There are many ways to go about getting your big break. Luck usually plays a huge role. Sometimes it comes down to who you know or striking when the proverbial iron is hot. For Fort Wayne native Lyndy Bazile, it was a matter of e-mailing exactly the right person at exactly the right time.Two years ago, the now 24-year-old graphic artist and animator was trying to figure out her next step. A graduate of South Side High School, she’d just finished up a year of classes at IPFW and was dissatisfied with what she saw as the directionless state of her life. So, at 3 a.m. one morning she e-mailed Jonathan Katz, a comedian and voice actor whose animated show Dr. Katz Professional Therapist ran from 1995-1999 on Comedy Central. Bazile was a fan of the show and of Katz’s work and told him so. She even wrote that she’d be interested in doing a project with him.
So far so typical, right? Young fan sends an adoring email to her idol. Most are lucky to get a form letter or at the most an autographed picture in the mail, signed by the assistant. But Bazile got much more than that. She got a personal reply to her message and a correspondence that grew into a close friendship, not only with Katz but with Katz’s friend Tom Snyder, the animator and brains behind Squigglevision, the computer-based animation technique in which characters wiggle and undulate once in awhile over still backgrounds. (Dr. Katz Professional Therapist was one of the first mainstream shows to use Squigglevision.)
“I think I was very lucky,” Bazile told me in a recent phone interview. “Jonathan must have been in the right mood to receive an e-mail like mine, and maybe the fact that I sent it at 3 a.m. caught his eye. He hadn’t done much since Dr. Katz, and I guess the fact that I referenced something from so long ago, that it’d been a while since he got fan mail about that particular show, made him pay attention.”
Bazile’s e-mail relationship with Katz and Snyder progressed from the personal to the professional, partially because she mentioned, in that first 3 a.m. message, that she liked to draw. Katz and Snyder misunderstood and took her for an animator. Instead of correcting them, she let them persist in their belief while she taught herself how to turn her two dimensional drawings into moving pictures.
“Tom sent me a drawing tablet in the mail and I started from there,” she said. “I knew Tom and Jonathan were very open-minded about different ways to do simple animation and that they weren’t necessarily looking for studio production level kind of work but for something good and simple. I was pretty confident I could figure something out.”
Bazile is proof that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Roughly a year after that first e-mail to Katz, she’d mastered the techniques of simple animation and was even working with Katz on Hey, We’re Back, a podcast animated comedy series about a man who works in a radio station and his adventures both on and off the air.
While working on Hey, We’re Back, Bazile became good friends with Katz’s assistant, Katie Covett, who at the time was acting as producer for another Katz/Snyder web series, Explosion Bus. Explosion Bus is a weekly web comedy series in which two men, Jon and Leo (voiced by Katz and Tom Leopold, respectively), travel around the United States trying to discover new talent. The catch and the comedy result from the fact that Jon and Leo are often as clueless as their auditioners, and each show ends with real fake auditions from fans of the show. “Real fake” because they know they’re auditioning for a fake talent search.
Here’s how luck was on Bazile’s side this time. Covett needed another producer to help her with the Explosion Bus workload, and Bazile, still living in Fort Wayne, was a natural choice. After all, she was already good friends with Katz and Snyder, and she was totally willing to make the move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, i.e. Explosion Bus headquarters.
“I remember driving in my car with my mom thinking, ‘I don’t know why Katie can’t just e-mail me and ask me to come to Boston to work on Explosion Bus,” Bazile said. “Then, a few months later, that’s exactly what happened.”
And, a few months after that, when it was clear the show’s original animator wasn’t working out, Snyder and Katz asked Bazile to step in and do the job.
“It was like, ‘Why don’t we just have Lyndy do it?’” said Bazile. “I really couldn’t believe it.”
Since stepping into the animator shoes, Bazile has put her own unique stamp on the show, and that stamp has included completely revamping the look of the main characters and making specific landmarks from the cities Jon and Leo visit a key part of each episode. She’s even managed to get a little hometown love into the mix. In episode 27, for instance, Jon and Leo drop in on Power’s Hamburgers and the Broadway Zesto stand. The joke is that the guys are in town scouting for talent for a Coke commercial, but Power’s only serves Pepsi. Hence the trip to Zesto’s.
“When I heard that in that episode the guys would be in the Midwest, I had to set some of it in Fort Wayne,” said Bazile. “I love Fort Wayne, and everyone I know who’s from Fort Wayne loves it, too. I thought it was a cool chance to pay tribute to my city.”
Bazile is now focusing all of her energy on Explosion Bus,”which she hopes will soon receive the recognition she believes it deserves for being a “small, home-grown web series that is both consistently original and consistently funny.” And home-grown is literal. She and Covett live in a duplex adjoining Snyder and his wife. All of the work, with the exception of the recording, is done in that duplex, and even the recording studio is just down the street.
The result, Bazile said, is a show that continues to improve each week it hits the web. Snyder, Bazile and Covett work together to write a script and then give the script to the actors to record. After that, the audio goes to Snyder who edits it and gives the final version to Bazile to begin the animation process. When a show airs, the cast members watch how Bazile draws them and their surroundings, and, in doing so, they in turn get a better feel for whom their characters are.
“It’s a very organic, circular process. With every recording session, the show gets exponentially better,” she said.
Want to see for yourself? Go to www.explosionbus.com and hop on.