Sock Puppet Master (SPM) is a New Jersey-based artist who uses real audio from 911 calls, traffic stops, and more to create short animations for social media. She has amassed a following of over 450,000 on TikTok and over 25,000 on Instagram in a little over one year. To date, she has created ~300 animations (Website).
Please tell us about yourself. How did you start your career, and how did you get into the world of filmmaking? What are some of the projects you made before ‘Traffic Ticket Freakout’?
I started making animations for TikTok under the name Sock Puppet Master (SPM) during the COVID pandemic, which was obviously a very isolating period for many of us. I was trying to figure out what do with all that time.
I saw a few short animations on TikTok and wanted to see how they were created, so I looked around online and came across the free app “Flipaclip.” It is pretty simple to use, similar to drawing on sheets of a pad of paper and flipping it to make it animate. Even though I have a background in fine art (drawing, painting, and ceramics), I like SPM cartoons are messy, “back-of-the-napkin” drawings.
Your animations have a great premise: you use real 911 calls and turn them into films. What made you want to make such films/stories?
The very first animation I created was about my mom, me, and the struggle of technology. I created it to share with my siblings because I thought it was funny. Then I started looking for real audio that I could use and found a funny 911 call about a Western Cheeseburger (Link). I posted it on TikTok when I had about 3 followers and very quickly it became 3,000. Then 30,000. It was a fluke, I was just lucky to find a “white space” on social media where I could stand out.
After a few months, I started to expand my animations to use audio from funny traffic stops and body camera footage, which is how I ended up creating “Traffic Ticket Freakout.” It was such unbelievable dialog, you couldn’t make it up any funnier. My job is simply to replace the visuals and elevate the story from funny to ridiculous. In this case, I created the “Loser’s Guide to Getting Out of A Ticket” and provided bullet-points throughout the animation. It is one of my favorites! Link
As an artist/filmmaker, who or what are your influences?
I’ve been largely influenced by “Dr. Katz Professional Therapist” show, “The Far Side” (Gary Larsen), “Creature Comforts” claymation films, Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Monty Python. I also love the Ricky Gervais animated podcast, which is one of my favorite shows.
My sense of humor was also influenced significantly by my mom, who passed away a few years ago. When I make these cartoons, I often think about what she would think is funny. It feels like a good way to stay connected with her in my own way. Equally influential is my dad, who is one of my biggest fans. He joined TikTok and started following me from the beginning, so that has been a nice thing we share.
What is your vision as a filmmaker? What types of stories you endeavor to tell through filmmaking?
I love to use animations to show how ridiculous we actually are as humans…as animals. Humans can have some nutty reactions to situations that involve the “fight or flight” response. If you mix in some drugs or alcohol, bad judgement, and an authority figure, it can become the perfect storm for a cartoon. The whole world is a cartoon in my head, now I just have an outlet!
What is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking? What are the challenges you faced during the production of ‘Traffic Ticket Freakout’? What are the most difficult aspects of making an animation?
The most difficult thing in all of this is picking the right situations and editing them without losing the essence of the video. Also, this style of animation is a bit labor-intensive, which means a one-minute video can take about 4 hours start to finish. I produce about 4 per week at the moment, so it is keeping me busy on top of my day job.
How was the film received at film festivals? I believe you are also quite popular on social media platforms. Do you see them as great opportunities to present your work(s)?
The film festival circuit is a new step forward for me in 2022. I remembered hearing that the creators of South Park and the creator of Wallace and Gromit gained recognition through film festivals, so it seemed like a good idea to stand out and get some exposure. There are a number of film festivals that accept “super short” films that are less than 5 minutes, so it felt like the perfect platform to leverage.
In January, I entered 3 of my animations into over 30 film festivals happening in 2022. To date:
• “Angry Bunny Gets a Ticket” won in two categories at the Cannes World Film Festival: Link
• “The Quiz Show” was an Official Selection of the Toronto International Women Film Festival: Link
• So far, so good, and I have many other entries that are in consideration!
What project(s) will you be working on next? Are you planning to make more animations with 911 calls?
My latest project is actually expanding my digital art into non-fungible token (NFT) space, which can be an intimidating process. I’m taking it slowly, but it has been enjoyable to identify the best animation frames to use from each film. I like to think of it as being similar to collecting animation cels from old Disney animations, only mine are digital. (Link)
I’m still in the planning phase, but I’m working towards an NFT launch strategy for 2022. Part of that strategy is creating awareness about SPM animations through film festivals, so those two activities are related. It is hard to make enough noise to break through in a crowded industry, but hopefully a growing social media following and some film festival wins will help!
What would be your best piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers, especially animators?
First, just keep pumping things out into the universe, even if you don’t see results right away. Second, try different things, but always stay true to your core style (your “brand”). Third, place films across multiple social media platforms to get an idea how audiences differ. What works on TikTok may not work on Instagram, etc. Most of all, have fun.
Social media handles:
Facebook and YouTube: Sock Puppet Master