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!"

FILM 13: "Anxiety"

I personally haven't been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder but I definitely have had my fair share of extreme panic, near certain death feelings.  The feeling that the word "anxiety" describes is undeserving of just one word to describe it.  I think we'd be able get anxiety disorders the help it deserves if only we described it as what it is.  "Anxiety" is a sort of a euphemism for "I'm suddenly, intensely panicking for no good reason and truly believe that right now is when I'm going to die."  Sudden.  Intense.  Panic.  Death.  If they wanted your attention in a news headline, they'd certainly use those words.

BREAKING NEWS: INTENSE PANIC AND ABOUT IMPENDING DEATH

You'd stick around to watch that right?  I don't want to get to deep into euphemisms or distractive language but I really think that if the perspective was changed to describing it exactly how it feels, something might be done to help all mental health disorders.

George Carlin has a great bit about euphemisms and uses PTSD as the example.  First it was 'shell shock'.  "Almost sounds like the guns themselves", Carlin says.  Then it was softened to 'battle fatigue'.  Then 'operational exhaustion'.  Then, finally, 'post-traumatic stress disorder'.

The word becomes dehumanized, therefore the condition becomes dehumanized.  Like those voices on the Emergency Broadcast System.  Except this is not a test.

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I won't get into too much detail with how this was done.  I did get to a capture nice, simple analog texture to use for this film.  I made circles by adhering coins to sheets of acetate.  Then painted the acetate black and removed the coins, revealing some cool little textured circles:

Then I threw a light behind it and did a quick photo shoot with these backlit circles:

I really wanted these to express INTENSITY.  That was the guiding word.  INTENSE.  I kept thinking of the Star Gate sequence in '2001: A Space Odyssey':

Also, those nerve rattling Emergency Broadcast System interruptions:

Here are some images from the final film that mix all of the above together:

Click here to WATCH "ANXIETY".

FILM 12: "It's a Good Idea!"

I keep a list of random thoughts and ideas for this project.  One of the things on that list was to "make something intangible, tangible".  I had also wanted to make a film about "ideas" so I took both concepts and smashed them together.  This film is my version of the formation of an idea, from conception to birth.

All ideas begin in a very dark place.  They are crude and clumsy at first but can mature very quickly.  They can also be stubborn.  Or go off on tangents.  Ideas face obstacles and adversity.  They can also be dormant for long periods of time.  Sometimes, a random event of fate can be the magic spark an idea needs to set it off again.  Other times, the idea needs TLC and time to grow.

In any event, no matter how great your idea is, it's completely worthless unless it's shared and acted upon. Once it's out the world, that's when it's truly born.  Anything before that moment of birth is a strange, but necessary, incubation period and I really tried to paint a picture of what that incubation period looks like.

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I used Post-It notes to make the compartmentalized grid in the film:

I knew I wanted black squares on a black background but black Post-It notes aren't easy to come by.  After going to several art stores and office supply stores, it was clear that black Post-It notes are not an item that's in demand.  So I did the next best thing and got the urine-yellow kind that everyone has and stuck them to a sheet of similarly piss colored poster paper.  I could make it black on black later on and I only spent $21 in the process.

I did most of the Post-It animation with a fan and an air can:

When the "idea" first appears in the form of a crude circle, I wanted the reveal to feel like it was affected by the wind.  For that, I used a pile of salt on a black background and sucked the salt pile away with a vacuum cleaner nozzle:

A final note: I will probably never use China Markers again for animation.  I usually like to draw with them because they are ultra smooth, kind of like a crayon.  The lines can get really think and messy, which is great for rough drawings on large pieces of paper.  For smaller, more precise shapes, it was definitely the wrong choice.

FILM 11: "For The Birds"

I only joined Twitter because of this Area 52 project.  Man, going on Twitter is like stepping into Saturn from Beetlejuice!  Except it seems like 99% of it is about Donald Trump instead of Sandworms.  Same goes for Facebook.  And television news.  Newspapers.  Everybody.  All focused fervently on the man.  I thought only death and taxes were inevitable.  Hearing or seeing something about Donald Trump HAS TO BE added to that list.

