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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Anyway...whatever...it was inevitable.  I did it.  It's done.  I'm glad it's over with.

Thanks for putting up with this one :)

WATCH THE FILM HERE.  Or not.

Film 30: "Nonsense?"

In this Area 52 series, I've been trying to swim into new, uncharted waters for myself as an artist.  I find the more I push into new and bold directions, the freer and more improvisational the work becomes.  The M.O. the last few months has been: Come up with an idea on Thursday, have no idea how I'm going to pull it on Friday, then sit down on Saturday and just GO!  And I go until five minutes before midnight on Sunday and wish I had more time ;) There's no time for mull or fuss.

The discoveries and connections I make as I go along are partly luck and partly my brain needing to make a connection between one thing and the next.  It's kind of like making jazz music.  You feel something and you run with it and you worry about the structure later on.  Very literally, one thing leads to another. It's improv! And it makes for some of the best work.  Or at least the work I enjoy the most.

So after about 17 films worth of this, I'm falling into a realm of absurdity meets reality, tied not so neatly with a  bow.  A real life idiosyncrasy or a mundane human behavior gets paired with seemingly unrelated visuals.  Which then gets paired with an even more seemingly unrelated audio track.  The combination of these three things is magic to me.  Usually that's a comedic device so I guess some of the work this method produces is dark humor.  I'm fine with that!

This film embodies all of that...except for the reality part.  Not every film HAS TO be a statement piece on a real topic.  Some films can just be studies or true experiments.  But they have to make sense.  Or do they?  Don't they?  Shouldn't they?

In film school, you learn a very rigid method of making a film.  It might be a good foundation if you're making a TV show or something where you need to be formulaic.  But making a one-off film needs to be more of a process of self-discovery.  You can't always be in control.  The magic is in the metaphors, not in the semantics.  If you believe the reverse, it's going to hurt the work. Guaranteed.

Orsen Wells said this about planning too much:

"If you have a master plan for what you're going to do, exactly where the camera's going to be, exactly what the scene is supposed to state...if you are locked into that, you are depriving yourself of the divine accidents of movie making.  Because everywhere there are beautiful accidents."

As artists, we care so much about our ideas. But it sometimes leads us to being stubborn about that idea ONLY existing in it's original form.  And it's because we went through the toils of pre-production (a writing process and a storyboarding process) where other people usually are involved and very invested.  You've spent weeks and months tossing ideas around with each other until you arrive at a logical consensus.  And therein lies the problem for me.  TOO much logic.  So much concrete logic that you've created a concrete box for your creation to live in.  Meanwhile, all the fun is happening outside the walls!

Think outside the box, they say.  I say, fuck the box.  There is no box. The box is only there because you said it had to be.  It's just you making sense of events, stringing them along and showing it to people.  "Look at how logical we were!"  Logic doesn't always mean interesting.  When directing Jack Nicholson for a scene in 'The Shining', Stanley Kubrick said his performance in certain takes was "real but not interesting."  This quote has been a guiding light throughout my career.  Interesting is always better than real.

But, I admit, I fall into the logic trap every single time I sit down to make a film. Thirty times so far.  One of the things I've learned after 30 of these, is that using your limitations or constraints to your advantage is your most powerful tool. And logic sometimes is a big constraint.  Especially if you're stubborn about it.  Even in the real world this is true.  Steak and eggs wouldn't exist if everyone thought that steak was only eaten at dinner time and that's that!

So for as much as this film seems to be off the cuff and random and haphazard, my brain absolutely had to make sense of the juxtapositions.  Ass lead to donkey, which lead to giraffe and pronged horns, which lead to pronged plug banging the ground like a hammer, ok well then a hammer is next, then a pecking chicken, then an egg, then an Easter egg and bunny, then Santa Claus, then Tooth Fairy.  Well they don't exist and neither do UFOs!  So let's do a UFO next!

It's word association meets word disassociation and creating a pattern out of that.  So even though it comes off as complete nonsense, is it really though?

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I've been staying away from storyboards lately but this film needed one.  It helped with the "logic":

I decided to draw with a fabric marker instead of a one I'd normally draw with.  Turns out it didn't make much difference in the look but it was good for injecting the ol' experimental spirit.  Plus the soft brushed tip of the marker made for a free flowing line:

There was lots of collage work too.  "Frankensteining", I like to call it.  And some of that happened in the edit as well.  I used some academy film leaders (the 10 second countdown before a film reel starts) as transition points and background art.  Some of that yielded some strange bits of live action footage to be mixed into the film.  Also, real human faces which I don't typically like to include:

This is my favorite image in "Nonsense?".  It doesn't really live for that long in the film so here it is in it's full glory.  This one actually makes a lot of sense to me:

Hope you enjoyed this film as much I did making it.  If you read this first and haven't watched the film yet, what are you waiting for?  Go watch "Nonsense?"!

Film 29: "Flea Circus"

Oh man...everyone is in SUCH an outrage!  Everywhere you turn, someone is up in arms about something they didn't know anything about until it was brought to their attention and were told that it didn't line up with their convictions.  The funny part is, though, there is a complete opposite side to each outrage.  Where the matter at hand DOES line up with the convictions of a certain group.  So naturally that group thinks their right.  And the other opposing group thinks they're right too. And then they fight and argue and try to change each others minds (hahaha good luck with that).

Here's a picture example I saw in an article about how the media in the digital age feeds our fears (and our algorithms) to keep you outraged so you'll click the link and help them make a profit.

Poor Bob. No, fuck Bob! No, I said POOR BOB GOD DAMMIT!

Maybe this is something we know and are aware of as a species? Maybe not? I don't even know anymore. People never cease to amaze the shit out of me with the spewing of hot molten vitriol over the pettiest shit.

