Film 52: "Mini Jazz"

When December arrived, I had 37 films completed at a point where I was supposed to have 48!  I had to make 15 films over the course of 31 days.  Rather than shit my pants, I decided to use this limitation to my advantage.  One of the ideas I concocted was to do a solo Ani-Jam.

Ani-jams are improvised, tag team animations done by several animators.  One animator starts it off with a short animation.  Then passes it on to another, who picks up at the last frame where the previous animator left off, not knowing what the rest of the animation looked like.  Just the last frame.  Then the second passes to a third.  Then to a fourth.  And so on.  The end result is a ridiculous concoction of strange animation that would never belong together outside of this context.  Sort of like Mad-Libs or Telephone.

I was going to do 5 very short films in a row -- one each day -- picking up where where I left off the day prior and taking it on a new and completely unrelated tangent.  Given the improv nature of this, I was going to call this set of films "Jazz", parts 1-5.

Well, that never happened.  But I still wanted to make a film that was a totally improvised collage of nonsense that, somehow, had a thread.  So this film was sort of born out of necessity.  I saved it for last because i just wanted to let go and have some fun.  I think it turned out to be one of the most interesting and visually rich films out of the entire series.

I was originally inspired by a short sound collage called "Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World" on Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' album.  I took this idea of randomization and collected a slew of sounds from all over the place and edited the final selections together into my own sound collage.

The difference here is that I wanted to mimic the structure of a jazz song, where there are landmark grooves that are known to the musicians (and familiar to the audience) that are spread out throughout the song in a pattern, leaving gaps of time in between these landmark points.  All of the gaps in between are improvised.  Make sense?

The military rocket launching countdown became this thread because it was the only sound clip I collected that I was able to make such a thread out of.  There were three rocket launches, therefore three sections.

This film took about 5 days to complete.  The audio alone took a long full day.

I supposed my guiding light through this one was "cannibalization".  An important part of any creative process is to cannibalize all of the things around you to use as creative fuel.  That's why it's important to get out of your element from time to time and cannibalize new things since you've already devoured your regular surroundings.  I say this because I cannibalized the internet as much as I could here.  Any sort of imagery, as long it was useable, was on the table.  Like foraging through a junk yard.

The process for this film was very straight-ahead.  No plan, really.  Just sort of listened to the next section of audio and pieced together the thing I imagined would go best with it given the time I had to make it.

I made most of this film on the final day of the year.  I didn't really want to release the final film on New Year's Eve.  Kinda hard to compete haha!  I didn't really have a choice though.  Is what it is.  Just like this film!

Here are some finished stills from "Mini Jazz":

As always, THANK YOU for reading!  Now go watch "MINI JAZZ".


Film 50 + 51: "Bad Movie" + "Bad Movie 2"

I generally stay away from movie theaters.  A bit of a contradiction here but, I actually hate movies.  Filmmaking in the United States, as an art form, has taken a giant nosedive in recent decades.  Sure a few gems have been made.  And I'm sure most of you reading this are eating up the Star Wars reboot and the Marvel Universe films.  I'll admit, they're fun :)

The thing is, Hollywood is no longer in the movie business.  They're in the nostalgia business.  They're also in the franchise business.  Very little decisions have anything to do with art.  You can't make a film anymore without it being attached to merchandise.  In the last few years alone, we've seen all of the following comeback: Star Wars, Jumanji, Ghostbusters, Dirty Dancing, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King.  They are also remaking classic Universal monster movies and my beloved 'Bride of Frankenstein' will be part of the Unnecessary Do-Over Parade.

Art is business.  Film is a business.  And just like any other business, the market is dictated by trends.  And the bottom line of any major movie studio doesn't give a shit if a movie is bad or good as long as it made money.  So why not go for a sure thing, right?

Take the DC comics films, for example.  I didn't see Batman v. Superman but it's been widely panned by critics and fans as simply a terrible film.  A waste of dollars that could have gone to feeding starving kids.  Or certainly, to just make a different better movie.  But, alas, the film made $850M globally 5 weeks after it's release in 2016.  So, the big wigs are just gonna wanna do more of that!  Trends dictate market and products for the market.

Even on the independent level, some great, impassioned films are being made that fall short of getting accepted to important film festival platforms simply because they don't fit a list of criteria known as the "curatorial voice".  Some filmmakers make films that include these criteria points just so they have a better shot of getting accepted to festivals. Which is the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard of but it does happen.  And they're usually bad.  But they get in.  Why?  They fit the curatorial voice!

I guess, like most things in life, these trends are formed based on fear.  Studios fear a shut down or losing important advertising partners so they keep cranking out rehashes of prior successes.  Indy filmmakers scrap that cool personal film just so they can get funding to make a film that is likely to make a festival run.

Still though, did we need another Jumanji?  And all respect to the funny ladies in Ghostbusters but did we really need that too?  We don't need another 'Amityville Horror'.  We DEFINITELY don't need a 'Bad Moms Christmas" movie.  But we got it! :D

Like everything else human beings mix with money, we've polluted a great thing.  It's over!  Say goodbye to Hollywood folks!  I'm not saying don't go to the movies or not to enjoy fun films.  Go right ahead!  But be aware of what's happening.  Your nostalgia is being capitalized on.  There are good films out there being made that don't get the shine they deserve because they can't be marketed along with a toy or a lunchbox.

