Updated: Dec 9, 2022
RAD TIMES: Hi Jonathan, welcome. Can you please introduce yourself?
Jonathan Riles: My name is Jonathan Riles and I am an experimental animation and live-action filmmaker. I am currently based out of Appalachia Mountains in Ohio, I work with sound objects within a graphic design stop motion sense. I like to play with the ideas that emerge from nostalgic memories. I like to use and bring life to lifeless objects. I like to explore psychological concepts using everyday objects. I really enjoy animating still objects.
RAD TIMES: How did you arrive at the concept of doing experimental filmmaking?
Jonathan Riles: So, it mainly it had to do with my traditional film education. I went to Selinus University and there were a lot of experimental filmmakers. So I went there to study theatre than film. So I had a very acting based introduction to it. So I feel like a lot of arts schools have greater ambitions. But from my experience, you come out with a different set of skills. It also sets a different vision in your mind. For instance, with me I envisioned myself to become a director or an editor. I did not really enjoy post-production but I realized while making live action my imagination was elsewhere. I wanted to create a lot of surreal concepts which is where I found myself working with animation. This is a place where I can create whatever was on my mind rather than dressing up in a costume.
RAD TIMES: So what was the first short/ film you worked on?
Jonathan Riles: One of the first shorts I ever did when I was experimenting was this five-minute, live-action, stop-motion about a pipe cleaner who came to life. Everything was still interacting but the character was animated. But this was the first moment where I was thinking about maybe this element that I was putting into live action could be the forefront of this. So it was like trying to get the ideas in my head and my imagination in live action. While studying live action film, and that complete shift in my junior year when I was doing my BFA. But some of the ways I animate are weird because I tell a lot of people I’m a trained filmmaker, I’m a self-taught animator. It is more of a process than a discovery.
RAD TIMES: So you said you were studying theatre. What made you transition into film?
Jonathan Riles: I think it has a lot to do with my personality. My ADD impulses and behavior. Doing too many things in a row. That was always been something I’ve embraced. I actually do feel like I’m finally at home with experimental animation because I’ve done a lot of jumping around. But really how it happened for me was technically speaking, I actually had an art form before that they got me to theatre. So the timeline of where my journey’s been, I started out in vocal singing, just regular choir. That’s how I got introduced to the idea of musicals. These narratives that have a very specific quality to them. They are obviously very theatrical. But the songs, the voice kind of carries through the narration and the thoughts, feelings and characters etc. are feeling. So I did musicals for a very long time. I started out as a performer and I went about as far as I can go. And the reason I actually kind of have a defect when it comes to vocal singing. I basically have like a hole in my chest like a depressed sternum. And the defect takes up my lungs and my diaphragm. By the time I really thought about that I wanted to pursue theatre as a career, it was at a time when I was a little bit old to do the surgery. So that was the moment that led me to film. I thought ‘If I can’t perform in the middle of these narratives, what could be a way I could be perhaps be behind the action? And that failure of being able to pursue it was kind of what led me to film.
RAD TIMES: How many years have you been working in theatre and film ?
Jonathan Riles: So combining both, I would say I have been doing theatre longer. I would also say I haven’t done it lately. I started performing when I was eight. But when it comes to filmmaking, that didn’t happen till about 2016. So I can say, I have been doing filmmaking in some sense for 6-7 years.
RAD TIMES: What inspired you to take up filmmaking?
Jonathan Riles: . Well, it actually has a lot to do with the people around me. I grew up in a family who were as I termed it ‘scientifically minded’ individuals. A lot of people in my family are in the medical field or are in some kind of marketing or business setting. Failures are a big part of what drives me in my different pasts cause like for the longest time, I was prepping to become a dentist. I was studying advanced biology, biomedical sciences. I was about to take AP chemistry. The thing that told me not to do that was that I go horrible grades in Pre-Calculus. Like I could not do crazy high math. I enjoyed the arts as an extracurricular or a pastime but maybe it’s just something I can do. And it really was a situation within American schools. Like I did not pick up a camera till my senior year of high school. I learnt how to edit really fast. I had always been inspired by children’s books like Aesop’s Fables and also Greek mythology. I would look up to fantasy as escapism.
RAD TIMES: What advice would you like to give to young people?
Jonathan Riles: My advice is that one of the things is that I’m in a process of learning myself so I can teach myself. I want to be an art professor someday, I’m in the middle of completing my M.F. A. and I’ll be graduating in the springtime. I am really interested in the idea of how to get out there. The thing I’m thinking about right now is the idea of success. My biggest advice right now is finding ways to get your work out there for the world to see. Even if you are just starting out, even if you are a novice, finding a way to mark yourself is the biggest opportunity.
Thank you so much Jonathan. It was great having you.
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