I keep going back to the example of when Ebola was going to kill everyone!  Very conveniently, that Ebola scare happened during the mid-term elections of Obama's second presidential term.  His opposition did their very best to tie the bungling of the Ebola outbreak to Obama and the Democrats.  As if that has ANYTHING TO FUCKIN' DO WITH EBOLA.  But...somehow...it did!  And whether it worked or not, whether they were right or not, didn't matter.  You know what does matter? That immediately after that election, we never heard of Ebola virus again.  Like magic, it was gone. This is the power of the unseen force placing steaming shit nuggets for you to devour. Control and distraction. That's the name of the game.

I think the major point here is to recognize that most of this stuff really doesn't matter. Lots of it is very petty. You can make a difference in the world, and maybe even change people's minds, by actively helping the situation that bothers you. Putting yourself in the line of fire. Not just shouting about it all the time. The media, nor the dominators, will tell you that though. They can't and won't give that to you. So, instead, they give you Joel Osteen not opening his church to flood victims, Twitter fights, the Casey Anthony trail, the amounts of times Donald Trump has golfed versus the amount of times Barack Obama has golfed.  And, of course, Fox News gives you tits and bikinis.  One big steaming pile of shit that we're all devouring while the real problems in the world have yet to be solved.  We're just never gonna get anywhere like this.

I don't know.  Whatever.  It's all about money and control and power anyway.  Go hug your kids.  Hang out with friends.  Laugh.  Cry.  Do something selfless.  Those are the only things that count.

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I wanted to take an analog approach with this but I just didn't have enough time to make that happen.  So instead I turned to a tool that most animators have in their digital toolbox, Trapcode Particular.  It's a particle generator and animators use it to create things like sparks, fireworks, fairy dust, etc. You can control how many particles are born, where they're born from, how long they live, how they react to wind, gravity and other physics.

The thing with particle generators, though, is that some of the behavior of those particles are randomized and hard to control.  So it was a challenge for me to create this field of "fleas" using Particular.  They had to be spread out and animate as if they were stressed.  And then all come together to a fixed shape (the shit nugget).  The end result wasn't EXACTLY what I wanted, but it definitely did the trick.

All of these little black dots are "particles" (in this case they are small black spheres), that were born from a center point and spread out far enough that your eye doesn't notice the center point from which they are born. I blasted the life of these particles up to something like 350 seconds.  That is to ensure that they won't randomly disappear (or die...that's the technical term haha).

Aside from the boring technical jargon, it's important to note that I sort of made this film up as I went along.  My original intentions were just to have the fleas devouring each shit nugget to circus music and then just have that loop constantly.  Then loop the whole film.  But I liked adding this extreme perspective shift.  It brought in a new conceptual layer.  An "aha" moment.

I like for my films to be good but it's more important to me that they are solid and are rooted in a point of view.  A moral, if you will.  Or else, it's just a bunch of fleas eating a piece of shit over and over.

OK...rant complete.  Thanks for reading...go watch "FLEA CIRCUS".  And then go be excellent to each other.

Film 28: "The Comments Section"

I've been on Facebook for about 7 years.  In those last 7 years, a slew of "friends" have revealed themselves to be scholars on a wide array of topics.  Most obviously, politics.  We've all seen someone step on their soapbox (including myself) and give a dissertation when it suits their convictions.  That's fine.  Those convictions are yours.  You own them.  And they are, inevitably, your opinion to do what you want with.  God bless!

But...but...I can't help but laugh when I see someone complain about a topic they've NEVER mentioned before the news told them they should be angry about it.  Or afraid of it.  I'm not an expert on constitutional law.  Neither are many of you.  Same goes for Marine Biology.  The behavioral science of primates.  Ebola.  Propofol.  Suicide.  Homicide.  Genocide.  How meat patties at McDonald's are made.  The contradictory and complex history of institutional slavery.  Racism. Sexism.  Socialism.  The carbon consistency in the atmosphere.  Global warming.  The solar eclipse.  The super moon.  I mean...it just goes on and on and on and on.

This is just a new manifestation of control by the world's owners to keep us at bay.  News is so accessible.  You can make a split second decision on how you feel about something just from a headline.  Then share the article as if it's law.  It requires no actual critical thinking.  It's a reaction. And when we're questioned or refuted on that reaction, we get defensive.  An argument ensues.  Next thing you know you've spent hours typing faster and harder than normal just to emphasize your point.  And you've lost hours of thinking about the things that really matter most.

If you disagree, consider this: Facebook spends roughly $1 billion a year on their infrastructure.  ONE.  BILLION.  DOLLARS.  You think they're spending that kind of cake because they want you to share a picture of your fuckin' cat?  Their whole entire goal is to keep you in the feed.  Nothing else.  As long as you're hooked into the feed, they don't give a shit about you.  They actually give more of a shit about you when you don't visit their site or open their app for a while!  They're keeping tabs on that too.  Facebook loves sending me emails trying to coax me to see pictures from someone I haven't engaged with in a while just to get me back in.

Bottom line: Have a real conversation.  Stop barking.  Listen.  Start changing yourself, not the world.  I struggle with this often but remind myself it's important to listen to other people.  You just might learn something.  It's ok to be wrong.

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This was another collage piece and was fun to make.  The trend lately has been "I wish I had more time."  This is one I'll definitely go back to when all is said and done and smooth it over.

An upside: It was good to get back into focusing on design first, animation later.  The animation is fairly simple and was easy to execute once the Frankenstein job I did in Photoshop was complete.  And even though there are many things I'd want to fix or change, I'm happy that the concept stayed in tact.  This film ended up just as absurd and ridiculous as I originally intended while including an overall "aha!".

Here are some stills from the film:

Thanks for reading!  Now go watch "THE COMMENTS SECTION" here!