From the great political activist and theorist, Thomas Paine:  "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."  That assumes that you already know who you're in conflict with.  I, personally, do not support Trump.  But there are many people that do.  At very least there are 62,984,825 Trump supporters.  That's not counting people who can't or don't vote.  That may or may not be counting the rest of the Republican Party.  Without those 62,984,825 people, Trump would be nothing.  A blip.

Trump is an icon for a much, MUCH, larger destructive force.  And I get it, you want to take down the snake you cut off it's head.  But I'm not totally convinced that's true in this case.  I think there's been a large, hibernating contingent of Americans who were told that their seat at the top of the totem poll was taken from them.  And they didn't get this idea just from Donald Trump.  They've been pounded by Republican talk radio that if things stay the way they are, they're never going to move ahead in the line.  That they'll stand there forever.  The folks ahead in line will remain there.  And people behind them will be able to cut the line.

Fear is a very powerful primal emotion.  And yes, the man publicized all of these fears but the hounds were released well before.  Like, before he was born.  Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but if you look back at American history, all the way back to Plymouth Rock, the politics and power structure in this country haven't changed all that much.  Same bird, different eggs.

In "For The Birds", what I'm trying to say is that while you're so fervently focused on the man himself, the crowd is setting fires behind you.  He, in and of himself, is a diversion.  And while you're tweeting about his latest tweet, there is real evil happening behind your back.  There's a very dangerous organization at work and it's time for an about face...in more ways than one.

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There isn't all that much to report in the way this was done.  Compared to the rest of my films this was handled pretty traditionally.  Still not as traditional as traditional animation.  How many more times can I say traditional?

I made various body parts for these birds and put them all together later on in After Effects.  For those that don't know, I drew all of these parts multiple times so that I can give some kind of motion to the birds while they were sitting in one place.  You basically loop a few drawings of the same thing so it gives it a kind of jittery movement.

I did the same thing with the background art of the "leaves".  I drew those on index cards:

This time I used actual art pens instead of a ball point.  The production of these films don't always have to be ghetto.  And really, my only cost on this were the pens.  These Microns pens are good because they don't bleed and they don't clog.  They are more firm and mechanical than I usually like to draw with but they did the trick nicely on this film:

Here are some rough pencil drawings I did before designing the final birds:

Here are some storyboards I made for this.  These didn't act so much as a guide for story as they did for shots.  I guess it was more a pre-visualization than a storyboard:

Lastly, I recorded all of the birds voice over myself in my closet with the Voice Memos app for iPhone.  I wish I had a better microphone.  Sometimes "P"s can pop when you're recording.  I don't have a proper booth either but all the clothing and blankets make for good sound absorption.  Not so bad for guerrilla audio recording!

Thanks for reading :)  Now go WATCH "FOR THE BIRDS"! 

FILM 10: "Cacophony"

ca·coph·o·ny (kəˈkäfənē) noun:  a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds.

The above could also be the definition of television.  And the internet.  As per the usual, culture BOMBARDS us with so many distractions.  TV and internet video content are excellent vehicles for the dominator culture to sway your opinions, fill your head with garbage and completely suck you of your identity and your time.

But that's only if you tune in.  As I stated with my film "Freakquency", if you just learn to walk away and tune out from what you're being told to think, feel and believe, then you become completely independent from the clutches of culture.  You reclaim your identity.

A side effect of that is when you become confronted with these slavery mechanisms again (the news, mainly) it starts to sound like just a lot of noise.  Audio garbage.  A cacophony of information.  And misinformation. And it's not even interesting to look at.  It's pictures of people talking.  To the camera.  To each other. Sometimes they show a split screen of 3 or 4 people debating.  And sometimes they talk over each other. Definitely the most unentertaining content available.  I mean...just look at it!

Side Note: I really love Stephen A. Smith from ESPN.  You can spot him.  He was the only black person talking on TV at the time I flipped through the channels and took these photos.  Fringe benefit social commentary there.

As I've also stated before, I don't like speaking for other places outside of America.  But I could only imagine that people from other countries have had more than their fill of "America" on TV and the internet recently.  I know I've had a little too much America for my own good as of late.  But I live here.  I don't have a much of a choice.  Oh...wait...I do :)

As for most of America...