So...fuck it...if it truly doesn't matter, here are two more bad films to add to the pile.  I'd love to keep making a series of these because they're so absurd and illogical.  They are incredibly fun to make and to watch.


I made sure to do all of the drawings in the film left-handed.  I really wanted a genuine crappy-kids-drawing look.  It also sort of looks like I drew it with half of my brain in my head.  Which I really like a lot :)

Here are some "finished" stills from the original 'Bad Movie':

And some from 'Bad Movie 2':

Thanks for reading my rant!  Now go watch "BAD MOVIE" and "BAD MOVIE 2"!

Film 49: "Goals"

There are a few paradoxes, I've noticed, with goals:

1. Once you reach a goal you've set for yourself, the moment of celebration that comes with achieving it is fleeting. You want more, and now that you've reached that specific goal, you're immediately onto other ones. Most times, starting again from scratch. This sort of blunts the impact of achieving said goal.

2. Goals are worthless without action. Here's a quote from Earl Nightengale's "The Strangest Secret":

“We’ve got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise, we’ve got to be of service first before we can expect money. Don’t concern yourself with the money. Be of service. Build. Work. Dream. Create. Do this and you’ll find that there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to you.” 

3.  In order to achieve a goal, you'll likely need to set dozens of other smaller goals in order to achieve the bigger goal. Hitting those small goals are nice but, see #1.

Arthur Ashe once said, "Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." I find this to be half true. Do you think all of Michael Jordan's hard work would have been just as meaningful if he didn't win any championships? I don't think so. After he won his first championship, I'm sure he was ecstatic about his achievement. But it's not enough. He wanted more. And more. And more.

Again, see #1.


Not much of interest here as far as unconventional techniques are concerned. This entire film was made in After Effects and I was able to complete the whole thing in 9 hours because of it.

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  And watching.  And supporting :)  Watch "GOALS".

Film 48: "Downpour"

Getting down to the wire here and need to finish films fast while keeping SOME kind of thread.  I went back to my list of true experiments and tests and picked out this "scratch film".  I remembered I had done rain before in another film using scratches from a dirty film texture I had. But being that that was a ready-made live action clip of film scratches, I couldn't control the scratches themselves.

So I took a thin fabric marker that had run out of ink made scratches on blank pieces of paper.


When scanned, it just looked like a blank white sheet of paper with barely noticable marks:

So I added a Threshold filter, which basically crushes all colors into pure blacks and whites and ramped up the black Levels:

I did about 50 pages worth of scratches in various shapes to look like sheets of rain, ripples, drips and drops, etc:

This is good for a first test.  It's a great, easy and fast way to create analog rain or moving scratch textures without CGI.  If I ever expanded on this technique, I'd want to try a more painterly approach to the coloring as opposed to tinting it overall with one or two colors.

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  Watch "DOWNPOUR".

Film 47: "Journey to the Center of the Earth"

I was inspired to make this while I was on a client gig recently, inspecting an image that had weird pixel artifacts.  In Photoshop, when an image is zoomed in all the way in, you get a really cool, ready-made pixel mosaic:

I wanted to explore a full range of colors and temperatures so I used these as a loose guide to create each segment of the atmosphere and layers of the Earth.

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading :)  Watch "JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH"!

Film 46: "Nuclear Family"

We've all seen footage of the U.S. nuclear tests from the 1950s, where fully constructed houses implode and explode in slow motion, getting blown apart by what seems like a force stronger than the finger of God.  Or footage of trees bending at 90 degree angles as they are pummeled by dust and heat.

Those houses and trees were part of full-fledged, pretend towns built around the bomb's ground zero.  Those towns, known as Doomsday Towns, were filled with mannequins, fake dogs, trucks, trains, even a fake forest! Here are some strange and eerie pics of the Nevada Doomsday Town:

J.C. Penney "donated" scores of mannequins to the project.  What really interested me about this was that after the nuclear test was said and done, JC Penney asked for their mannequins back. Ha!  Are you fuckin' kidding me??  I'll say it again...


Now, I know very little about nuclear bombs.  But I do know, from what I've seen, a nuclear bomb pretty much destroys everything in it's way.  I'm all for being shrewd when it comes to business but...I mean...c'mon.  You gotta know that if you're giving away an item as a prop for a nuclear test, it's probably not going to be returned to you.  At least not in the same shape it was donated in.

So, I decided I'd make a little scrapbook to show JC Penney what happened while their nuclear families were on vacation in Nevada.

P.S. I stole all of this footage and the music so don't expect to see a theatrical release of this picture ;)

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  Now go watch "NUCLEAR FAMILY"!


Film 45: "Bars & Tone"

I've been going back through my list and trying to check off some old ideas I've been holding on to.  One idea was "make something monotonous, interesting."  Every time I saw this one on the list, I could have sworn that monotonous thing would never float to the surface.  But as I was searching for some public domain imagery and footage to use for another film, I ventured off into the world of film and TV pre-rolls.  Slates, leaders, countdowns, etc.  Then there they were.  Color bars.  Duh!