Film 27: "Kontrol"

I really hate commenting on politics.  Especially, specific people.  I believe certain people become icons and we focus so much on the icon itself that the problem is still ferociously thriving on it's own flames, like the sun.  But in this case, I thought it was the best solution to say what I wanted to say.  I'd love to get back to making scribbly balls find their way through a maze.  But certain things, you just can't stand by and watch and not call it out for what it is.

That said, I think I'm just going to let the film free-speech for itself.

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There's going to be at least another month of speed filmmaking.  I only had a day for this and had a completely different film tossing around in my head when all of this disgusting nonsense started happening on Saturday.  It's a dirty and sloppy film.  But I kind of like it that way.  Audio could use some work.  Would love to get back to walking away and seeing (and hearing)  it again with fresh eyes (and ears) a few days later.  Sooooon.

Lots of rotoscoping was done for this film.  Literally tracing over live-action footage.  I printed out some selected frames from a conductor at Carnegie Hall.  About a 130 total.  Obviously, I had to embellish here.  KKK guys aren't this graceful.  I added the hood and robe as I went along.  Sort of winging it.  Then, finally, mastering it when I only had 3 more left.  Certainly one of God's jokes.

Anyway, I did all of the rotoscoping in about 90 minutes...leading up to that point was about 3-4 hours of just figuring out what the fuck I was gonna do:

Trump heads were animated separately in a straight-ahead fashion:

If anyone reading this knows someone who plays the banjo and wants to re-record a better version of Dixieland with me, please let me know.  This YouTube banjo player, who has no idea I stole their shit, is a really good banjo player.  As for the sound quality, not so much.

YEE HAW!!

Go HERE to watch the film!

Film 26: "Half Asleep"

I was lying on my left side.  Someone was wheeling me on something like an oversized skateboard that had a rope tied to it.  I didn't know who the person was.  I'm assuming it was a person.  It was raining, but not on me.  Just in front of me.  We were on the highway.  A mundane weather report can be heard talking about a thunderstorm and wind.  I think the reporter may have said "Yeah and don't forget the wind."  Slushing of car tires against the wet pavement filled in the rest of the soundscape.

Then someone suddenly moved a chair that startled me awake.  Just like that it was over.

This is lucid dreaming.  Those incredibly clear pictures and sounds (especially voices) that appear before us as we melt into the first realm of sleep.  They're a hybrid between really real reality and an incredibly bizarre dream world.  Down is up in this world.  And of course it is. Bizarre or no, everything is very matter of fact.  These aren't those deep, wild, ridiculous R.E.M. dreams.  These are apparitions that are influenced by our real surroundings at the time.  If you're napping in a park or the beach, your lucid dream might include the sound of birds, or wind, or water.

My favorite is when I'm dozing off for a quick nap...and the nap never actually happens.  It's just a series of nod offs (cat nap?) that put me in that transition state between wakefulness and sleep.  People call my name.  Or I'll hear other people's names.  Or a random giggle.  Or a cough.  Usually this all sounds like it's in an echo chamber.  Or like we're underwater.

Then, just like that, you wake up and they're gone.  Research has shown that amnesia is common when waking from a state of lucid dreaming.  Hence, you don't really remember what the hell just happened.  But you were there.  Totally immersed.

Where are these worlds?  Do they only exist in our heads?  Are we peeking through the veil of another parallel world?  Or is it just our brains getting confused?  The switches of wakefulness are turning off and the switches of sleep are turning on.  So, at some moment, they are going to be half/half.  Much like a solar eclipse.  Momentary.  Fleeting.  Surreal.  

I've learned this is a good way to tap into your imagination.  You should try it.  Next time you're going to take a nap (no matter where you are and no matter how long the nap), remember to write down what you experience between the walls of sleep.  Pretty sure Leonard DaVinci did this. Thomas Edison did it too.  Edison held metal ball bearings in his hand while he napped.  And just when he fully fell asleep, his hand would slump and the bearings would fall to the ground, waking him up.  Then he'd write down anything he remembered.  I don't dispute it either.  If anyone would know how to dream with the lights on, it's Edison ;)

Lastly, this isn't something you can ever fully appreciate unless you experience it first hand.  Hearing it second hand never works as well.  Heed the advice from the woman in the film when she says "If you can't see it then you'll just never know it."

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It's looking more and more like I'll have to make films in a more conventional (faster) way until I get some reprieve from the work I do to pay the bills.  So, a more standard Photoshop/After Effects tandem or some other CGI creation.  I only really had a day to pull this off.  Not enough time to make mistakes and try new things :\

That said, I can easily just go through the motions this way.  I find myself realizing when this happens and I immediately stop and change course.  Or just remind myself that this isn't Clientville.  I can break rules here.  I can leave the fussing for other stuff.

That approach led me to something I'd never ever present to a client.  A glitchy, pixelated, cruddy silhouette.  I used stock footage for the floating body.  It's footage of a guy swimming underwater.  I did a small edit and then looped it so I could extend the 9 seconds of the guy right where I wanted him in the footage to 28 seconds.  Then I exported each frame as a separate still image, brought it into Photoshop and gave it a silhouette treatment.  Initially, there were lots of garbage pixels to clean up.

Here's a before:

And here's the same frame cleaned up:

I had to do this to 107 separate stills.  Later on in After Effects, I made a wrecking ball using rusty metal textures and masked the guy's head out to create a body that was seemingly floating in the air as if the wrecking ball was a balloon:

Then the whole thing was treated to a high contrast black & white with some tasty color gradients added:

I love editing surreal audio for these types of films.  The audio for this one was pretty straight forward and simple.  It's one of the few films I've made where the language and words in the film actually matter.  Or, I should say, I don't like to use any talking or use of words unless it's absolutely necessary.  This audio came from footage of an LSD Experiment in 1956.  They had an average housewife sit at a table with the doctor conducting the experiment.  She took some acid that was diluted in her water and she talked about her feelings and moods as she experienced her trip.  Here's the entire original piece:

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "HALF ASLEEP"!

