Professional storyboard artist Erica Hayes joined the Rick and Morty channel on Gliph this past Saturday for a live AMA. If you weren’t able to make it to the chat, we summarized the Q&A below.
Rick and Morty is one of many chat channels on Gliph you can use to meet and connect with other people. Learn more about Gliph Channels here.
6pm PST – March 21st 2015
Tamara (Assistant to Justin Roiland): Today’s Q&A will be with Erica Hayes. One of our awesome storyboard artists on Rick and Morty! Please keep in mind NO season two questions will be answered.
Erica Hayes (Rick and Morty Artist): Hello! Thanks for having me.
Tamara: Fyi, Erica was also the artist who created “The Good Morty”
Erica Hayes: Yeah, that was fun times!
Q: EvanWas8: Do you go by Storyboard Artist Erica, Erica, or Er Bear?
A: Erica Hayes: Er-Bear is pretty cute, but Erica’s fine ^_^
Q: EvanWas8: Do you have a history with drawing comics or have you always done animation work?
A: Erica Hayes: I changed my major from animation to sequential art, so for 3 years, my primary focus was comics.
Q: Dissolve: How many storyboard artists on the team?
A: Erica Hayes: I believe there were six of us. 2 board artists per director.
Q: jay: are you into any comics at the moment?
A: Erica Hayes: I am. I’m halfway through the Walking Dead series, and I’m hugely into Saga. I also have a bunch of volume ones of various comics sitting on my shelves that I’ve yet to read.
Q: EvanWas8: Neat! Can you talk about that transition? [From animation to sequential art]
A: Erica Hayes: The transition mostly had to do with the realization that animators have very little creative control. I wanted to have a bit more power over staging and acting, and choosing shots.
Q: Dissolve: Who is the biggest jerk out of the entire team over at rick and morty?
A: Erica Hayes: No one’s a jerk! I love my Rick and Morty family.
Q: Vince: Approximately how long does it take to create a storyboard for an episode?
A: Erica Hayes: In general, we have our team of 2 board artists and 1 director, and we have about 2 weeks to thumbnail, 2 weeks to clean, and 1 week to revise per episode.
Q: nchopoorian: What was the hardest thing you ever had to draw for the show?
A: Erica Hayes: The hardest thing for me was in s2, which I can’t talk about. lol. Sorry!
Q: Dissolve: When you start a storyboard, what do you have to go off of? Is it like a script with notes?
A: Erica Hayes: Yeah, when we start, we are handed a script as well as any completed designs to go along with it that we will use for reference, and meet with Justin as well as heads of design and our storyboard supervisor. We flip through the whole episode and Justin gives any additional notes he has, and sort of gives us his overall vision.
Q: jazzninja: What was the most difficult episode to complete in season 1?
A: Erica Hayes: Probably either the finale or Rixty Minutes. For both of those, we had all hands on deck.
Q: autumn: how much direction do you get for the storyboard? do they provide just a script with a little stage direction or they or the director specify what’s going on in the environment and what each character is doing, etc?
A: Erica Hayes: We get a lot of freedom unless there is a very specific shot that Justin is envisioning for a specific scene. He normally just goes over the tone and feel of what he wants. We interpret from that and the script.
Q: Kimbo_Jones_: Do you have a lot of freedom when it comes to the spacey backgrounds and aliens on the show?
A: Erica Hayes: It depends on how much design is finished while we are in the boarding process. Sometimes we have to fill in the blanks ourselves, and then the designers work from our boards. It’s a give and take process.
Q: alcapony: How did you become a storyboarded on the show? What was your first gig in the industry? Any tips for aspiring artists?
A: Erica Hayes: I guess you could say my first gig was as a production intern at Nickelodeon while I was a Junior in college. But we weren’t allowed to draw, as we were unpaid. So my first real gig? Rick and Morty! I submitted my portfolio and resume and they gave me a storyboard test. They took a chance on me, and I started off as a revisionist, and worked my way up to board artist.
Q: pukakke: i’m going to provide the dumb questions: which variation of morty is your favourite morty? (ie. cowboy morty, hammer morty, etc. you can’t say the one good morty!)
A: Erica Hayes: Probably evil Morty. Too cool.
Q: EvanWas8: Can you talk about some of your influences in animation?
A: Erica Hayes: My first influence was definitely golden age Disney. That was my childhood. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here had I not lived through that. Miyazaki was a big one too, a bit later though. Now? It’s kind of everything. I’m a huge fan of things like Adventure Time, the recently ended Avatar series, and TV animation in general. As for film, I recently saw Song of the Sea and it totally blew my mind. Highly recommend.
Q: Sparkifyed: Do you ever get artists’ block? If so, how to you motivate yourself to draw again?
A: Erica Hayes: Yes, I totally get artist’s block. It especially sucks when it’s your job, because you literally have no choice but to push through it. You may be a bit slower than you normally are, but hey, you have to earn that paycheck. In terms of doing your own stuff, it’s easy to put things off when you don’t have a deadline. But if you do that, you could do that forever. I like to watch shows or listen to music that really inspires me to get back into the mindset of wanting to create.