To spare you some boredom, I'll make this explanation brief.  Color bars are used so a TV station can calibrate it's equipment to the color intensities and audio levels of a broadcast tape.  It's usually 30 seconds of the static bars with a steady monotonous tone of 1000 Hz.  Aaaaand that's it.  It doesn't pretend to be anything else.

I have seen other art that uses color bars but it's typically as part of a collage.  And usually inside of a TV screen.  Like these:

Or they can be made into birthday gifts for hipsters:

The fun part for me was making the melodies in the audio using only the steady tone.  I cut the tone into pieces, either one or two frames long, and changed the pitch on each one to emulate different "notes".  Then cut the notes together in random patterns and it sounded a little like video game music from 1983:

Here's a short bit of the edited audio without any reverb on it:

'Twas a fun experiment!  And a relatively easy piece to get done while I'm in full sprint.  This one took about 8 hours to complete from top to bottom.  Would be nice to have some time to walk away and tweak and whatnot but--it's done.  And now it's gone.  On to the next!

Thanks for reading!  Watch "BARS & TONE" HERE!

Film 44: "From the Top!"

How annoying, right?!?  This film is only 5 seconds long but it can logically loop endlessly thanks to a phenomenon known as Earworms.  That's the scientific term.  Earworms.

A song getting stuck in your head is the most common part of a wide array of Involuntary Imagery.  Smells, tastes & sounds can all recur in a mildly haunting redundancy.  But sounds are most common.  And most common of all sticky sounds are songs.  The stickiest of songs are pop songs.

If you're prone to Earworms, Billboard actually made a list of songs you should probably stay away from. Here are Billboard's catchiest songs of all time:

1. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” The Beatles

2. “Beat It” Michael Jackson

3. “Dancing Queen” ABBA

4. “ABC,” The Jackson 5

5. “Stop! In the Name of Love,” The Supremes

6. “She Loves You,” The Beatles

7. “The Twist,” Chubby Checker

8. "Respect," Aretha Franklin

9. "Stayin' Alive," Bee Gees

10. "Under Pressure," Queen and David Bowie

11. "Good Vibrations," The Beach Boys

12. "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Beyonce

13. "Hound Dog," Elvis Presley

14. "YMCA," Village People

15. "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson

16. "I Will Survive," Donna Summer

17. "Believe," Cher

18. "Sweet Caroline," Neil Diamond

19. "Happy," Pharrell

20. "Don't You Want Me," The Human League

21. "Call Me Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen

22. "Like A Prayer," Madonna

23. "Hey Ya," Outkast

24. "MmmBop," Hanson

25. "Bad Romance," Lady Gaga

I hate lists. And the Billboard charts. But if there is ANY sort of authority on really catchy tunes, it's them.  I'm not really sure what it is that makes one song more catchy than another.  But whatever.  If you want to save your sanity, remove these songs from your playlists.  Also, stay out of supermarkets.


If I didn't give it away in the Instagram caption, there are a few choices that might lead a viewer to pick up on the fact that this a song stuck in your head.

1. The song I used is an soul/acid jazz version of "Can't Get you Outta My Head" by The Third Degree:

2. The bird in the open birdcage is a hummingbird.  I don't know...I thought it was more recognizable than a songbird:

3. I thought the use of a film cue mark, or cigarette burn, in the upper right corner may tip someone off that this is something continuous.  In film, the cue mark signals to the film projectionist that the reel ends at that frame and a new one will begin.  So the first and last frames of a film reel are marked with a small circle as the cue.  Widescreen or anamorphic films are marked with an ellipse.  Like so:

As always, thanks for reading!  Now go watch "FROM THE TOP!" at your own risk!

Film 43: "Untitled"

Since the inception of this project, I have been wanting to make a film using the scanner as a camera.  I mean, technically, it is a camera.  But, more specifically, using the large piece of glass as a lens and not just placing flat objects onto it and closing the lid.

Leaving the lid open on a scanner lets in other ambient light which creates a strange texture because scanners are extremely near-sighted.  Anything beyond an inch or two away from the glass creates a blur and some weird texturing:

My hand is roughly 2 - 5 inches away from the scanner glass here.

Most flatbed scanners (like my cheap one from Staples) operate by shining a light onto the object as it passes along the underside of the glass, capturing the image and it rolls along.  But what if the light was shining onto another light?  Would would happen?

So I took this idea and used a household flashlight.  I ran it across the scanner glass in different patterns and speeds, following the bar as it passed along the glass.  It resulted in some interesting images:

Generally, I don't like abstract films.  I think by rule, abstract filmmaking requires a good balanced sound companion.  I think if this film was silent it would be shit.  The violin, and the way in which the animation seemingly reacts to the violin, makes for a nice harmony.  It almost feels like the scans are audio waves that are being created by the violin.

I enlisted the help of a gifted violin player named Alicia Enstrom.  She sent me a bunch of original music in a broad spectrum of styles and I thought this piece was not only a good Area 52 fit, but also displayed some serious violin skills.

After listening to the track a dozen times, I scanned several sets of movements and patterns that are meant to roughly match certain intensities in the song.  All the while, running the flashlight along the scanner glass, or shaking the flashlight around, playing with different distances, etc.

