WTF IS AREA 52?
Area 52 is a collection of 52 experimental animation films that attempt to cleverly comment on the things that connect us as a species in my own tongue-in-cheek way. Each film will be released on Instagram so they will all be under 60 seconds in length. Beginning the first week of January 2017, a new film will be released each week until the end of December 2017.
Here is a brief teaser that will hopefully encourage you to read further:
These films are approached from two sides. Conceptually, I want to make films that make commentary on the little things...and sometimes the big things...that we can all relate to. A "little things"example: I made a film that strings along various human mouth noises as a reminder that we're all cut from the same cloth...or the same string in this case. The big things? Mass murder-by-surprise and the resulting emotions that come with it. The way culture divides us and attempts to suppress our ability to think critically. The overlying theme of Area 52 is that when you boil away all of our cultural bullshit and fabricated identities; we're primates. We're animals. And we act accordingly.
Some films will be mere observations of experiences told in an unconventional way. Abstract love letters, if you will.
The other side of the coin is the Technical approach. I'm looking to explore and discover new devices to tell stories with. I WANT to be uncomfortable and push - maybe not THE boundaries but - my own boundaries as an animation filmmaker. Can I tell a story with a single piece of string? Is it possible to tell a story using only circles? What if I used lipstick?
In a nutshell, taking a concept that everyone can understand and cleverly visualizing it with an unconventional technique and telling that story in under 60 seconds. If those things work in concert, it makes for the quintessential Area 52 film.
As is the nature of experiments though, not ALL of my films will succeed. Some are bound to fail. But I (and hopefully you) will accept those failures as well as the successes along this journey.
My hope is that I can make these films for people around the world (or at least those using Instagram) to digest and appreciate without using the parameters or boundaries that cultures use to define and separate us. Visually speaking, things like definitions of gender, race, ethnicity, religious ideology and language will all be discarded. This limitation will force me to make films that utilize animation beyond the norms and the pre-conceived notions we are currently used to when we think of animation. So if you're expecting singing bunnies or pictures of people talking to each other, this probably isn't for you ;)
Make one short experimental animation film each week for 52 weeks. Film lengths cannot exceed 60 seconds.
To be prolific in creating short term/short form animation projects in lieu of a long term/longer form endeavor.
To make films that have a "big a-ha", requiring commentary & technique to work in concert.
To utilize rarely used techniques or create new techniques to tell animated stories.
To use analog animation techniques whenever possible (and reasonable).
To reframe the idea of experimental animation and redefine it as "fine art animation" or "animation as fine art".
To reach audiences outside of the United States, and hopefully within.
To be consistently immersed in creative projects outside of commercial work-for-hire projects.
Enthusiasts, fans, buffs and creators of all areas of the film, fine art and other creative worlds.
Those interested in social critique and commentary.
Those in countries with rich histories in animation. Such as Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.
Those interested in gallery shows, fine art curations and the history of art.
I'm pretty much gonna run the the gamut. I do envision a good amount of analog items being used. That means, shooting real things and animating them later on; or animating objects and drawings in more of a traditional or stop motion way. I wish I could foresee exactly what I will use in every film. Very few things are off limits. CGI is OK but only as a last ditch or if no other techniques make more sense to use. It's almost always paramount to make sure the technique & visualization is the "ying" to the concept's "yang".
Norman McLaren because he's the O.G.
Jan Švankmajer because he's the king.
Lotte Reiniger because she's the queen.
John & Faith Hubley because they showed us how far outside the box you could go.
Mary Blair because she combined fine art and animation like no one else.
Storm Thorgerson because he epitomizes "ain't nothin' like the real thing".
David Lynch because he finds the strange in the familiar.
The Brothers Quay because they find the familiar in the strange.
FOLLOW + WATCH: WHY I CHOSE INSTAGRAM AS A PLATFORM
As repulsed as I am by social media, I think Instagram is a great platform for Area 52 to blossom and be seen (and hopefully appreciated) by as many eyeballs as possible, worldwide. These are not films exclusively for English-speaking Americans. Because, let’s face it: In America we aren’t culturally trained to view short films as meaningful art that has value. Especially animation. It’s kid’s stuff. And that’s pretty much where we draw the line.
In some European countries, short films do sell and become part of state-funded public programming. But think about the journey you and your film have to take before it gets there. First, you essentially have to make a brilliant, needle-in-a-haystack film; then you have to spend what seems like a boat load of money to apply to festivals; then the taste police at the festivals have to ordain you as part of their circle; then, if accepted, you have to spend more money and time traveling around your country, or to other countries, to attend these festivals. All in the hopes of…what exactly? To potentially break even or make very little profit on your hard work? To gain notoriety? Win an award? Win an Oscar? Seems like a 'Hail Mary' to me. Why would you spend that kind of money and time on a short film that you poured your creative genius into just to possibly be put in a position to win an award? Or to please the few people who came to see it?
Please know that I'm not knocking the film festival circuit in and of itself. For the most part, hard-working and caring folks put together a great platform for filmmakers to strut their stuff and get well deserved pats on the back. Making industry friends and connections are a great takeaway from film festivals, no doubt. And they're certainly better for feature length films since those actually have distribution outlets that can be quite profitable. But if the main goal is to communicate what the art is saying to as many people as possible and have them appreciate it, the festival route doesn't seem to be the most solid business model for short form animated films.
To me, it makes more sense to spend less time and money on much shorter films and distribute free of charge on a free platform that nearly everyone has access to. Literally for the cost of film festival submissions alone, you could produce a large group of films and have a much greater audience reach on a regular basis. Plus, you don't have to beg family, friends, acquaintances and strangers for funds on a crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter.
That being said, I choose Instagram to display the Area 52 films. I believe it's the best platform for me to showcase art that says what I want to say to the most people possible - for many reasons:
Its interface doesn't come with all of the distractions that Facebook, YouTube and other outlets have. It's a much more intimate experience. You see posts one at a time and you can live with that post for as long as you'd like.
Also unlike Facebook & YouTube, the comments sections are usually not a cesspool of opinion. People tend to like and share content that entertains them without getting into a bickering match.
There's a time limit of :60 seconds for video content so people are more inclined to watch a film in its entirety.
I'm able to aggregate granular information about who exactly is watching and enjoying these films. This way, if I do submit to a festival or make an attempt to sell some of my work, I'll know where to place my bets.
Also, there's some essence of a portfolio there if that's how you want to utilize it. It's clean. It's pretty to look at. And it's free. Win-win-win.
The big-wigs at Instagram are not paying me to say any of this. I have no business dealings with them whatsoever and they're doing just fine without my endorsement. But I do encourage you to FOLLOW + WATCH these films on Instagram. The account is @area52flix. HERE is a direct link.
FOLLOW. WATCH. COMMENT. SHARE. ENJOY.