By Kinsee Morlan
Landing the award for best animated short at the Florida Film Festival in April was only the beginning of the good news for San Diego comic-book artist and filmmaker Randall Christopher.
Christopher's winning submission, Kleeman and Mike in Backyard Jam, also caught the attention of Network A, a YouTube One Channel focused on skating, surfing and other action sports. Now, Network A is working with Christopher on Skate Sketch, a series of 10 animated shorts that debuted online in mid-June.
"It's very design-focused," says Christopher of the 90-second episodes. "Skateboarders are going to get it - there will be plenty of inside skateboard gags - but it will appeal to everyone. And design nerds will like it."
Christopher earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University in 2000, and now lives in San Diego. It was after seeing Kleeman and Mike in Backyard Jam at an event in Encinitas that a Network A representative first approached him.
Rather than hand over rights to his signature animation, Christopher and his longtime friend and collaborator, famed surf artist Andy Davis, pitched the Skate Sketch concept, eventually getting the green light. They enlisted the musical talents of Spencer Rabin (from local band Little Deadman) and got to work, making experimental motion- graphic animations that pick apart, poke fun at and celebrate Southern California skate culture.
"We've all been around it our whole life and we have some funny ideas about it," says Davis, who, for the last two years, has been working with Billabong on his namesake collection of board shorts and other surf apparel. "I think not being involved with a skate brand, or a skate company funding it, allowed us to take an organic approach and really do whatever we felt like. The network has taken a really hands-off approach."
Both Christopher and Davis write and provide the artwork for the show. Christopher does the technical work; Davis handles art direction. When it's complete, they turn their collaboration over to Rabin, who composes the musical scores.
Skate Sketch Episode 1 focuses on the components of a skateboard and features a comedic, bilingual voiceover by Davis' son. Episode 2 is a romp through town on a skateboard. Episode 3 is a hilarious 1960s Department of Education- style spoof about skateboard safety. Christopher and co. are still brainstorming the rest of the series, but reveal that the final episode will satirize the concept of starting your own skate company.
"Because that's what you do when you're a skater," Christopher says. "You eventually start your own apparel company."
If one or two of the episodes go viral, Christopher says he thinks the Network A folks will sign the crew for another series.
"The main thing we're trying to do is just make people laugh," Davis says.