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Here are the ingredients I used to make this film (not pictured: an onion)

I specifically used Alka Seltzer because watching TV makes me proverbially sick to my stomach.  I thought it was a good little subtle joke.  Also, it made for some really great instant motion that looked like noise.

My setup for this was really ghetto.  Really trying to keep these films as cheap as possible so I have to use whatever I've got in the house to make it work.  Below is my table on top of a table contraption:

So I basically was shooting upwards, looking up at the bottom of the clear tray.  I placed a thick slice of an onion ring in there to wrangle the liquids.  I poured some corn oil and some wine into the ring and then plopped in an Alka Seltzer tablet:

One thing I didn't think about beforehand was how much this was going to smell.  Literally was like standing on a giant armpit.  Next time I'll use a rubber bracelet  Anyway...

I shot this with both an iPhone 6 and the regular camera.  Both with straight up video.  iPhone was slow motion (240fps, 720p).  None of the iPhone footage made it into this film.  It kept going in and out of focus as the Alka Seltzer tablet moved in front of and away from the light behind it. 

Since both cameras were pointing up, I couldn't see what was happening in the viewfinder.  So I bought this pretty large mirror ($4!) to reflect the viewfinder so I could see what I was shooting:

I also did a few takes with just water and no onion.  The spread of the bubbles was just too wide and the antacid tablet was sliding all over the place.  That's why I switched to the oil+wine mixture.  It was too thick for the bubbles to go crazy.  It really contained the spread.  Anyway, here's what the water stuff looked like:

I also made my own "talking" sound effects for this film using Garage Band on the iPhone.  I used sounds from a bunch of their synth instruments in both Glissando and Pitch settings.  Really weird shit ensued.  45 minutes of crazy sounds ended up being recorded for this which then had to be cut down to a little over 30 seconds.  I tried to make the audio sound like human talking sounds and not every instrument was conducive to that.

For the mouths, I really wanted them to seem child-like so I drew this bullshit with my left hand (I'm righty):

I think this film currently holds the record for fastest Area 52 film completed.  It took a little less than 3 days to do.  Thankfully, these shorts can't exceed 1 minute in length so it makes for annoying films like this to be made.  Could you imagine sitting through 5 to 7 minutes of this?  In a theatre?  At a film festival?  HAHAHAHSDJKFNLS:FHJGpouehcgp%#}hspidULKJ>FBDVcm!!!!!

Click here to WATCH "CACOPHONY".

FILM 09: "Gimme!"

I can't believe I'm quoting the Smashing Pumpkins, but it's true that "the world is a vampire."  No matter where you turn, someone is gonna try to suck you dry.  Everything costs something.  Don't even get me started on institutions of thievery like Sallie Mae.  And Uber.  And credit card companies.  But this isn't just about money.  Everybody wants a piece of you AND your money.  And your time.  And your skills.  And a bite of your food.  And bum a ride.  And bum your last cigarette.  And bum, bum, bum, bum, bum.  WITH INTEREST!

It's one thing to be giving to others.  It's another to be bled.  It's inescapable!

There's a law of equal exchange in nature.  Karma, ying & yang and all of that.  You give and you take.  You can't just take.  You spend money to make money.  You pay your dues before you get where you want to be in your chosen profession.  Your parents raise you and take care of you.  Then you take care of them when they get old.  Balance.  It runs the universe.  Ya know?

Maybe I'm an idealist, but I like to believe that what you get from something should be in exact proportion to what you put into it.  Right?  I don't know.  All this complaining is stressing me out.  Can I bum a smoke?

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This film cost less than $30 to make.  I like listing these final budgets because one of the many reasons I'm doing these films is to prove that you can make an animated short film for less the cost of one film festival submission.  Film festivals...yet another racket.  You don't need to beg strangers on crowd sourcing sites either.  Anyway...

The star of this film is my own mouth.  I put on some lipstick and imprinted the mouth movements onto the back of 3 x 5 index cards.  I did a few sets of these.  Some clean.  Some with smears.  And another set of random mouth positions.

Then I shot them one by one.  I could have scanned them in but the camera produced better quality images.