Here's proof:

With a little layering in After Effects (and some color grading), the results were pretty nice.  I think this technique has some legs and am interested to try out flashlights of all sizes in the future.

Here is some finished art from the film:

Film 42: "Identity"

Think about all the numbers that define your identity.  Date of birth, phone number, address, zip code, postal code, tax ID number, employer ID number, social security number, driver's license ID number, license plate number, registration numbers, birth certificate ID number.

Bank account numbers, routing numbers, credit card numbers, debit card numbers, last 3 digits on the back on your card.

PIN number, VIN number, confirmation number.  Policy number, ticket number, passport number, badge number. Enlisted service number. Patient ID number. Client ID number. Certification, permit, license, membership and account numbers of all varieties.

Even prisoners and the deceased have ID numbers.

All of this adds up to your unique personal identity.  It may look a little something like this:

0734563597185634596132964523-xxxx 0-740715234-2136496725363746935608134-xxxx-09986321765412345678537460986754453135672548767615234603476587236578-453645184657687572569457681235763246-981357-907865132872364-975348524562385740 5865234892-000 00875897864598398609897673642359287596135235-098-667889-QRP098769980718-829-3772.0734563597185634596132964523-xxxx 0-740715234-2136496725363746935608134-xxxx-09986321765 4123456785374609867 54453135 6725487676152346 03476587236578-453645184657687572569457681235763246-981357-907865132872364-975348524562385740 5865234892-000 0087589786459839860 9897673642359287596135235-098-667889-QRP098769980718-829-3772.

They used to tell you that you're defined by the years you've lived and the experience you've gained with age.  But that's just age...which is, of course, nothing but a number.


I had wanted to do this entire film using just a printer but the printer ran out of ink in the middle of it and I wasn't about to go out in the snow for more.  So this ended up being a analog/CGI hybrid.

I started out by drawing a human head and then pixelating it in Photoshop.  Using the jagged edges of the pixelation as a guide, I was able to build a new face using O's and X's:

Then I printed the final image 22 times, stopping the printer at different intervals each time so that it only printed a certain amount of the image:

Then I put all the prints together in sequential order and scanned them back into the computer:

Then the printer ran out of ink and I was forced to do the rest in CGI.  I'm actually glad it did.  I think the final wouldn't have looked all that different and would have taken a lot longer to complete if I kept going down the analog route.  I'm literally sprinting to the finish line and can't get hung up on laborious processes.  Especially when there is a faster and easier way to get the same point across.  I'll definitely keep the printer idea in my back pocket for another time though.

Thanks for reading!  Now go watch "IDENTITY".

Film 41: "The Voices"

The original inspiration for this film was schizophrenic auditory hallucinations.  But...I don't have schizophrenia and I've never experienced auditory hallucinations without a hallucinogen. After much research on the subject, it doesn't sound fun whatsoever.  The voices, to a schizophrenic, don't sound muffled or distant like they are in the film. Schizophrenics experience voices that sound like they're right next to them in the same room.  As if a real person was talking to them.  And at first they're usually friendly voices that transform into hateful instigators that never quite shut up, causing the person to fall into a constant state of self-loathing.

I didn't end up feeling compelled to create a true portrait of what voices sound (and look like) to a clinical schizophrenic and didn't want to create something contrived on a subject I have no first hand experience with.  


I wanted to experiment with making an animation with a small amount of drawings and use morphing to create the animation itself.

I drew anywhere from 4 to 6 head poses per move and then drew each pose three times.  For example, if one head move had 6 poses, I ended up with 18 drawings for that particular head move, 3 sets of 6. This was just to give me some extra padding when I morphed the frames together so it felt more fluid:

Once I had 7 short head animations, I piled on the filters to create a sort of chiaroscuro effect.  Here are some before and afters:

After some more filtering and lots of layering and playing with speeds, I arrived at something that I could call a film.  Not overjoyed with how this came out but it's good enough.  I would definitely want to explore the possibilities of this technique further.

I did discover something interesting while working on this that I'd like to dive into.  There was a weird thing that happened when certain frames were morphed into each other.  As a result of After Effects not knowing how to best create an in-between frame for two drawings, it resulted in these really nice thin lines that added a texture and cooler line art to the heads:

So, the initial experiment wasn't a rousing success but the possibilities of these morph glitches is a good silver lining.

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  WATCH "THE VOICES" HERE.

Film 40: "The Dying Swan"

A few years ago I went to Lincoln Center to see a live production of The Nutcracker.  I remember being really impressed by the set design.  And the music, of course, was perfect.  I was much less impressed with the actual ballet.  Ballet isn't exactly one of my favorite pastimes and I know close to nothing about it.  So without understanding how difficult it is to be one of the best ballet dancers in the world, I sort of just took the ballet dancing in The Nutcracker for granted.

I had been really wanting to make a motion study film where I can focus solely on the beauty of animation and I immediately thought of dance.  So I went down a researching rabbit hole and wound up watching some ballet videos on YouTube.  When I came upon this version of The Swan, the music was immediately recognizable and very pretty.  But what really struck me, for the first time in my life, is how moving and beautiful a ballet dance performance can be.

