Local artist speaks about his craft
By Carlos Cortez
San Jose, a city which has birthed numerous world-changing technological marvels, is not only home to future technological innovators. Rather than crafting consumer electronics, some wish to craft in a different form: visual arts. Enter 15-year-old Summit Tahoma sophomore Ethan Matthew Farro, an aspiring filmmaker and illustrator with a YouTube channel by the name of EMF FILMS. With a subscriber base of 44, his channel is an outlet for his filmmaking projects.
Along with his films, Farro is also a illustrator-in-training, often drawing some of his favorite fictional characters on Post-It notes to maintain his sharp artistic abilities.
- 1. As an artist, what exactly is it that you do and why is that?
“As an artist, I find myself crafting short films and drawing drawings during my free time. I usually draw superheroes from comic books. I find myself drawing Nightwing and The Flash most frequently: Wally West, not Barry Allen – so you guys know. I have a set of characters that I work with for my own films and so, every now and then, I’ll write a script; hopefully, either way I have some sort of narrative, and then I use my video camera and my dad’s tripod and I shoot it. I play all the parts, because, why not? So I put the files onto my computer, I edit them; I upload them onto YouTube so if anyone wants to see them, they can.”
2. What was the motivation for pursuing these art forms? How did you find your beginnings and how long have you practiced these art forms?
“So when I was in, I think, first grade, that is when I started getting into movies. Just watching them, watching them a lot more frequently, and I enjoyed them a lot. I felt like I wanted to be in movies. So a couple of years later I joined a professional acting class and that helped me get an agent. I had a couple of roles in student films, television shows, web series, etc. After awhile I stopped getting professional work less frequently, but I didn’t just want to stop doing film. As I gained some experience on film and TV sets, I realized that I had an interest in the behind the scenes process as well. So eventually I decided, hey, I can just come up with my own characters and write my own scripts and shoot them and edit them – because I have the resources to do so because anyone has those resources.
And for drawing, I’ve always drawn. A lot of times just doodles. A year ago now, I started reading comics. So that got me more interested in drawing superheroes with more realistic proportions. And so, during my free time I find myself drawing very frequently. Now that I have the human body more fleshed out, I try to work on poses and expressions.”
3. Do you believe that these are a viable, financially speaking of course, future for yourself?
“I think that if you can find yourself, if you know how to work your way into the art industry and you think you have the necessary skill, I do think that it’s a financially feasible field to go into. Especially film – if you can get into that film industry and have consistent work, then that would be a great source of money. Because films,especially for actors, pay a lot of money. It’s a matter of getting consistent work; one movie isn’t going to last you your entire lifetime. With art, like drawings, etc., you probably have more consistent work, especially if you’re working in comics; but the paycheck isn’t that great, so you’d probably have to do, like, two or three different titles or do other jobs as well in order to financially support yourself consistently.”
4. Do you believe you have made improvements to your art and what would those be?
“I definitely believe I have made improvements to my art; as I’ve said, the more I draw in my free time, the more realistic my body proportions have gotten, and the more specific I’ve been able to be with expressions, hair, costumes, etc. And with film, I think that I’ve improved. But just not as noticeably, just because I don’t find myself working on my films as frequently. So, I think that just with the experience I’ve had, I’ve been able to make, uh, I’ve had better control over the workings of my films. I think, over time, the more experienced acting I’ve had – I’ve definitely become a better actor. I’ve been able to work out my character’s motivation and goals and sort of become that character when I’m performing.”
5. What are some of the common day-to-day struggles you’ve faced while creating a work of art?“Procrastination is my biggest problem. This especially applies to my films and when I try to do something I want to do. I have to put a lot more time and effort into those things, so I get bogged down with the steps, and I don’t want to work. Make sure you’re doing something you’ll maintain passion for.”
6. For positive or negative, how has creating art impacted your personal life?
“Creating art has impacted my life both positively and negatively. It gives me some incentive, and people seem to enjoy my work. However, my procrastination and lack of progress have made me constantly beat myself about it. For a period of at least four months now, I’ve been in a constant self-loathing state because of it; it’s been the worst state of my life. This totally has nothing to do with the fact that I have a gut, totally not at all.”
7. Do you believe that formal training (i.e. art schools and classes) are an effective method of learning to craft art and, for better or worse, why?
“I definitely think art, acting, and film schools are definitely useful. They’re a great place to get experience in those fields and insider tips on getting into and staying in the industry.”
8. What influences from other artist have you taken?
“Mark Hamill has been an icon for me for pretty much my entire life. I think it’s great that he’s been able to find a variety of work in a variety of movies and TV. I’d like to do work in all sorts of movies and TV shows instead of being confined to one type of role, genre or medium. Recently, I’ve also taken inspiration from that while Max Landis is primarily a screenwriter, he’s also been able to write comics and make YouTube videos. Right now, I put my films on YouTube, but I also draw comic characters, and I still want to be in feature films that see theatrical releases, so I admire that Max has seemingly been able to do all of those.”
9. For those aspiring like yourself, what advice could you give to aid in their pursuits?
“I’d probably just say to keep practicing your art, whatever medium that may be in, and don’t just wait to get into the industry. You don’t need a huge budget to make a movie. If you have a smartphone, that means you have a camera (for the love of god, shoot in landscape), and you and your [friends] can be actors and crew members. Most computers come with movie editing software already; you don’t need to start with anything super advanced, just what gets the job done. When the film is complete, uploading it to somewhere like YouTube can definitely be a way to get it seen, but don’t expect it to blow up. The best way to get it noticed on a wider scale is probably submitting it to a film festival. As far as drawing does, anyone with a pencil and paper can draw. Don’t say ‘I can’t draw’ – that’s not true, and I don’t wanna hear it. If you have basic human motor function, you are physically able to draw. Just think of things you want to draw and keep practicing. If you’re trying to become a comic artist, my advice would be to assemble a portfolio of your best art and find a way to show it to a publisher. The best place to do this is probably comic conventions, as there are artists, editors, etc., who you can show your art to. They might want you to work for them. Overall, again, mainly keeping practicing to improve, and make sure you’re still passionate about what you’re doing.”
You can find Farro’s films on YouTube at EMF FILMS. Not all of his art is public, as he does not publish all of his illustrations; however, some of his visual art can be found in his films.
Featured image (at the top of this post): This screenshot, from Farro’s film “Night of Bonjour,” shows Farro contemplating the meaning of life (as a way to satirize the more pretentious nature of French cinema).