Film 25: "The Shadow"

In psychology, the shadow is our dark side.  The place where we throw less desirable parts of our personality. Like a storage closet or an attic for the mind.  I'm not sure "shadow" is the best description, though.  Let's look at this definition...

In Jungian psychology, "shadow" or "shadow aspect" may refer to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.  Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one's shadow, especially in people with low self-esteem, anxieties, and false beliefs.

Makes sense.  But the shadow as a visual analogy still doesn't really feel like it nails it.  It's kind of like using the word "hole" to describe a black hole.  Black holes aren't holes at all.  Matter of fact, they're extremely dense.  I guess I don't like the term shadow because it implies air or something with no weight to it.  You can't hold light or shadow.  Barring heat and cold, there's nothing tactile about it.  They have zero viscosity.  They weigh nothing.  Anyone who has had to confront their dark side (everyone) can tell you that it doesn't feel like air.  It's the opposite, actually.  It's dense and suffocating.  Kind of like being forced to remain underwater.  It's what I'd imagine hell to be like.

The longer these embarrassing traits fester in the darkness, the more rotten and disgusting they become.  Like the forgotten jar of jelly lost in the bowels of your refrigerator, it can get pretty icky over time.  I like that better.  Less like a shadow and more like a blob.  Like a big black fuckin' booger that grows every time you stick another smaller booger onto it.  Eww, right?

But seriously, the emotions that come along with deciding to throw something into "the shadow" are suppressed, negative feelings (fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem).  So it's only natural that those feelings rush to the surface to perform triage when something in your shadow is exposed.  You don't like those traits about yourself and really, really, need them hidden.  Compounded with some kind of mental illness, the shadow can become a place that exposes itself all the time.  And in really harmful ways.  Schizophrenia blurs all lines between your light and shadow and is usually out in the open for all to see.  Depression is more of an introverted illness but just as menacing when mixed with the darkest parts of your shadow.

Anyway, this film was an attempt to depict an intangible part of our psyche in cinematic terms.  And maybe offer up a more accurate and poignant visual description.

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This was the film I was going to put out 7 weeks ago and then decided not to and to close the shop for a bit.  I'm happy I did that because it became something much different, better and stronger than what I had originally intended.

I got a lot of inspiration from "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?".  Bette Davis is unbelievably great at portraying the tragedy of an alcoholic with a mental illness who still dresses like a grotesque version of her 9 year old self.  She lives out loud in her shadow.  For me, Bette Davis' stock rises every time I watch it.  If you haven't seen "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" yet, and you enjoy great performances from legendary actors, it's really worth a viewing.

As usual, everything starts with really good audio.  I had an idea to use laughter and upbeat music to soften (or humanize) the shadow a bit.  If it's too sinister and other-worldly, the idea doesn't hold for too long.  So I pulled from lots of random things to create the audio track; low frequency radio transmissions, barking dogs, ragtime music, muddled underwater gurgles, a woman with a panicked laugh, slamming doors, coughs, etc.  These seemingly unrelated items mixed together with really wet reverb makes "The Shadow" feel vast.

For the black blob, I poured a puddle of kid's paint onto a transparency sheet and then sprayed it with an air can.  I got some nice ripples with the right amount of viscosity from that:

This footage then went through several compositing stages to create the final look:

I guess it's fitting that I had to make this film to get over a psychological hump.  In it's original state, this film was lacking in any concrete thread.  I just knew I wanted to make a film about the things we hide from ourselves but it didn't have any kind of "aha" and I certainly didn't know about Carl Jung's "shadow aspect" thesis 7 weeks ago.  It had a door though!  So, there's that.

It was a really tough call not to put it out.  But aside from being sorely in need of a break, the film was being dragged across the finish line and I'm not about to start throwing shit out there just because of a self-imposed deadline.

So, now that it's behind me, I'm pretty proud of the fact that this obstacle was overcome and turned out better than before.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "THE SHADOW"!

Film 24: "Faux News"

Every morning when I wake up, I check the headlines to make sure the president didn't press the wrong button today.  More often than not, the headlines here in the States are nothing but all White House news, all the time.  I'm pretty sure this president is the most covered human being that's ever walked the Earth.  So it's to no one's surprise that any controversial idea he pushes is going to get major attention and be thrusted into our cultural lexicon forever and ever and ever.

Like, this idea of fake news.  I never really understood what this meant until I start noticing a very comedic pattern happening with Fox News' headlines.  Out of the 4 top headlines on my feed, Fox makes a pretty regular appearance along with CNN, New York Times and Reuters.  I'll usually get 3 headlines on current events in Washington D.C. and the the 4th will usually be the most ridiculously unrelated, tabloid-styled, sensational, smutty headline.  In contrast to the others, it's so comedic I have to laugh out loud.  Every time.

For example, this gem:

In the event that you're a fuckin' idiot, I'll recap: Essentially there's three pieces of Trump news and one piece about the fact that a washed up soap opera actress - and former "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant, I might add - posted up a naked selfie.  Then deleted it.  Then re-posted it.  I can feel a lobotomy coming on.

Here's another from Fox News:

Trump voters are wondering when the winning is going to start, but don't worry because bidet use is on the rise and you might need one.

Continuing...

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn had sex on the first date.  If you clicked on this bullshit, you would have read two paragraphs on this.  With three spelling errors.

More Pulitzer worthy material...

There comes a point when you just realize that when a major news outlet, whom most people in this country get their information and confidence in their convictions from, is blatantly trying to distract you and bewilder you with ridiculous stories that have nothing to do with anything.