The name of this ballerina is Ulyana Lopatkina and she looks as if she was born to do nothing else but ballet.  Her physical specimen is made for the art form in the same way LeBron James was made to be an athlete.  From an animation standpoint, her form and gracefulness were a perfect fit for what I was wanting to do.

I started by matching her movements with simple white lines.  I enhanced some of the inherent motion with some secondary animation using a faded set of motion trails:

As I went along, it became apparent that one doesn't really need to know the name of the piece in order to know that she is a dying bird.  Here are some stills of just the motion study itself in plain white lines.  I mean, her's perfect:

I was careful when deciding what the shapes and lines would be because I really wanted to get an understanding of the mechanics (and immense strength) involved in performing a dance like this and at this caliber.  

I guess this is true for all forms of dance but, by doing this motion study using ballet, I've learned to assume perfection from the art form.  Seems like the grading scale is only A+ or F in ballet dancing.  Like gymnastics or figure skating, one minor flub is a failure.

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading! WATCH "THE DYING SWAN" HERE!

Film 39: "Microcosmic"

In it's original form, Area 52 was just supposed to be random animation experiments that hopefully led to the uncovering of new techniques.  The idea was to test and explore a wide array of "what ifs" within a set of technical boundaries.  

One of the original experiments on the list was: Make a film using a CRT television or computer monitor.  That meant that I'd make an animation, then play it on a TV/VCR combo and shoot the animation while it played on the TV.

I hadn't realized that shooting the animation at full size wouldn't really make all that much of a difference unless I was shaking the camera around or playing with the video connection.  Those two actions only make the image glitch.  I had just made a film right before this one that was created entirely with glitches and I didn't want to repeat myself.  So back to the drawing board.

After a bit of futzing with the camera, I realized that I could get a close up of the TV glass much sharper if I shot it with my iPhone instead.

The texture created by the glass of a CRT television is one of a kind.  It's something that's been completely lost, for better or for worse, with flat panel HDTVs of today.  Here are some close up stills from one of the test shoots:

Having the camera zoomed in all the way meant I had to shrink the animation quite a bit so I could capture as much movement as possible.  I ended up shrinking my canvas all the way down to 250 x 170.  That's about 40% of the size of a CRT TV screen and roughly 10% of the size of an HDTV screen.  Here's a quick diagram so you can see the size difference.  The red box is the size I was working at:

It was almost literally like working on a postage stamp.  Here's the canvas at full size:

I spent about 6 hours making all of the the fly-through animations, edited them all together and placed the small 250 x 170 composition into a 720 x480 composition.  Like so:

Then I exported it and burned onto one of these ancient items:


I set the DVD to loop so could just roll camera and shoot it a bunch of different ways:

I'm really happy with the way some of these textures registered in the end.  I'm equally as happy with the film as a whole.  Eliminating the layer of commentary or story gave way to a more playful and truly experimental approach:

Gonna use air quotes when I say I "made the music myself".  There are some great auto instruments in Garage Band under Alchemy Synth / Sound Effects that can go on for days when the Sustain switch is turned on.  I used this one called "Stargate Opening".  I recorded a bunch of long sound effects and drones and did a sound mix to make it feel like we were flying through this tiny universe:

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "MICROCOSMIC"!

Film 38: "Distress Call Of A Lost Cosmonaut While She Floats Helplessly Into The Void"

This film is the first of several random experiments I'll be making as I start coming down the home stretch.  The effect itself was a rejected idea from a client project that I reclaimed and found a new excuse to use it.  The excuse is the subject of a strange-but-plausible conspiracy theory claiming that, during the space race of the early 60s, Soviet cosmonauts were launched into outer space on test flights and didn't come back alive.  

As the story goes, two amateur Italian radio operators recorded morse code and distress calls from the lost cosmonauts.  In May of 1961, the brothers claimed that they recorded a female voice speaking in Russian, saying things like "it is very hot" and "I see flame".  Moments before the signal is disconnected, she allegedly asks if the space shuttle was going to destroy itself.  Poor lady :(

The Soviets denied any such shuttle launches or cosmonaut deaths.  The theory suggests that the Soviet space program covered up the deaths to keep their foothold on the space race, since the resulting fallout would be disasterous.

For their interstellar radio piracy, the brothers won national fame in Italy and even won a prize to visit NASA.

Real or no, it's a pretty scary thought to be a guinea pig stuck in a shuttle on an unprecedented trip into outer space and knowing, with a good amount of certainty, that you're going to die alone out there.

This film is an attempt to illustrate this cosmonaut's audio distress signals in a visual format.  What does audio that is being transmitted thousands of miles from a space shuttle to Earth actually look like?

Here's what I think it looks like:

Film 37: "Piss & Vinegar"

My father is the epitome of "you can take the boy out of the Bronx but not the Bronx out of the boy."  He's lived a lot of life.  Every crease on his face is a scar from experience.  When he was visiting us over Thanksgiving break, he was telling me about his semi-retired lifestyle and how he doesn't have the desire or ambition like he once had. 

"When I was young, I used to be full of piss and vinegar!", he exclaimed.

It was sort of poignant, as I suddenly thought of myself at 71 years old.  Will I mourn my lack of vigor?  Or will I proudly look back at all that I've done and know that I put my own piss and vinegar to good use?

