Olan Rogers is a perfect example of how hard work and weathering hard times pays off in the end. I have followed his career almost since the beginning, stumbling onto his Youtube channel when I was in college.
What appealed to me was his humor and authenticity. What I did not expect was to be inspired by his fierce determination to achieve his dreams. I have a poster on my wall signed by him that says “There will be people that will say you can’t make a living out of something you love to do. But are you really living by not doing it?”
It is a potent question and from his career trajectory it is obvious what his answer would be. Against all odds, in a time saturated by web content, Olan Rogers went from successful Youtuber to Soda Parlor owner, to clothing designer, and has now released a pilot for his animated series Lion’s Blaze. To add a cherry on top, he has a new series coming out on TBS made in collaboration with Conan O’Brien called Final Space.
Being a fan who has watched his career grow, flourish, dip, then come back stronger than ever, I was delighted to get the opportunity to interview him about his path to success and what these new projects mean to him.
Having been a fan of yours for the long haul I know that you have worked hard to get to this point, so I have to ask: how does it feel to finally see a concept you dreamed about come into existence?
Olan Rogers: Extremely overwhelming in the best way possible. I still remember seeing the first color pass on Final Space, the proof of concept on YouTube, and it put me to tears. It’s an amazing experience to see these characters come to life.
What has the journey getting here been like? Can you tell me a little bit about the high points and low points?
OR: Oh man. So many low points. The whole year of 2014 was a massive low point and was utterly defeating in every way. I came close to quitting filmmaking a few times but it would never let me go. I hit my highest high point a few years later when Final Space came out; that changed a lot in my life very quickly. It has been a rollercoaster of 12 years of YouTube. I never really thought it would take that long but I’m glad it did in a strange way. I appreciate the highs way more after 2014.
If there was a piece of advice you could give to your younger self what would it be and why?
OR: Surround yourself with positive people. I surrounded myself with pretty poisonous people throughout my life and didn’t notice until the damage was done.
What was your inspiration for Lion’s Blaze?
OR: Jake Sidwell, who plays Sir Luke John in the cartoon, and I were playing Diablo 2. We couldn’t beat this boss and tried to kill it for at least 10 hours. It was the most frustrating fun time I’ve had in a while.
Jonas McCluggage really outdid himself with the art, how did you find him and what led to the two of you working together?
OR: Well Jonas did the concept art which we based a lot of the designs off of. He is one of the best artists I’ve ever seen. But the animation and art was done by Joe Brumm from Studio Joho.
Now Lion’s Blaze is just one of your projects out right now. I know I’m looking forward to seeing Final Space, what can you tell us about that project?
OR: Imagine a Pixar movie broken up into 10 episodes. It has soooooo much heart; it’s unreal. It is super funny, but also heart breaking. You will find yourself crying and laughing at the same time. It’s a sci-fi along the lines of Mass Effect, Star Wars, and Interstellar mixed with Monty Python.
What has it been like as an indie creator to get a chance to work with big names like Conan O’Brien to produce a series?
OR: Amazing and nothing short of a dream.
Not only do you have a successful YouTube following, but you have launched your own clothing line (which is fantastic, I’m looking at adding the Astro Pug shirt to my collection) and opened up a soda parlor, on top of everything else you’re doing. What drives you? What inspires you? And where do you get the energy to do all of this?
OR: Yea I don’t know. I’ve always loved to create and got that entrepreneur spirit from my parents. I love to follow through with an idea. It’s so rewarding. It’s challenging and often stressful but it’s a blast. The energy comes from ambition. I’m very ambitious sometimes to a fault but I chase things until they are a reality. I don’t want to take short cuts. I want to roll up my sleeves and do the work. The answer in short is that this is how my parents raised me.
I first came to know your work through your YouTube channel and your story series. Ghost in the Stalls continues to be a favorite and whenever I need a laugh I pull it up – what made you start doing YouTube videos?
OR: The desire to create and to have fun.
How does Starscream feel about your latest successes?
OR: Thrilled; we talked everyday through text message.
Thank you to Olan Rogers for taking the time to let us interview him! If you get a chance please check out the pilot for Lion’s Blaze and get ready for Final Space. You can also see where it all began by checking out Olan’s Youtube channel. I think you’ll love it.