By Yuri Iwahara
Name: Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
Hometown: Sonoma, CA
Current neighborhood: Prospect Park South, Brooklyn
College: University of California, Santa Barbara
We discovered Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell when she posted a photo of one of our famous “Hillary doesn’t understand RoomZoom” posters on Instagram. Intrigued by her handle (@cartoonsbyhilary), I looked up her website and found that not only can she illustrate her love of wine in infinite ways, but she’s also a talented filmmaker.
To anyone scrolling through her tumblr of daily cartoons, Hilary’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor makes itself clear. The charming illustrations depict scenes from a millennial woman’s everyday life.
Her heavy involvement with the Slamdance Film Festival as a documentary programmer has greatly helped her to establish her film career as well. Hilary’s first film, “This is Not the End,” a documentary focusing in on her family, was chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick and won several film festival awards. Her second effort, “Small Talk,” a documentary about her hometown in California, also earned her several awards and screened at the Rooftop Films Summer Series in June.
Luckily, Friends of Friends was able to snag an interview and get an insider’s peek into the life of this creative, multi-talented Brooklynite.
How long have you lived in NYC? Any roommate horror stories?
I’ve lived in NYC just over a year! I had a roommate in college who despised my existence, and I his. I think everything I did was an accidental offense toward him. This included burning his “grandparent’s 50-year-old steel pot,” cutting an avocado on his 1950s pizza stone, and tap dancing on his mahogany wood (I still stand by my opinion that it was scrap wood).
How did you get into cartooning and film, and how do you balance the two? Do they go hand in hand?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I was always really obsessed with Snoopy, mostly because Snoopy is great, but also Charles Schulz was a golfing buddy of my grandpa and we grew up with a lot of the originals in the house, so I was drawn to it (LOL PUNS). My mom raised me on movies. She says a lot of people criticized her for letting me sit in front of the TV so much, but her response was, “She likes it.” And it’s true, I do. And I just do what I like.
They can definitely go hand in hand, just in that they are both an artistic expression of the self. Sometimes I animate things, so there they can literally go hand in hand. I cartoon every day because all I need is pen and paper. If I tried to make a movie every day I think I’d kill myself. A fellow documentary filmmaker and friend of mine put filmmaking in the most perfect way: “I don’t make a movie unless I absolutely have to.” That’s how I feel. Filmmaking is deeply painful (and rewarding), so my heart can only manage one or two a year.
Did you have any troubles going into that career field?
I’m troubled currently, and probably always will be. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, and when I think I know what I’m doing I’m lying to myself. But you have to just keep doing what you want to do and then maybe the other people who do that will accept you. All that aside, my work at Slamdance started everything for me and I am grateful for that.
How do you engage with your online audience? What have been some of the challenges of promoting yourself and making a living off of cartooning and filmmaking?
I try to be responsive and thankful and positive to my followers! I hate that I call them followers. Fans? I don’t know, the people who like me are great. Self-promotion feels so deeply narcissistic and sometimes I feel like rolling my eyes at myself. But it’s the nature of the beast and it’s something I have to do. Making a living [from cartooning and filmmaking alone] is impossible. I also sometimes work in restaurants. But also, I have two books coming out this year. Check out Feminist Fight Club out this September via HarperCollins, and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, this January via Animal Media Group!
Freelancing is tricky. You take what you can get and there will be periods where you think you’re amazing and everybody wants some. Then there are periods where even your mom isn’t calling you back.
Can you speak a bit to the feminist themes you have going on with your cartooning?
I am a lady and therefore my cartoons are about being a lady, but ultimately ladies are humans so my cartoons are about being human. So yes there are feminist themes.
Do you have any films or cartoons you are particularly inspired by stylistically?
Again, I love Peanuts. I also think Liana Finck is fucking amazing. As far as movies go, Nora Ephron is my spirit animal, Albert Maysles is my imagined godfather, and Christopher Guest is my everything.
Any cool projects you’re working on right now?
I just shot a new film that will be the first in a docu-series called Related. It’s just about anyone related to me. The first segment is called Brother because it’s about my brother. I just finished illustrating Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club and my own book of cartoons Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But You Could’ve Done Better, and I’ve been traveling a lot with my latest film Small Talk.
Yuri Iwahara listens to sixties jazz when she’s cooking in the kitchen. She’ll talk to you about art, plants, or that bizarre online article you just read.
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