It would be useless to argue this point if it was just a few headlines here and there.  I've screen captured 117 of these instances from my phone.  I'd say roughly 80 of them have to do with tits, or bras, or bikinis, or former Playboy bunnies. Generally something having to do with the female body but might as well add in a Playmate to masturbate to.  Right?

Like so...

There's more.  Much more!  Almost every day!  None of this is truly surprising though.  Rupert Murdoch is the media mogul behind Fox News.  He also used to own The Sun and several other tabloid papers.  The Sun, when under Murdoch's jurisdiction, got even more sensationalist and smutty.  Supermarket check out line type headlines.  Sex sells and it was totally and unabashedly exploited for profit.  They became known for the topless "page 3 models".  But...you know what you're getting with The Sun.  Or any other tabloid.  Fox is "America's most trusted news network".  And by a pretty wide margin:

I mean...seriously????  It reminds me of the good ol' World Wide News.

Those were fantastic, btw.  Remember any of these headlines?

These stories wouldn't be nearly as engaging if they weren't presented as as news.  Exclusive, untold stories!  Aliens vs. Bigfoot!  Elvis Presley shows up at a wedding!  They found hair from God's beard!  Great stuff!  But when you're passing off bullshit as news instead of reporting important stories worthy of being America's most trusted news network, there are many rats to be smelled.

I can go on and on with this.  I'll just end it here and leave you with this great scene from Citizen Kane about agenda-pushing headlines.  Just goes to show that as long as you have a ton of money and the want to control the mindset of large groups of people, you can report whatever the fuck you want.  Also, tits.  Tits help.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "FAUX NEWS"!

Film 23: "Leave With Us"

When I was doing a bit of research for this film, I went right to the Heaven's Gate website.  For those who don't know or don't remember Heaven's Gate, they were a religious cult that believed that there was a UFO traveling directly behind the Hale-Bopp comet that was going to fly very close to the Earth sometime in late March/early April of 1997.  According to their teacher/leader, they all needed to evacuate the Earth before it became "recycled" and catching the UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet was their best chance.  A mass suicide ensued...in shifts.  On March 26, 1997, all 39 members of Heaven's Gate were found in a San Diego mansion, all neatly lying face up in beds (mostly bunk beds) dressed in black track suits and black Nike "Decades".  A death uniform, if you will.  They ate a concoction of phenobarbital and vodka mixed in applesauce.  Then they tied plastic bags around their heads so they would suffocate after they went into a drug induced coma.  They then laid a shroud over the top half of their bodies...and evacuated.  15 members died on the 24th of March.  Another 15 on the 25th.  And the remaining 9 on the 26th.

Like so:

What's most interesting to me were all of the thoughtful, almost cute, things these folks did leading up to this horrifying event.  They had patches made to add to the left arm of their track suits that read "Heaven's Gate Away Team".  They were all found with $5.75 in their pockets because they "needed bus fare"...an inside joke.  The most interesting thing about all of this, for me, is the videotaped goodbyes these people did before committing suicide.  They were so...happy.  So very ready to welcome their end.  So appreciative that this is what they chose, or what was chosen for them.  They are examples of people who don't have a single care in the world, have full faith in their own particular God, and are 100% ready to die for it.

In hindsight, it's particularly haunting to see on their website that they have recruitment videotapes (free of charge) with them urging the viewer to "Leave With Us".

Leave.  With.  Us.  Those are pretty dangerous words.  They got me thinking of every single religious fanatic who killed other people while killing themselves...including Heaven's Gate.  It's nothing new that humans have been killing each other in the name of God for thousands of years.  So, the point of this film isn't really to state that people are stupidly murdering each other because of God. It's more a film I made for God...to show it/him/her what they've done.  That people are willing to fly airliners into the world's tallest buildings for you.  They are willing to veer cars off the road and run over unsuspecting pedestrians completely by surprise for you.  They are willing to carry a bomb in a backpack and walk into a restaurant and blow themselves and 50 other people to bits.  Or cowardly leave a bag with a bomb in it on the sidewalk during a marathon and blow people's entire legs off.  They are willing to hang people from trees while burning a cross.  All that, for you.  It's a testament to your greatness!

One of the many tapes showing the first plane flying into the World Trade Center features someone screaming "Holy Shit!" moments before it hit the first tower.  Holy.  Shit.  Truer words have never been spoken.

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Nothing much to say about the making of this except that I wish I had more time.  This film was done in one really long day (about 16 hours).  Life and other work are getting in the way of making these, but I really want to get back to giving myself time to step back, then come back and look at it fresh.  Rushing a film out the door is never what I intended with this project.  It's ok to be over ambitious but I do feel like it was at this film's detriment.  I think maybe after this whole project is said and done, I'll go back to touch the films that didn't get all of the proper attention they deserved.  This one, so far, is at the top of the list.

Some stills from the film:

Film 22: "Glossolalia"

Glossolalia is one of those vocabulary words barely anyone knows the meaning of.  I had to be reminded of what it was.  It basically means "speaking in tongues".  A constant stream of verbal sounds that are incomprehensible and lacking in syntax.

We see this mostly on TV with some schlock pastor or preacher or televangelist bringing someone up to the stage who, at that specific lucky moment, has suddenly been stricken with the Holy Spirit and is "involuntarily" babbling in some language only they understand.  And since people can't explain what it means or where it comes from, it is determined that this stream of esoteric communication must have come from God.  A gift, actually.

Are they wrong?

It's interesting to think that you could be so overwhelmed (or stricken, as some folks describe it) that you fall to the ground, babble in an incomprehensible language, sometimes shake violently while having to have people hold you up and call that a gift!  But they do.  In fact, people who pray in tongues generally cry right afterwards.  Regardless of how you or I feel about that, it must be a feeling of tremendous relief to experience that.