Q: chastityface00: Are you a pen and paper type group or is it all digital
A: Erica Hayes: We are all digital. We all work on Cintiqs, and storyboard artists work on ToonBoom’s Storyboard Pro.
Q: Kimbo_Jones_: Who picked out rick hair color? Lol
A: Erica Hayes: I think Justin? He created the original short himself.
Q: jazzninja: I love “Jerrys Game”, did you have any hand it that? Haha
A: Erica Hayes: I had no hand in Jerry’s Game, unfortunately haha
Q: Sparkifyed: Do you watch Steven Universe? (I know I already asked a question but I need to know omg)
A: Erica Hayes: Stephen Universe is on my list! I finally got around to watching Over the Garden Wall, so that’s next.
Q: jay: whats your favorite studio ghibli movie?
A: Erica Hayes: It’s Spirited Away. I used to watch it over and over with my sisters, so it has a very special place in my heart.
Q: autumn: what was your favorite project for your portfolio?
A: Erica Hayes: That’s tough…I guess the Good Morty is my current favorite thing in there because it’s so crazy. haha
*Justin Roiland (Creator of Rick and Morty): Erica boarded a lot of summer scenes for season two. Can’t get into what they are, but it’s safe to say that the summer character is equal parts Erica, Spencer Grammer, and us writers
Erica Hayes: Oh hey Justin!! Haha. Thanks, Summer’s my fave!!
Q: Vince: I have another question. Is it hard to maintain a consistent drawing style between each frame of the storyboard?
A: Erica Hayes: Not really! All it takes is a little practice during the first couple weeks of any job, and you get used to the style. Some are a little tougher than others to master, but you get the hang of it.
Q: Kimbo_Jones_: Have you guys made any characters yourselves or do the writers run that mostly. Also who is your favorite side character?
A: Erica Hayes: I guess the only time we really get to “create” any character is if we’re filling in background characters or creating gags with new characters, but that’s usually the writers. Yeah, in terms of the design, it depends on if that character has already been designed or not. If not, we just do our thing.
Q: CraiggyEggy: What Neapolitan flavor do you eat first?
A: Erica Hayes: Vanilla, because I like it the least.
Q: chastity00: What is your spirit animal?
A: Erica Hayes: Elephant. Definitely.
Q: autumn: what do you work on outside of rick & morty to practice …not drawing Morties or try out new techniques? or… is drawing for 8 hours a day enough, haha
A: Erica Hayes: Yeah, 8 hours a day is plenty. But sometimes I feel like making my own fan art and then I’ll draw some more. Usually, at the end of a work week, I’m arted out. haha
Q: Kimbo_Jones_: You guys allowed to drink on the job mad men style? What’s your favorite beer or drink?
A: Erica Hayes: Depends on the occasion!
Q: Luis: What shows do you watch other than Rick and Morty?
A: Erica Hayes: Right now? Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Adventure Time, Sleepy Hollow. Orange Is the New Black when they add a new season. I have a huge list of to-watch, such as Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, Spartacus, Breaking Bad.
Q: CraiggyEggy: If there was one show you could have taken off the air, which would it be?
A: Erica Hayes: My mouth is zipped on that one.
Q: zip: What is yoi favorite type of scenes to storyboard?
A: Erica Hayes: Favorite type of scenes to board are the more serious or acting-heavy ones. I like when things get real.
Q: jonjohnsonson: dude, are the guys at adultswim on acid, or magic mushrooms? i bet the latter considering you’re in atl
A: Erica Hayes: We’re actually in Burbank, CA! We don’t work out of any Adult Swim building. We’re located at Starburns Industries.
Q: Daniel_B: Do you guys get to bump shoulders with animators from other studios? Ever gotten wind of how another series was going to end ahead of time?
A: Erica Hayes: The animation community is a fairly small one, so everyone is always bumping shoulders, and we’re also always being shuffled around. For instance, in the past couple months, I got to work on a new animated pilot for Comedy Central, as well as a couple weeks on Bojack Horseman season 2. Productions rarely last forever, so everyone eventually works everywhere.
Q: Dissolve: Were you offended when morty throws your carefully constructed “the good morty” on the ground”?
A: Erica Hayes: I made it after the season 1 was finished, but yes, after the fact, I was newly offended. haha
Q: Nem: What tools do you guys use, and I wanna know, do most of you work on OS X or Windows machines?
A: Erica Hayes: All of the artists work directly on Wacom Cintiqs. We are Windows folk. *I’m sorry, that was an error. We are Mac folk.
Q: lemurs eat xanax: I really love the color choices used for the environments and characters in Rick and Morty. It is a team effort to make color decisions or is that left up to a single person?
A: Erica Hayes: Color choices are left up to our color team, Justin, and head of design
Q: jay: what kinda music specifically gets you pumped while you work?
A: Erica Hayes: When I’m working I usually cycle through two of my pandora stations. One is solely instrumental, piano, and soundtrack. The other is just a collection of different genres. However, I have to listen to instrumental with no vocal when I thumbail. It requires a lot of thinking, and voices distract me.
Q: Luis: What’s your favorite episode so far.
A: Erica Hayes: My favorite episode is in season 2.