This then got me thinking of one of my favorite Charles Bukowski poems.  Actually, one of my favorites of all poems, entitled "Roll the Dice".  In it, Bukowski gives a straight forward pep talk about doing the things you want to do and going "all the way".  Not half way.  Not just enough of the way.  All the way or don't even bother!

As I sit and type this, I've got a pretty big hurdle to jump.  15 films to complete in a little over 30 days.  It's quite a challenging position I've put myself in.  But I know I have absolutely zero choice but to go all the way.  Although 37 films in a year are more than some filmmakers complete in a lifetime, I can't stop now.  It's not enough to go 3/4 of the way.  Even 51 films would be failure.  It's 52 or bust.

I have to go all the way for many reasons and I've added new one to the list.  It's because I don't want to be looking back at my life and say "I wish I had finished when I was full of piss and vinegar."

I had to abridge (hack) Bukowski's poem to fit the 60 second time constraint.  Here's the full text below:

Roll The Dice by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.

you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
there is.



Film 35 + 36: "Slurred Speech"

Last week's film, "Dirty Wordy", explores how long it takes for a word to lose it's power and, originally, I was toying with using slurs instead of curse words.  But I decided to save the slurs for this week because I felt compelled to comment on the fact that there is a glaring subtext when it comes to slurs:


It's quite possibly the most hypocritical part of modern culture.

It must be said that I made these films from an angle that merely reports an observation I've made about the way culture works.  And the way in which we use language to suppress entire groups, while exempting others from being suppressed.  I could just as easily have used the amount of racial slurs for white folks versus every other ethnicity as the main theme.  Or homosexual slurs vs. heterosexual slurs.  But those lists have to stand in awe...AWE!...of the disparity between slurs against females and slurs against males.  

First off, there are no slurs that are exclusive to heterosexual men.  Any slur against you can only be a slur that is already meant to degrade other groups.  "Faggot", for instance, holds a special place in the lexicon of offensive terms for another group.  Even "gay" as a slur for a heterosexual person is more degrading for homosexuals than it is for heterosexuals.  "Cunt", "douche" and "pussy" are also akin to this.

If you're white, though not totally exempt from slurs, you are much more impervious to them than...well...basically every other race.  "Cracker", "Devil" and "Trash" are three words I wouldn't want to be called.  But they're pretty much the only three words I can think of that might sting.  None of them definitely sting.  And "honky"?? Haha...get the fuck out of here.

Males of any race or sexual orientation enjoy the privilege (yes, privilege) of having no clue what it's like to be marginalized just because you're male.  Furthermore, males of any race or sexual orientation don't also have benign vocabulary words used against them to paint them in a harsh light.

For instance...if you're male, consider the impact of someone calling you "aggressive".  If you're an aggressive guy, you're usually termed an "alpha male", which places you in the ultimate position of dominance.  "Aggressive woman" is really just a euphemism for "bitch".

Guys, ever have a woman refer to you as "easy"?  Or a "piece of ass"?  Or "slut"?  If a woman called me a slut in front of my friends, I'd get a giant pat on the back and someone would probably buy me a shot. 

Here are some others for the men:

Ever been called a "ball and chain"?  Or how about a "kept man"?  Or a "househusband"?  Anyone know any househusbands?

Lots of men work very hard for a living in respectable fields.  Are they "career men"?

Am I a "career man"?

Dads...if you had a nickel for every time you were called a "working father", you'd probably have exactly zero cents.  But then again, you wouldn't need the money because you're just a person that goes to work...who happens to have children.  You aren't defying other people's expectations of your fatherhood just by going to work.

A few other things I learnt:

1. There are some words on the list that I personally don't think hold enough weight to be slurs.  Like "feisty" or "hysterical".  Certainly not up there with "twat" or "skank".  Unless you said "feisty twat"?  I don't know...seriously though, I wanted to make these from a purely objective stance.  I'm also not in a position to tell people what they should or shouldn't be offended by.  So they stayed in.

2.  Slurs have a really long shelf life.  People still use "broad", "dame" and "Jezebel".  When was the last time you said "dame" when you weren't referring to Judy Dench?

3. Some of these words actually are funny.  Though still offensive, "bridezilla" can be pretty on point when used appropriately.

4.  There are A LOT of words meant to marginalize a woman that are seemingly harmless until you flip the script and use them to describe a man.  Take "ditzy", for example.  Let's use it in a sentence:

  • "Dammit!  My ditzy secretary must have forgotten to send you the invite!"


  • "Your dad is strong but, man, is he ditzy!"

      Doesn't really work does it?

5.  Some words require context in order for them to be bad.  For example, if you walk into the house after a long day of work and your young daughter runs up to you and jumps into your arms.  You might lovingly exclaim, "Hey sweetie!".  Versus if you're standing on a street corner and yelling "Hey sweetie!" at a complete stranger as she does her best not to look your way.  Same sentence, different context.

On the flip side of all of this, I do think the "they're only words" argument does hold some water.  It's true that words can only hurt you as much you allow them to.  It's just that the list of words that can be used as weapons against a female versus the non-existance of such a list for men is the real issue.

