perkins and Grizzly Bear have in common? They've all had the pleasure of having Sean Pecknold use his stop motion skills to bring their music to life. Along with that, he's a photographer and the mastermind behind Grandchildren. In issue 04, I had the chance to send him some questions via e-mail to which he shared with me stories of his roots as an artist. - Keba Robinson
Photo by Kyle Johnson
Keba: What attracted you to
Sean Pecknold: I think it was exposure
at an early age to animation and film. My dad would bring home a lot of
old epic movies and musicals. I shot photographs for a long time before
trying filmmaking and I think i got really interested in documentary work at
first, then that evolved into more narrative storytelling then that evolved
into animation where I am currently focused for the moment.
K: Can you think of the
first time you ever picked up a camera?
SP: I remember on a family
trip to hawaii i got addicted to one of those disposable cameras and started taking photos of small
insignificant things. Then in high school, i took a photography class and
got hooked on it.
K: What was your first
experimentation with film like?
SP: I remember making a
short film once about a guy who figured out how the world was going to end the
world by reading every book and newspaper article ever printed and finding
patterns in them. It was edited in camera and it didn't really make any
sense, but it got me excited about the process and about film.
K: What/who were your early
SP: I used to watch a lot of
films growing up with my dad and brother. A lot of Terry Gilliam and Monty Python, musicals and such. My dad was working on music videos in
the 90s that influenced me. The Simpsons was a big influence on our personalities I think, but also
attracted me to animation. All the Disney movies growing up were an
influence, but then also once i started watching stop motion animation by Jan
Svankmeyer and Will Vinton and Tim Burton, and also all the stop-motion from Sesame Street and Square One and 3-2-1 Contact, that got me really interested in that form.
But I was also really influenced by David Lynch, Wim Wenders, PT Anderson, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Woody Allen, and Richard Linklater. They all got me really excited about
K: Did you ever go to art
or film school…or
did you just hop right into doing your own thing?
SP: I never went to art or
film school. It could have been fun, but I was never good at learning in
a classroom. I guess I started getting serious about making stuff after
an inspiring travel experience I had in the early 2000's, and just tried to
teach myself as much as I could about editing and cameras, and storytelling.
K: What provokes the images
that you come up with for your music videos?
SP: I'm not really sure, I
usually try and think of something that to me fits the tone of the song.
Then I will try and match the visual style to that, and it goes from
K: Do the images for your
music videos come instantly when you hear the songs?
SP: Sometimes i get an
immediate image or scene but I usually spend a couple days thinking of a bunch
of ideas before landing on something I like. Then I usually do a bunch of
experiments to see if it could work with the time and budget, if any.
K: How would you describe
the story line behind the Mykonos video? I really love that one…it
seems pretty abstract until it gets to the castle part. But I really love
watching the geometric shapes interact with each other and morph into different arrangements in
the beginning. It makes me think of acrobatics…or the people who dance in
SP: Thanks, I think I wanted
to illustrate a classic journey using the simplest of shapes. And as I
went things got more and more elaborate and you can see the progression as it
I had done some tests
with a multiplane set up and some scraps of paper, and I loved how such simple
shapes could do so many things and transform and move. I wanted it to be
a strange shape-shifting world, where this main character travelled on a sort
of revenge quest and either knowingly or unknowingly destroys everything it
K: Is that construction
paper that you used?
SP: No we used a thicker
paper made by Canford. It's really great for art and animating.
K:The whole stop motion
thing must be very detail oriented and time consuming. I'm sure that sort of
process can either be a bit aggravating or really make you zone out into
whatever you're doing. What's it like for you?
SP: It's quite gratifying
really. It's time-consuming but the pay off is worth it once you start
seeing a shot come together.
We are usually working
out of my basement studio in Seattle and we put on some
records or a podcast and just get into it.
Time starts to fly by
after a while.
K: Do you do any sculpture
aside from your music videos? Seems like you’d be good at it.
SP: I love sculpting, it's
something i want to keep doing. I'm working on some pieces for an outdoor
show I have in mind. Sculpting is so gratifying, I would
recommend it to anyone,
even if only for an exercise.
K: Do you make music as
SP: I've tried, but I know
I'm no good at it. I enjoy singing with my family when it happens, and i
do a lot of sound design pieces that sometimes takes on a slight musical form, but as far as
writing songs, I'll leave that to the musicians.
K: What are some things
that you are constantly inspired by?
SP: Riding my bike, seeing a
new place, music, the outdoors, old movies, sounds, ice cream, old people,
history, and love.
K: Why do you enjoy
SP: Because I was never
really good at anything too practical.
K: Any interesting things
in the works?
SP: Some friends and I just
finished making an animation for the BBC Knowledge, and we are working on a pilot series for an online animated
television show as well. Also developing a couple other film and music video projects. I am definitely looking forward
to trying a bunch of new things over the next couple years.