If you look back at very early human history, probably when we still were living in the African canopy, glossolalia was a common event.  We had a very complex set of verbal sounds that, over time, started to mean something.  It's how we developed language.  But in the time before language, they were just noises.  We did, in fact, speak in tongues.  And as it turns out it's one of the most primal traits of a being human.  That's probably why it feels good to scream at the top of your lungs or make strange noises.

Glossolalia isn't necessarily always a kooky and strange thing that only people who go to arena prayer services do.  And, as far as necessity goes, it's not restricted to ancient peoples.  Glossolalia shows up everywhere.  The sobbing widow.  Orgasmic moans.  The screaming drunk.  Also, the babbling drunk.  The babbling baby.  An actress doing vocal warm up exercises.  The yogi in meditation (ohhmmmmmm).  It's just one of those things that we've never really evolved away from, fully.  It's a primal, overwhelming feeling that is expressed through verbal noises and this film tries to visually depict that feeling.

A last note: YES, there are some asshole televangelists who spout something that sounds like speaking in tongues and then proceed to ask you for $58 to "plant your seed with the Lord".  *giant eye roll*

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Given the nature of glossolalia, I tried to let the making of this film flow as well.  It's not an easy undertaking to literally make it up as you go along.  There still needs to be some kind of a cohesive thread.  At least for me and the films I like to make.  I suppose you could just riff on something and call it art.  I did have a backbone of audio (some really awesome stuff out there of people speaking in tongues) that cut together pretty well, I think.

The mouths ended up becoming the main visual thread for this.  I did some rotoscoping of my own mouth in several contorted positions:

In making this film I think I have a clearer understanding of the Dada movement.  I never really quite got it, other than the fact that it's just rebellious, absurd art.  But now I think I get it.  It's a stream of consciousness that doesn't speak any defined language.  It's the visual form of speaking in tongues:

Some finished artwork from the film:

Lamekona sadavu panmeechee "GLOSSOLALIA"!

Film 21: "Dreams I Don't Remember"

I never remember my dreams.  Ever.  There are a few recurring ones like that one where I go back to the same small house and I have to walk around hunched over and a fight always breaks out in the backyard but everyone is still chill because pizza was just delivered.  They didn't have regular toppings though, so they put gummy mushrooms on top.  Gummy mushrooms.  Mmmmmm...

Anyway...since I'm told that I definitely dream every night multiple times, but never remember them, I've decided to keep a scrapbook of the dreams I don't remember.  That means, I can completely make up these bizarre situations and claim them as dreams that I've had but that never stuck with me.  I've been kicking around the idea of making a haphazard film of very random and completely unrelated images but never had the conceptual thread until now.  So there may be more of these types of films.

It's also a really great excuse to experiment with editing, specifically the cadence in which the juicy sections are delivered.  The space in between sections became important for this one.  That static/synapse thing.  Typically, I'd want to fill the entire film with as much cool stuff as possible but I've been wanting to experiment with dead air.  Cinematic negative space.  Long portions of "padding".  It turned out to be a really important device in this film.  It makes sense, too, because animation relies on anticipation as a key device and those buffers added some respite as well as anticipation.  Otherwise, it would have been an annoying stream of intensity.  A tour-de-force in the worst kind of way.  Dreams don't roll like that.  They come in fragments.  Like playing peek-a-boo with your subconscious.

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It was really freeing to not have to stick to a script or outline or anything here.  Literally had a blank stack of paper and let it all flow.  I didn't think.  I just drew things.  Some made it into the film.  Some didn't:

I have a cool art book called "STREET SKETCH BOOK" that had lots of really great inspiration:

One regret: I wish had time to walk away from this film and come back fresh to do a final polish.  I literally finished this film 14 minutes before it had to go up.  In hindsight, little things are bothering me to the point where I can't just chalk it up to "not fussing with it".  A few things needed a little fuss.  Oh well.  Next time.

Thanks for reading!  Now go watch "DREAMS I DON'T REMEMBER"!

Film 20: "Dicks"

I can't write an intro better than this.  George Carlin from one of his HBO specials about "dick fear".

We see this shit all...the...time.  Somebody's fucking with your power position?  Drop a giant dick on them!  There is no better display of this cock-strutting arrogance as when the good ol' U.S. of A. televised the "shock and awe" campaign on Baghdad in 2003.  Git yer popcorn, sit back and feel the dominance coursing through your veins!

You can probably bet your entire life savings that this will ultimately be our demise.  Sounds morbid?  Think about it!  If this constant show of force has to continue in order to keep things at bay, we're literally gonna blow our own selves to smithereens.  And the bigger their dick gets, the bigger our dick has to get.  Bigger bombs, bigger missiles, bigger fuckin' bullets baby!

YEEEEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWW!!!!

One last thought:

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that $30 billion a year is what it would take to end world hunger.  $30 billion a year.  The United States alone spends close to $600 billion a year. On defense.

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Some stills from the film:

 

Go take a look at some "DICKS".

Film 19: "Crosstalk"

It's hard to boil down language.  We've got a pretty complex set of mouth noises to communicate how we feel, what we want, what we don't want.  The human lexicon is so vast and so intricate, we should never be at a loss in getting our point across.

I find, though, that language is useless if barely anyone is listening.  We do way less listening than we should.  Why?  Because everyone's fuckin' talking!  Ever been in a conversation where the other person is posing as a listener and just waiting for their turn to talk?  I mean...what's the point of formulating an intelligent, understandable and respectful idea into words if the other person is just waiting to talk right back to you?  They're actually internally talking to themselves while you're talking to them.  This is why signals get crossed.  When we communicate with each other on a mass scale, it would probably look something like this:

There are two definitions for the word crosstalk.

1. unwanted transfer of signals between communication channels.

2. casual conversation.