For those who let words and name-calling get them down, I'll leave you with this great bit from Richard Pryor about the word "nigger":

Film 34: "Dirty Wordy"

Ever say a word over and over and over until it doesn't even sound like a word anymore?  Try it!  My favorites are "squirrel" and "shovel" and "boy".  Just keeping saying a word repeatedly until the word loses all meaning and all attachment to syntax.

This phenomenon is called Semantic Satiation.  Basically, there's a part of your brain that controls what you focus on and what you don't.  When sounds are heard in repetition for a long period, the brain glitches (similar to Déjá vu) and loses focus of the meaning and just hears the sound alone.  This is where syntax becomes glossolalia and the word just sounds like gibberish.

I was curious, though...are there words that take more repetitions to lose their meaning than others?  Benign words like "squirrel" and "shovel" start to sound ridiculous pretty quickly.  But words like "nigger" or "faggot" tend to keep their meaning for a much more extended period of time.  In fact, those two words never lost their meaning for me.  I actually focused more on the meaning the more I said it.

So what's THAT all about then?  Are there words that are just plain bad?  Or is it the intention behind the word that gives the word its power?  I decided to try this out with some garden variety "dirty" words.  Fuck, Shit, Piss, Tits, Dick and Asshole.  That's all I had time to fit into a 60 second film.  Much like "squirrel" and "shovel", all of these "dirty" words lost their meaning fairly quickly and started to sound bizarre.  Some of them didn't even sound like a language at all.

At this point, I'm sure most of you are familiar with George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" bit.  This bit was the basis of a landmark censorship case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Some classic lines include: "On TV, you can be pissed off.  But you can't be pissed on."  And: "You can prick your finger, just don't finger your prick."

Sounds kind of hypocritical, doesn't it.  On this sort of hypocrisy, Carlin said:

You really cannot pin down what these rules they want to enforce are. It's just impossible to say 'this is a blanket rule'. You'll see some newspapers print 'f blank blank k'. Some print 'f asterisk asterisk k'. Some put 'f blank blank blank'. Some put the word 'bleep'. Some put, 'expletive deleted'. So there's no real consistent standard. It's not a science. It's a notion that they have and it's superstitious. These words have no power. We give them this power by refusing to be free and easy with them. We give them great power over us. They really, in themselves, have no power. It's the thrust of the sentence that makes them either good or bad.


I had been wanting to make a film while experimenting with the scanner.  I typed out all of the word variations into lists and printed it out.  Then scanned the print back in.  Then printed that new scan back out.  Then scanned the new print back in.  Sort of a Xerox copy effect.  More like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox.  The third time around it got just dingy enough without losing it's ink quality.  I really love the way the edge of the letters are not crisp because of ink bleeding into the paper:

Then I scanned a few while sliding the paper around on the scanner glass at various speeds, mid-scan.  It's a great way to create analog glitches.  It's sort of similar to using a slow shutter in photography.  Some results below:

I also caked some ink onto a piece of paper so that it bled through to the piece underneath, creating some nice stains and splotches:

Here are some finished stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  Go watch "DIRTY WORDY"!

Film 33: "Freekin' Speakin'"

This topic of talking and not listening is becoming somewhat of a special theme I've addressed multiple times.  It's the main theme of THIS film.  And also THIS one.  There is no other instance where this phenomenon takes place than when Americans start yowling about their first amendment "right" to freedom of speech.

The privilege of free speech is a beautiful thing and it is something we are meant to be grateful for.  It's why it is listed in the first amendment AFTER freedom of religion, no doubt.  Because firstly there should be a thing we send our thanks to, then comes the list of things to be thankful for.  Lately it seems like the true freedom to express yourself holds little power since most people aren't really listening to the free speaker.  It's akin to the old adage "if a tree falls in the forest and no one was around to hear it, did it make a sound?"

If we applied that question to free speech it would go something like "If you exercised your right to free speech and no one was around to hear it, did you actually say anything?"  Even more poignant, if no one hears your free speaking, are you even American anymore?  More poignant still, are you even human anymore?

'I'll just leave this here' is a popular caption for many a social media posting, usually accompanied by a half-baked meme that aligns with the poster's convictions.  Hey maybe the message behind the meme is actually a positive truth!  But what good does it do if you just left it there?  You just letting us know that's how you feel and that's that?  Are you just sharing for the sake of sharing?  Exercising your privilege to say it just because you can?

There's been lots of talk lately of having a "national conversation".  Everything from gun control to healthcare to racism to kneeling during the anthem to how we all feel about one guy living in a white mansion.  The second a group of unsuspecting Americans are murdered by surprise, it's suddenly "TIME FOR A NATIONAL CONVERSATION" about guns.  Some football players kneel during the national anthem?  TIME FOR A NATIONAL CONVERSATION about how black people have been treated for 250 years in this country.  But wait, hold that thought!  Because the Senate is voting on healthcare legislation, so now it's a TIME FOR A...

You get the gist.

Having a national conversation is a cute idea.  It really is.  But let's stop bullshitting ourselves already.  We don't have conversations in this country.  We have opinions and we have platforms in which to display those opinions and then they get buried in a pile of other opinions until we're all on to the next thing to be opinionated about.  Hamster wheel?  Negative eco-system?  Whatever you want to call, DON'T call it a conversation.  Conversations require 50% speaking and 50% listening.  If we only held other people's freedom to speak opinions in as high regard as we do  our own, maybe we can start some dialogue.  Maybe.

