words: sam hockley-smith
art: azod abedikichi
You may know Azod Abedikichi by his Instagram handle, or you may know him not by name at all, but by his work. For the past couple years, Azod has been making hilarious, over-the-top, instant-cult-classic claymation shorts that begin as re-enactments of a recent sports highlight, and then zoom off in unexpected directions. Think MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch minus the gore—Azod's humor is often biting, but each film is very clearly done with love. We spoke with him about his process, his childhood obsession with imaginary Pay-Per-View events, and more.
VJ: How'd you get into doing claymation?
AA: I've always been very into stop motion in general. Specifically stop motion in animation. I was going to do a handful of basketball animations and there was nothing more to it than that. And the second one I did—which was not a basketball animation—was picked up and featured on Deadspin and that was something that pushed me into, like, 'I've gotta keep doing this longer, because there is clearly an interest in it.' And then it gradually just turned into me, as a sports fan and as an animation fan journaling—making them and entertaining myself as I made them. It just happened to keep growing and entertaining more people.
VJ: Did you have any animation or stop motion experience before you started making these pieces?
AA: I had done a few stop motion shorts, but not anything with clay. I had never sculpted anything. So the first one with clay was a silly pun because it was about Klay Thompson. I was like, 'well, that's the obvious direction, I'll just do clay.' It was so shitty looking, which was great because it was a good challenge. Then the next one was more like, 'I'm gonna stay with cay because I just bought a bunch of clay and I want to make it faster and I kind of want get better and see if I can figure out how to actually sculpt.' and I just ended up getting stuck like in Claymation because I kept pushing myself and challenging myself to get better and get faster.
VJ: How long does it take you to make a short?
AA: Until recently, it was pretty much a burst of nonstop work. Probably on average it would be about 20 to 24 hours—somewhere around there. And it was in one sitting, so I would just build to puppet, and occasionally I would do two sittings where I would do two 15 hour sittings, and then be done with it. Most of the time it was one, just running off adrenaline until I was done.
VJ: So you'd often work for 24 hours straight?
AA: Yeah. It was insane. I would actually watch a game and I would say, 'Okay, awesome. I'm gonna go animate. He just had a triple double.' And the next game would be starting as I was finishing the animation.
VJ: Most of your pieces are pretty reaction-based. What does the process for creating one look like?
AA: I'll see something and think, that's the obvious thing that I'm drawn to, and I'll find the parallel with something else that I have another interest in, whether its something from a long time ago or even something more recent. That is usually the best case scenario.
VJ: So do you script them out first?
AA: Yeah, I write it. I start pulling in content right away. Whether its stuff on YouTube, or music, or actual video references that I'll be using as my animation reference. I pretty much put together a really bare bones cut and its a skeleton of what I'm gonna make. I'm usually using that while I'm animating, but I also have like a blueprint for what I'm about to do. The only thing you cannot rush is the pre-production of writing it. Sometimes I get stuck there. The animating and everything...you can rush that stuff and it will show, and either it can be intentional and rushed in a good way or it can like make post production a lot tougher because you didn't quite get the movement you wanted.
VJ: You've been doing these for awhile now. Do you have the process down to a science?
AA: Well, no. I probably spend more time on it because before I got so caught up in it that my health started suffering. I got pretty sick. I was not sleeping much, and I was having heart trouble. Nothing that brought me to the hospital or anything, but in hindsight I was pushing it. I read an article about a guy about my age who had a stroke and he was always on caffeine, tons of coffee, no sleep, work, work, work. And then I was pretty much like, 'Man, this is me.' I have a heart murmur and it's always heavy when I'm pulling these all nighters. I needed to adapt, I want to be healthy. I've adapted pretty good to it now. I'm keeping a little more normal schedule and instead of doing it in one sitting, I'll spend three or four days making one.
VJ: Does taking more time change the process and the way you approach making a short?
AA: I find that now that I'm not racing the clock, I spend a little more time making the sculptures better. Even though I'm saying I'm spending a little more time, its still a process of getting it out as fast as I can even if it is like three or four days. I could easily spend like a week or so on a sculpture if it was not going to be animated.