Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hey, I’m Seby, founder of the animation and video studio Negative Kitty. I’m a director, producer, writer, and multimedia artist, working primarily in animation, music videos, commercials and indie film.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
On a typical day I'm quite busy overseeing our various projects – we currently have an animated pilot and a video game in production, as well as other original content like our music and entertainment blog and various short form content for Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Aside from original content, I also guide the client work we do for music videos and commercials and am always on the hunt for new leads and new ways to grow the business.
What’s great about your job?
Being able to conceive and guide the world of Negative Kitty is really awesome – I have big goals for the company and it's rewarding to see it all come together as we release new original material and work on awesome new client projects. When it comes to the work we do for others, the best parts are when our unique creativity aligns perfectly with our clients’ vision and their goals for the project.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
Nothing prepares you for the pressure and various tedious requirements of running your own company, which can be rather stressful, particularly when you're invested in the people you work with and our collective livelihoods and futures. I've learned to delegate what I can to keep the ship running smoothly!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Early on in my career I had the great fortune to create a music video for David Liebe Hart from Tim & Eric, and soon after I was able to climb the ranks at legendary horror studio Troma Entertainment from intern to content producer to film editor, editing the latest Lloyd Kaufman picture. The biggest highlight of my career thus far was in 2021 when I made a music video for Ice-T’s metal band Body Count, and Ice-T showed a snippet on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where my work played to an audience of over one million people. It’s proven to be pretty tough to top that one, but we’re working on it.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
My entire career has pretty much been in film and TV. After graduating from Bard College with a film degree I hit the ground running with internships at companies like Troma and HBO, and picked up a lot of small jobs as a freelance videographer and editor and as a script analyst. Gaining experience in all the facets of the film production pipeline played a big part in preparing me for the role I have today, leading my own creative team.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
I had a very humble and somewhat isolated upbringing, which probably fueled my desire to create worlds of my own via visual storytelling. Class divide is something I was acutely aware of from a young age, transitioning from growing up in a rough neighborhood in my early years to attending high school in my teens in a neighborhood where the opposite was the case. This insight colors much of my work, as do my absurdist sensibilities and my general outlook of “optimistic nihilism,” wherein the bleak, hopeless and fleeting aspects of life on Earth translate more to a sense of liberation as opposed to abject woe.
Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?
As a teen I mostly just wanted to shred on the guitar, and was heavily inspired by progressive rock, math rock and metal acts who pushed boundaries and created chaos, like The Mars Volta and The Dillinger Escape Plan. But my passion for moving image art and storytelling goes back further – my first major inspiration on this front apart from Dragonball Z was probably Edgar Wright, because watching Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as a child showed me the magic of meticulously planned storytelling, particularly when it comes to comedy and human drama. Apart from that, animation has always been a major fuel for my fire – growing up on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim in particular made me marvel at the possibilities that come with creating your own worlds and stories from scratch, particularly in animation where there are no limits (apart from budget).
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Editing the latest Troma film in 2018 was a huge challenge, particularly as a 22-year-old who was new to the industry. I was fighting immense external pressure (there was a half-million dollar film on the line!) as well as my own immaturity and executive dysfunctions, but the experience was very rewarding and it all turned out swell if you ask me. I think my biggest challenge is what’s happening right now with Negative Kitty – we’re slowly building a media outfit across multiple verticals, and working to keep the flow of client work going.
Despite the difficulty of this undertaking, I feel more confident than ever that the work we’re putting in now is going to pay off.
Have you had a mentor anytime during your career, and if so, how has having one made a difference?
Working for Lloyd Kaufman at Troma is the best mentorship I could’ve hoped for – only an auteur like him could’ve whipped me into shape when it comes to creative discipline, while granting me the creative freedom to develop as an artist using the characters, resources and network that Troma provided. He’s a renowned patron of young artists like James Gunn, Eli Roth, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and I’m lucky to be counted among those who have benefited from his deep insight.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
The main thing that comes to mind for me has to do with the TV animation industry. In the current streaming era, cartoons and TV shows in general are devalued, meaning that networks and streamers crank them out and tend to do away with them after a short period. Last year we saw many beloved streaming-native animated shows get cancelled and tossed into the abyss, to the point where one is forced to pirate them or even scour Twitter for a Google Drive link in order to be able to watch them again. For me, this made it clear that we had to say “screw it” to the typical pitching process – going out and pleading for execs to take a chance on you – and instead, make a pilot on our own and let the proof be in the pudding, so to speak.
It also has to do with the popularity of YouTube and Twitch and the decentralisation of media, out of the hands of Hollywood and into the hands of independent creators, a trend which will only continue to grow and absorb more market share. This is why we’re trying to build Negative Kitty into a media company and not just a studio – it’s a leverage and longevity thing.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Drink more water, take more initiative, learn more skills, control your ego, and don’t wait so long to take the risks that matter.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
When it comes to leading creative teams across channels, it helps to know as much as you humanly can about the different areas in play – video production, editing, color correction, audio, copywriting, marketing, etc. So, I’d say, never stop learning (and learning by doing is a great way to go about it).
But on that same note, know when to step back and relinquish control. People do their best work when they feel comfy, trusted, and appreciated. Finally, for a leader in any business, the buck stops with you. So lead by example and with compassion.