Dennis E. Sebastian works as an Indie Animation Director and Comics Creator. He’s also a part-time faculty member at the AB Animation Program of the College of Saint Benilde. His animated trailer for his work 3AETA won in the “Best Animation Category F” (Professional Division – Trailers) and also the “Best in Design” award in the 2015 Animahenasyon Awards. His animated short film, Kaleh and Mbaki also won several awards, including “Best Picture” at the 2013 New Wave Animation Metro Manila Film Festival, “Best Animated Short Film” (Professional Division) at the 2012 Animahenasyon Awards, and placed 3rd in the “Best Animated Short Film” category at the 2012 Gawad CCP Independent Film and Video Competition. Another of his animated short films, Man in A Hole, placed 2nd for “Best Animated Short Film” at the 1996 Gawad CCP Independent film and Video Competition. Lastly, his animated music video, Tumatakbo, won both the “Best  Animated Video” and “Favorite Indie Video” awards at the 2006 MTV Pilipinas Video Music Awards.

Currently, Dennis is working on his 8-issure Comic Book Series, 3AETA, which is about a 10 year old novice hunter from the AETA tribe who is mysteriously transported back and forth in time. You can get a sneak preview of it on Instagram. And when he’s not working on his art, he often busies himself with: binge watching films and tv series, playing with his band the Monitor Lizards, running-swimming-hiking-beacheneering, Food always Food! And overthinking stuff…

Check out more of Dennis E. Sebastian’s work in Instagram, visit his online store on Gumroad, or check out his videos on Vimeo.


Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?

When I was in Grade 2, I kept telling my classmates wild and fantastic stories and they bought my stories hook-line-sinker. Imagine, they believed that I fought off aswangs, had adventures with quicksand and stampeding herd of bulls, and that my uncle was an astronaut. I was either that good or maybe they were just gullible dorks.

Decades later I realized that my calling was not Architecture, kinda Animation and Comics, but ultimately it was Storytelling.


Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?

MONEY. I used to get paid very well to do work that I didn’t believe in or care about (animation work for hire) and now I do personal work that I love (tell stories through animation and comics) but good money seems nowhere near the horizon. Reconciling Passion and Livelihood is a very tricky thing to do.


Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?

I work as a part time teacher, sometimes get freelance work, and I spend less, ha ha! Bread and water = Good!


Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?

Dive in. Sink or Swim.

I learn by doing. All the studying, tutorials, or workshops won’t mean a thing until you actually apply them in a real-world project that a real audience can watch/read. The Masters became masters of their art because they kept on creating, and kept showing what they created, and they kept listening to the feedback and response from their audience. I put my heart and soul in everything that I create. Some of these are received well while most go into development limbo because somehow, something doesn’t work right. When a certain creation works, I celebrate for a while and then I move on to the next. When it doesn’t work I set it aside and move on to the next. I have a very very long list of stories that I want to tell.


Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?

How to hack into bank accounts. I still want to know how to do that. What’s your pin no. by the way?


Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making art or comics?

I can’t not do this (tell stories). I am wired for storytelling. Fish swim, birds fly, I tell stories.


Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)

How to fit art? It’s really the other way around. Most of my day is directly or indirectly related to the act of creating stories. Watching films or tv series, reading books, researching on the internet, doing 3D work, designing characters-props-environments, writing loglines-outlines-character bios, editing video, color grading, composing melodies and beats etc. – all these take up most of my day/week/month/year. It’s the other things like work, eating, exercising, and socializing that have to fit in to the rest of the art/story stuff that I do.


Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?

I give in mostly…


Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?

I take a walk, a run, a swim. I have coffee with friends. I watch a film at the cinema or re-watch the movies that I’ve collected. Sometimes I play music (bass or sax). My favorites are taking a long nap and eating like a pig.


Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?

I would consider having 2 epic wins so far. In 2006, the animated music video I directed (Mojofly’s “Tumatakbo”) won 2 prizes at the MTV Pilipinas Video Music Awards. Best Animated Video and Favorite Indie Video. An MTV trophy is an MTV trophy 😀

In 2013, my animated short film “Kaleh & Mbaki” won the Grand Prize for New Wave Animation at the Metro Manila Film Festival. This came with an MMFF trophy and a cash prize of P100k! 😀 😀


Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?

My biggest failure would be quitting and turning my back from stories. I don’t see that happening. Knock on wood…


Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?

Comic conventions, lectures in different schools, social media, interviews like these. All of these need to be done.


Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream?The end game?

Create a story (animation or comic) so compelling that rich guys will literally throw money at me so I can keep creating more.


Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?

Life and People. You have to live it before you can even attempt to capture it in art. You have to get to know real people before you can create your own. You need things to happen to you.

After that you start imagining big and overthinking a lot. These lead to great stories.

It also leads to insanity…


Q: What is your big “WHY”? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? What’s the hidden reason behind your big dream?

I love doing it. If I do it well enough, the audience will read/watch it. If I do it really really really well, people may discover something valuable about the life we live and the world we live in. Maybe it will help us understand each other more.

Quick-Fire Questions

Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?

In high school I read the X-men graphic novel, God Loves Man Kills and it opened my eyes to the possibility of comics having an important message to tell. “You dare call that thing… HUMAN?!?”  “More human than you!”

Also in high school, I watched the first Blade Runner film and for the first time I experienced having a very strong empathy to so-called villains, the Replicants. “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

In the late 80’s I watched the Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams told me, “Carpe Diem!” so I seized the day many times. The first time was when I turned my back on the Architectural profession after passing the Arki Board exams so that I could learn 3D animation. A few years later I quit my 3D animation job so I could make Indie animation. This last one happened numerous times, actually.


Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?(Feel free to plug in as many as you’d like)


If an aspiring artist can’t be bothered to google or youtube study materials to help them learn more about their chosen career then it is over for them even before it has begun.

In my best Lolo voice, “Noong panahon namin wala pang internet pero nagawa naming matuto.” [Back in our day, there was no internet and yet we were still able to learn and advance.]

Now everything is served on silver platters all over YouTube and Vimeo as well as in short art courses and workshops. All they need do is devour the information and then apply it to their creations. If it works, great. If not, then look for something else that will. Rinse and Repeat.


Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?


In 2014 I went there and did a little bit of surfing. Actually, more of getting bashed around underwater and almost drowning. There I met an American who was a stock broker in New York. He alternates between surfing and online stock brokering (is that a word?) during his 5 month stay in General Luna.

Replace stock brokering with creating stories. Wouldn’t that be the life?


Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?

GOD. I want to know what 3D software He’s using. Everything he does is so… realistic.


Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills?
(Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)


Not really a mentor of course but is pivotal to me wanting to keep getting better because he/she/it keeps telling me I’ll never be good enough. I prove him wrong every time I keep going.

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