Main image: MFM Animated featuring Karen Kilgariff, Nick Terry and Georgia Hardstark, 2021
Creator of MFM Animated, Nick Terry, is partnering with My Favorite Murder to bring the wildly popular podcast to life through compelling animations posted monthly on the Exactly Right YouTube channel.
The hit true crime comedy podcast, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic fan base since it launched in 2016. As an official partner with My Favorite Murder, Nick is bringing the stories from the show to new audiences with animated videos based on audio clips from the podcast. He uses Adobe Premiere Pro, Animate and Photoshop to create engaging visuals and animations that garner thousands of views on YouTube.
We spoke exclusively with Nick about how he uses Adobe tools to bring his creative vision for the videos to life, as well as how he transforms podcast content for a video platform.
PH: Hi Nick! How are you? Can you share your journey into the industry and what that's been like?
Nick Terry: Hello! I’m doing well! My journey into the industry started somewhere around 2009/2010 when I was finishing high school, having gotten interested in film, making movies with friends, learning basic editing software and cameras, and having some showings at film festivals in the Seattle area. In 2010, a feature I directed and edited called “Senior Prom” with several of my fellow high school seniors was shown at the Seattle International Film Festival. Since then, I’ve directed/edited a handful of other features, some shorts, and more recently, have gotten really into animation.
PH: Why animation? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
Nick Terry: For a long time, animation was not something I saw myself doing. I used to doodle a lot growing up and even made some very basic flip books before my interests shifted to filmmaking. That said, I’ve always felt fairly limited in film by things like budget and access to equipment, something I’m sure any indie filmmaker can relate to. The idea of the limitlessness of animation started to appeal to me more and more in recent years. I already had some digital drawing equipment, some basic art skills, and access to Adobe’s creative suite, even if the prospect of learning the skill itself felt very daunting.
PH: Can you talk about some of your past work? What have those experiences taught you about yourself and the industry?
Nick Terry: My past film work and education (in the film/video program at Shoreline Community College) gave me a really strong foundation of knowledge about shot composition, visual storytelling, pacing, etc. which has blended really nicely into my animation work now. Having an understanding of those sorts of core concepts has been invaluable when shifting into the new, but similar, medium of animation.
Image: MFM Animated by Nick Terry - Haunted House, 2021
PH: Let's talk about the My Favorite Murder partnership. How did that come about?
Nick Terry: Animating podcast clips felt like an obvious choice when I first started dipping my toe into animation. It meant hours and hours of existing audio that allowed me to focus solely on the animation work without first needing to write and record any new content myself. In 2017 I put out my first few podcast-based animations using clips from the improvised podcast “Hello from the Magic Tavern.” All of those videos were set at a single table as the characters record the podcast, which meant very little motion and a single “set” I could use over and over.
As I reached a point where I wanted to start pushing the complexity of my animation and wanted to try an entirely different style, I had also started listening to My Favorite Murder after having it recommended to me by a friend of my wife’s. I immediately fell in love with the podcast and in June of 2018 I put out my first MFM animation: “Paul Onions.” This was followed by “Swiss Cheese Pervert” which would later get a mention from Karen and Georgia on the podcast and essentially launch the “MFM Animated” brand. I continued putting out these fan animations and began posting them on an Instagram page that Karen and Georgia once shared on the main My Favorite Murder Instagram, which gave me an audience of several thousand overnight. It became a very fun thing to do, putting out animations, sometimes getting a shout-out on the podcast, and interacting with the “Murderino” community.
Then, in late 2020, My Favorite Murder reached out to me with the simple proposal: keep making these animations like you have been, we’d just like to pay you for your work. It was an extremely generous thing to do and in early 2021, the partnership was made official.
PH: What was your vision? How do you come up with these animations?
Nick Terry: I wanted the MFM animations to have a freedom to them that my Magic Tavern animations didn’t. I wanted to jump locations and add surreal cutaways and visual puns and really let myself go wild while also establishing a fairly simple, clean, and repeatable style. My process for the animations themselves starts with finding an audio clip that immediately conjures up some sorts of funny images or just makes me laugh. I’ll listen through it several times, write down ideas for each moment of the clip, and then dive into animation. As I go, I almost always expand upon and change my initial ideas as new things pop up or I run a clip past my wife who often provides some great ideas as well.
Image: MFM Animated by Nick Terry - Giant Skeleton, 2020
PH: How does Adobe Premiere Pro help the process?
Nick Terry: Premiere handles the final step in every animation I do. After exporting all the individual clips from Adobe Animate, I drop them into Premiere, sync them up to the original audio, do a final color pass, and add in the end titles. I’ve spent so much time with Premiere over the years doing video and audio editing that it made sense to me to bring everything into the program I know best for what is essentially post-production.
PH: Can you share any of the challenges you encountered?
Nick Terry: The main challenge I’ve encountered is simply the limits of my own abilities at any given time. One of my favorite MFM animations is about Karen setting her own bed on fire as a child. This clip was maybe the third or fourth MFM clip I ever tried to animate, but I struggled with animating the fire itself so I shelved it for a while and it was exciting to revisit it later on, having improved a lot of my skills along the way. Being self-taught means I’ve probably given myself a steeper learning curve than is necessary, but I’ve always loved that feeling of figuring something out on my own.
PH: What was it like animating one of the most popular podcasts around right now? Was there a certain pressure or just excitement?
Nick Terry: Honestly, the Murderino community and Karen and Georgia themselves have been so welcoming to these goofy little videos since the very beginning that it’s really been nothing but a joy to be a part of it. The responses have been almost universally positive from the listeners and being able to engage with them and get recommendations of what they’d like to see animated brings a sense of community to the whole thing.
Image: MFM Animated by Nick Terry - Claire the Bossy Deer, 2021
PH: What do you think is the secret(s) to creating successful YouTube content? Is animation on YouTube different from film and on other platforms? How?
Nick Terry: I’m not sure there are any guaranteed tricks to making successful content, I can only recommend making what brings you joy whether or not you find an immediate audience for it. I feel very lucky that Karen and Georgia encouraged and promoted these animations basically from the get-go, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience.
PH: (If you can discuss) what other projects are on the horizon? How are you preparing for 2022?
Nick Terry: I’m excited to continue making animations for Exactly Right Media and My Favorite Murder while also continuing to work on personal projects and learning new skills and techniques. It’s always been my goal with every animation to push my work a little further and make it all a little better each time.