I, for one, will only believe it when I see it.


I got back to letting faith and improvisation take the wheel when creating the art for this film.  Felt good.  Real good.  Good to get back to the art store and find some cheap items I don't usually use.  Like, construction paper! And white charcoal pencils.  And crayons:

Don't forget, sound is half the picture.  The entire "a-ha!" in this film is in the sound.  Or lack thereof.  It was an interesting challenge to make the sound design for the second half of the film, which is entirely muted but slightly audible, only letting the low frequencies pass through.  It definitely opened the door to other possibilities for making a point by choosing not to use sound.

Here are some finished bits from the film:

Thanks for reading!  If you haven't watched the film already, go WATCH IT HERE.  If you have, go out and LISTEN.  Let me know how that national conversation is going too ;)

Film 32: "Area 52"

Marathon runners talk about "hitting the wall".  It's that sudden wave of fatigue that overcomes a runner about 3/4 into a marathon, around the 20 mile mark.  They say at this point "the race is half over" since those last 6 miles are equally as arduous as the last 20 combined.

I've compared embarking on this Area 52 project to that of running a marathon.  Actually two.  Steady, paced and strong would inevitably win the race.  Recently I went through a creative blockage that I've since cleared but I can't seem to shake this "hitting the wall" feeling when I sit down to make a film now.  The load seems heavier than before.  I'm getting more into over-thinking instead being carefree and letting the art happen as it will.   Each stage of the creative process is running on heavy legs.

I'm proud to have come this far.  But looking ahead, there are still 20 more of these to make.  Do I have 20 more good ideas?  Do I even have 20 ideas at all?  Will I ever leave this chair?  What did I get myself into?

Ideas aren't coming easy anymore and sometimes I feel locked inside of them.  Other times, I feel like I'm taking wild shots the dark.  Sometimes both.

It probably doesn't help that bills have to be paid.  So I've got client work cooking at the same time.  Little room for rest.  Little room for being outside and cannibalizing the world.  A vacation is out of the question.  Time is always at the forefront and the clock is ticking loud.

It also doesn't help that I'm behind by 7 films now.  There are 13 weeks left in the year at this point.  I've got 20 more films to make in 13 weeks.  That's almost 2 films a week to catch up.

So, I'm going back to blind faith.  And even though I'm cooped up inside while everyone is enjoying the world, skipping around and eating ice cream, I'll take solace in the fact that if I keep shooting for a bullseye, I'll eventually hit it.  Somehow.


This film was mainly a Photoshop/Illustrator/After Effects combination.  I did some drawings though:

Here is the base illustration for the house inside the lightbulb.  The snow, additional trees and bars on the window were all drawn in After Effects:

And this clock that I repurposed from another film was made in Photoshop:

Here are some finished frames from the film:

Thanks for reading :)  WATCH "AREA 52" HERE.

Film 31: "Bad Bits"

A few years ago, I had an issue with my computer that was concerning enough that I needed to call Apple to resolve it.  Turned out the solution was simple.  All I had to do was unplug the computer from the wall and from the back of the machine and let it sit for a little while.  Then plug everything back in.  The Apple rep explained that the problem was common and that it had to do with the way the power cord was directing the flow of electricity.

"Sometimes you just gotta get rid of the bad bits", he said.

Turns out, this is true when you're creating things as well.  I hit a wall recently and could not remove these images that have been haunting me for months.  Almost every time I set out to make a film, one of these images or bits of sound popped into my head.  They were starting to collect into a bunch that was blocking the creative flow.  Clogged artery.  Heavy traffic.

So instead of trying to eradicate these terrible ideas from existence,  I decided to string them along and make a film out it.  If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

It's a terrible film.  I'm embarrassed by it.  But I feel it was necessary to make it so I could finally be rid of them once and for all.  It taught me a lesson in not trying to force things.  I was starting to get angry that these bad ideas were at the front, yelling at me, while blocking some good ideas from coming through.  In the past, I had gone wherever the creative winds took me, but I was following good ideas.  Following bad ideas isn't usually a good idea.

So, here they are.  They wanted to see the light of day?  Wish granted.  Happy now?


There was no way in hell I was gonna spend any money on a bad film.  So I did what any thrifty person would do; go to a stock image site and raid their free section:

Since the very first film I made, Eadward Muybridge's motion studies kept popping into my head. 9 months of this now!  So, for fuck's sake, I finally used them:

I also have a hard and fast rule that I don't show human faces unless it's SO incredibly important to do so.  Naturally, when conjuring up ideas, people and faces appear in my head.  It's all we're ever shown.  So I try to refurbish the idea that included a human face or figure into some other metaphor.  This time, I used them all.  Even famous ones!

I did some stupid overlay drawings.  That was a highlight:

This film was not fun to make.  I'm not excited to release it.  I don't want to secretly watch it over and over.  It was a necessary turmoil.  Kind of like when you're holding in a bad shit. You know you gotta let it out eventually and you know it's gonna be a mess. was inevitable.  I did it.  It's done.  I'm glad it's over with.

Thanks for putting up with this one :)