It really makes a ton of sense that, according to this definition, a conversation could be equated to an unwanted transfer of signals.  

Another interesting analogy:  When telephone systems were entirely analog, crosstalk happened pretty often.  That meant that you heard several other callers on the same line yapping away along with various signals within the system.  But an interesting part of this phenomenon is that the person you're calling wouldn't hear any of this interference.  They'd hear you loud and clear without interruption as if you were alone with that person.  Meanwhile you're hearing them as part of a crowd.  Do I need to hammer home the metaphor there?

Here's an actual recording of what I mean.  There is no editing or sound design done here.  This is actual crosstalk from a landline from September of 1980.

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Before I get into a little bit of how this was made, I have to thank a man named Evan Doorbell.  I do not know this man, but I stumbled up on his YouTube clips with hours of analog bell system recordings.  It's a treasure trove of real physical sounds made from the old bell system in the US.  His recordings are mainly from New York and New Jersey.  He narrates these audio recordings, is extremely knowledgeable about the semantics of all of these wonderful tones and what they mean and explains them in a pleasant way.  So if you're into this kind of stuff, definitely check out his recordings on YouTube.

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This film set a land speed record thus far.  I started working on this the morning of it's release and finished it two hours before release.  So about 12 hours in total, start to finish.  I figure that's about as fast as I can complete these things while not producing a total piece of shit.  Admittedly, this film is not one of my personal favorites, but I do like the prospect of pulling off a quickie in roughly 12 hours time.

I borrowed footage of a string from another film I did and used it for the "lines of communication".  I stole a bunch of skull X-rays from Google too.  So between those two things and Evan Doorbell's recordings, not much is totally original here.  Gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.  I'm not always going to have 3-4 days to leisurely work on these.

One point of interest was getting the translucent X-ray look.  I didn't have time to mess around with filters in After Effects and I typically gravitate towards using real elements anyway so I achieved this look the best and fastest way I know.  I played the film on a TV screen and filmed it:

I also got up close and personal with some static clips I have laying around:

So, you're actually watching two takes of footage of my monitor playing the film that I then edited together along with a few shaky shots I took for transitions.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "CROSSTALK"!

Film 18: "Nice Things"

Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot...

I've been reading the last few years about humans eventually colonizing Mars.  As great and brave and astonishing of an achievement as that would be, I really hope, for Mars' sake, that doesn't happen.

Because, seriously, we've ruined everything else. Just take a look at the mainland U.S. A gorgeous sprawling land that was mostly excavated and made into a giant shopping mall. Let's take away that beautiful forest and build a Waffle House right there. Put a Chic-Fil-A next to it. And an As Seen on TV shop next to that.  Throw on some discount price tags and a Coca-Cola ad.  Garnish it with some porn and you've got yourself a good 'ol fashioned Western world special!

On the other hand, some smut is important to making a place feel...genuine.  As a native New Yorker, I've seen Times Square go from the seedy old friend it once was to the urban Disneyland.

House of Paradise...(can you find the Coca-Cola ad?)

House of "Paradise"...(can you find the Coca-Cola ad?)

Also this before and after...

Pretty soon, the whole planet is going to be this way. Hectares of beautiful, genuine things are going to be replaced with corporate smut.  By that time, this place might not even be habitable.  God help Mars if humans decide to inhabit and bring their Whoopee Cushions, Potty Putters and Super Bowl commercials there.  Maybe they should open a New Jersey turnpike service station in the middle of the Sahara desert as a test run.  Cinnabon anyone?

Just be sure of this: If we do end up on Mars, your corporate masters will await you.  And they might look a little something like this...

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "NICE THINGS"!

FILM 17: "Face Value"

"I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor." - Ecclesiastes 4:4

Cultural guidelines and money always seem to go hand in hand.  This film is very simply a comment on how culture puts forth the ideal of how you should look, and then capitalism sells you the thing you need in order to look that way.  And it's our own fault!  You know why? Because we have a thing fetish and we want to buy ALL the things.

Like, if the Kardashians are constantly showing their giant, perfectly round asses to everyone:

Then that means you'll want to do it too!  Therefore, you should buy some Padded Panties™.  Available at Walmart™ and other fine capitalist™ warehouses!

The bottom line (pun intended) is: When you buy a product, you become a product.  Do you really need headphones shaped like cat ears?  Do you need Snuggies™?, Shake-Weights™? Fake Hair in a Spray Can™?

You need them as much as this dog needs a duck-billed muzzle.

Cut it out.  Seriously.  Cut it out.

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This film gave me an opportunity to get back to some fine art roots. Up until now, my films have sometimes featured shittily drawn things. It was nice to sit with a drawing and spend a good chunk of time refining it instead of hurrying together a bunch of drawings.

Usually, I'd have gotten rid of the seams that result from scanning artwork in sections. But I really liked how these looked when roughly stitched together:

The film goes by so fast, it's hard to appreciate some of the combinations of this collage technique.  Here are some of my favorite micro-moments in "Face Value":

Click here to WATCH "FACE VALUE".

FILM 16: "Snakes"

I read a book a few years ago called The Chalice and The Blade by Riane Eisler.  In it, she introduces a theory about cultural and social models called the Dominator model and the Partnership model.  She believes and offers evidence that in the very beginnings of human history, human beings were under a Partnership social construct. Men were not seen as lesser or better than women. Women were not seen as lesser nor better than men. Women had roles such as gathering foods, agriculture, raising the young.  Men were the hunters and travelers.  But no job was more important than the other.  One needed the other.  One tribe or group often helped other tribes or groups because, as we are collective beings, they knew that the more people to help out the better chance they all had of surviving.