Q: zip: thanks for answering. Now a second question if that’s cool. Which character do you like to board in the serious scenes?
A: Erica Hayes: My favorite characters to board are in this order: Summer, Rick, Morty.
Q: EvanWas8: Please tell me the season 3 property brothers ep is coming
A: Erica Hayes: I know absolutely nothing about season 3 lol.
Q: Kimbo_Jones_: You ever do any voice acting like background small parts?
A: Erica Hayes: I’ve yet to do any voice acting! Would love to.
Q: CraiggyEggy: What’s your favorite cereal?
A: Erica Hayes: Fav cereal is Apple Jacks or Frosted Flakes
Q: Daniel_B: Are you guys using toon boom for animating and storyboarding?
A: Erica Hayes: Yep!
Q: EvanWas8: Do you see yourself show running in the future? Going back to comics? Other?
A: Erica Hayes: I do want to show run in the future! Creating my own show is a definite goal of mine. I’d also love to create a comic. I kind of want to do it all.
Q: chastityface00: Did you ever slip something in that made it all the way into the show and you were like “oh my god, I can’t believe they used that”?
A: Erica Hayes: I sort of got to design a character because the design didn’t exist yet, and they used my design all the way through. Can’t talk about it further than though. But no real easter eggs yet, i guess…too much of a wimp haha
Q: EvanWas8: Are you originally from LA/Burbank? If not, how was your move there?
A: Erica Hayes: I’m originally from Chicago. I went to school in Savannah, GA. And then moved out here after graduating!
Q: Rob (Gliph Admin): Erica, do you have any advice for people who are considering a career in animation? How was your experience at Savannah College of Art and Design?
A: Erica Hayes: My advice would be to try for an internship while still in school, even if it’s unpaid or running for coffee. You’ll make priceless connections who will remember you when the time comes for a real job. Also, even if you have to move out to LA and sleep on someone’s couch (like I did the first couple months), don’t give up!! Apply and send emails every day.
Q: EvanWas8: Long shot–do you know the band Triathalon? Most of them went to SCAD
A: Erica Hayes: Sounds familiar, but I can’t say I know much about them
Q: Mellybeans: Probably a stupid question that you guys are sick of answering/rejecting by now, but is there a bloody release date yet or are we still just, waiting on ‘Summer’.
A: Erica Hayes: Sorry, I know as much as you do in that regard!
Q: autumn: if you messed up and didn’t intern during school, do you have any advice! how did you decide where to apply or ..find openings?
A: Erica Hayes: Well, step number one is to be where the jobs are. When I first moved here, I was working at Starbucks to get by, until I got a lead. I was looking at sites like simplyhired and monster for the jobs I was seeking. I was also looking up company websites, and emailing them directly with my portfolio/resume. I got a part time freelance boarding gig for some advertising companies until Rick and Morty came along. I actually found out about the opening from a friend who got an email sent to UCLA grads about it. She already had a job, so she passed the info along to me. Then I applied!
Q: alcapony: How many places did you apply to before you landed one? Did you get a temp job to earn money until you got a storyboarding job? Thanks for answering! I’m in a sitch like this.
A: Erica Hayes: I applied everywhere I saw a job. I moved out here in November of 2012 and didn’t get Rick and Morty until about April of 2013.
Q: dier25: My friend just got accepted to CalArts character animation program. Any advice for her in her studies, etc?
A: Erica Hayes: I’d probably give her the same advice: Try to get an internship! CalArts is a great school with the most connections a school can get, though. If she works hard and impresses her teachers, those professors probably know everyone in the industry. If that fails, move out here and just keep bugging and emailing people until someone gives her a chance.
Q: EvanWas8: What’s the most unexpected thing you learned about storyboarding, the animation process, television, etc. (intentionally broad)?
A: Erica Hayes: Hmm. For storyboarding, it’s probably that you never stop learning (at least I haven’t). There are so many choices to make, and there’s a lot of right answers. There’s also a lot of wrong answers. You learn from other board artists, you learn from TV, directors, books, everything. And sometimes you’ll just have a lightbulb moment. As for the process, I suppose just how dependent every single department is on each other. We’re an assembly line, and it constantly moving. If one part of the line messes up, it can mess up the whole thing. As I said earlier, we’re very give and take, give and take.
Q: Daniel_B: Did employers expect you to bring in a portfolio or was a website based one sufficient?
A: Erica Hayes: Website based ones are sufficient these days, at least in TV. Hard copy portfolios are slowly going away.
Q: EvanWas8: Are you on twitter, fb, tumblr, deviantart, other social medias?
A: Erica Hayes: My tumblr is ehayes87.tumblr.com
Erica Hayes: But It’s been about an hour and a half, so I think I’m going to head out now guys. Thanks for having me!!
Rob: Thank you, Erica for the awesome Q&A! Thanks for everyone with the fun questions and keeping this busy space respectful and good for all. Yes, Erica, anything you want to shout out while folks are focused?
Erica Hayes: Season 2’s gonna be great, WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB!! PEACE OOT!!
Rob: Thanks again. Folks, if you are trying Gliph for the first time and have any feedback on the chat or what youd like to see please send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org