But then there was a shift. Tribes and groups realized that you could dominate (usually kill) other groups and take their resources for themselves. This is the Dominator model.  And so along came the conquerors and dynasties. Genghis Khan and the like. And it was firmly planted in our general way of living that as long as you had power, you were in control. Power became the most important goal and cooperation fell by the wayside.

Here's an excerpt:

“All over the ancient world, populations were now set against populations, as men were set against women and against other men. Wandering over the width and breadth of this disintegrating world, masses of refugees were everywhere fleeing their homelands, desperately searching for a haven, for a safe place to go.

But there was no such place left in their new world. For this was now a world where, having violently deprived the Goddess and the female half of humanity of all power, gods and men of war ruled. It was a world in which the Blade, and not the Chalice, would henceforth be supreme, a world in which peace and harmony would be found only in the myths and legends of a long lost past.” 

Fast forward to now and things aren't much different.  Certainly more complicated but not different at all. There is an established group that holds power.  And those who aren't in power (or privileged) are generally marginalized, weakened, oppressed, suppressed and sometimes destroyed.  All in the name of maintaining and expanding control.

This film is an attempt to express this concept. The one thing I really made sure to include here is that even though some groups are inherently void of power, they still have the natural propensity to need power. If anything "is what it is", it's the basic human need for power and control. To take, take, take until there's nothing left.

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I did this film completely CGI so there's not much to talk about as far as unconventional ways to make an animated film.

But I will talk about my main reference for this film, Lotte Reiniger.  She is one of my favorite filmmakers and a big influence on me.  She made the very first animated feature film called "The Adventures of Prince Achmed".  This film came out in 1926.  That's ELEVEN years before 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. She made lots of wonderful films by animating paper cutouts and using them as silhouettes. If you aren't familiar with her work, you should check out this clip from Prince Achmed:

Click here to WATCH "SNAKES"

FILM 15: "Brain Stereo"

We've all heard this thing about left-brain and right-brain thinking.  Right-brain supposedly is in charge of the creative and more abstract thinking we do.  Left-brain is the more logical side in charge of reasoning and facts.  It's kinda like your brain works in stereo.  With all of the logical, mathematical stuff panned to the Left.  And all the weird, abstract, dreamy stuff panned to the Right.

Once the idea of "stereo" was brought into play, it became something tangible to filmmaking that I could toy with.  I thought if there were very mechanical images on the left side of a split screen contrasted with child-like, bizarre images on the right, that it would make for an interesting piece.

Naturally, the sound was split in this way too.  The obvious, logical sound design was all pushed to the left ear.  The accompanying surreal version of this audio on the right side.

Here is just the left channel audio in the film:

And here's the right:

It becomes really bizarre when you just listen to the right side by itself.  It's just pure nonsense.  But balanced with the logical left side audio, it makes sense out of that right side surreal audio.  Our brain actually wants to make sense out of it.

Also a known brain oddity is that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.  So it's important to note that I drew all of the right-brain, child-like drawings with my left hand.  And I did the mechanical, blueprint-style drawings with my right hand.  If animators are truly actors, this is as close to method acting as it gets for an animator.

Left hand, for right brain:

Right hand, for left brain:

All these drawings are kind of whatever on their own.  But juxtaposed with each other side by side made for some interesting things to happen.

This quote says it better than I just did:

"A wonderful harmony arises from joining together the seemingly unconnected." - Heraclitus

"Brain Stereo" also marks the first time I've used text in a film.  The "no text" rule was hard and fast until now.  I had no thread for this film other than random scenes of transportation cut against each other.  So I thought title cards were a good device to thread it together...but only if they were as interesting as the rest of the film.  And if the voice over was robotic or disembodied, then it would be more interesting than just a regular voice.

I think that's really the whole thing, for me.  It's not like I can't EVER use text or language or words.  The self-imposed rule is in place more to get me to think beyond just normal language in written or spoken word. Cinema is supposed to be pictures juxtaposed together to create a feeling or tell a story.  "Sound is half the picture", said Francis Ford Coppolla (or maybe George Lucas?)  So that, too, has to harmonize with the visuals.  And vice versa.  Much too often we see stuff that is just a picture of someone saying things.  Then the picture cuts to another person who looks like they're listening and then they retort.  Then cut to a two-shot of both of them in conversation.  Then cut back and forth again.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "BRAIN STEREO"! 

FILM 14: "Best Laid Plans"

Here's a famously true adage:

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." - Robert Burns

Here's another, maybe lesser known, but just a true:

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon

It's always amazed me how the universe just works.  It's like one big Rube Goldberg machine.  But unlike Rube's contraptions, if there is an mistake or an accident then the universe adjusts and resets.  And so do we, somehow.  You might plan a career move or some kind elaborate strategic plan to get something you want at work or at home.  And the one thing we never plan for is a surprise!  Which is completely insane because surprises always happen!  Things pretty much never ever go the way we imagine it.  Some kind of slight redirection, at very least, is bound to happen.

After 14 films, I've come to apply this to filmmaking.  Letting go of the plan, or even completely eliminating a plan, and letting accidents shape how the film is made.  Filmmakers can easily fall into this M.O. of having to have a strict, rigid plan.  And when things don't go according to that plan, it can be a disaster.  Which is really strange because, in live action filmmaking, you have to concede to the elements more often than not.

Here's a great video by Rocket Jump Film School about "Embracing Accidents":

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Most of the work on this one was, coincidentally enough, in the planning!  I spent two days working out a Rube Goldberg-type contraption.  The real challenge here was that I had to think of it in terms of lines and circles as opposed to real items.  That limitation proved to be helpful in keeping this simple:

I also challenged myself to make a film under the following conditions:

  • Use a color palette I never, or rarely, use.
  • Use simple elements in a complex set of events.
  • Create a dissatisfying ending.

I also pulled from a variety of sources for this film and mashed them together:

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "BEST LAID PLANS!"