For the cigarette bit, I made a little stage in the kitchen using some black paper.  The thick kind you use for pastels.  I took a pin button that was laying around the house and used it to keep the cigarette suspended.  

I shot this once in stop motion and once in straight video.  I ended up using the regular video in the film.  Here's the raw result:

cig.gif

I went into making this film with no outline and no storyboards.  I set out to make a film that sort of made itself while I was animating.  It took a good amount of doing it, then walking away.  Then doing more, then walking away.  The process of making "Gimme!" was the closest I've come to the process of making fine art.  In painting and sculpting, especially abstract work, you kinda have to do it while you feel it and you can't force it.  Time away from it is just as important as time in front of it.  Gotta walk away.  I worked on this film over the course of a few months but total working time was roughly 5 or 6 days.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "GIMME!"

FILM 08: "Maker Of The Maze"

I (probably like you) am very good at talking about the things I want to do.  I'm good at making plans and charting a course to reach a goal.  I think most of us are if you do, in fact, set goals.  But then there's actually doing it.  This is where I get to the other thing I'm really good at: 

Procrastinating.

I'm the best.  Hands down.  No other.  The G.O.A.T.  I'm the Michael Jordan of procrastinating.  If there was ProcrastinationCenter instead of SportsCenter, they'd be comparing all other procrastinators to me.  I would be the measure of excellence.

There's a phrase from the Pink Floyd song 'Time' that often comes into my head when I'm busy not going after what I really want.  It goes:

Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

I could list all of the excuses I ever made but I wouldn't assume you have that much time.  I can tell you that the one thing that never made the list but REALLY prevented me from doing what I wanted to do...was me.  In the end, I was 100% percent responsible for where I was.  And where I am now.

Over the years, I've learned that I create the circumstances.  You can't wait for the circumstances to come to you.  You'll die waiting.  Or you'll live regretting.  And that might be worse.

I've since retired from procrastinating (hence why they are always comparing me to the other greats ;)  But seriously, I've really learned to just pull the trigger if I want to go after something.  Literally, just go and do it. Everything else is just semantics.  And it WILL work out.  As a matter of fact, there is no way it cannot.  And it's led me to doing literally anything I put my mind to just by constantly thinking about it, nurturing it and TAKING ACTION.  This Area 52 films project is a perfect "for instance".  I wouldn't even be here typing this if I didn't take a leap many months ago.  Because, believe me, I had a long list of reasons why I couldn't do it.

The moral of the story:  Get out of your own fuckin' way.  There is nothing else in your way but YOU.  I promise that if you eliminate excuses and get out of your own way, magic will happen.

I don't have an ending to this little thesis so I'll leave you with another pertinent quote:

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it's a feather bed.”

-Terence McKenna

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This film cost me $6 to make.  I bought a stamp pad and used it for my thumb print.   I already owned all other materials used for this film: 

Prior to that, I tried using a metallic paint marker.  It would have worked if it didn't dry so fast and unevenly.  It still looked cool but wasn't what I was going for:

The stamp pad was much cleaner for sure.  I picked the cleanest fingerprint I made and scanned it in at 1200 dpi.  For those that don't know, DPI means Dots Per Inch.  Images for television and web are 72 dpi.  Images for print are usually 300 dpi.  So 1200 dpi is pretty large.  I needed it to be big since most of the film was close up shots of the fingerprint and I didn't want to lose resolution when blown up.  The original scan was still too small so I blew it up and printed it out as large as I could on regular 8.5 x 11 paper.  Then scanned in the large print.

As you can see in the picture below, there was a lot of cleaning up that needed to happen to make a clear "path" in the maze.  Also the "walls" of the maze needed to be darker:

Here are some cleaned up shots:

I thought this little scribbly ball was a good metaphor for the way we think.  Our thoughts are usually pretty tangled up sometimes.  I just drew different variations of this scribbly ball on regular printer paper with a ball point pen (aka NO COST!)  You can still do good work without an expensive tablet or fancy pens and paper.  A tablet would have been nice though!

Here's a really rough animation of the scribble:

I recorded my own sound effects for this film using a bottle of Rubber Cement.  Our closet doubles as a voice over/sound recording room.  Michelle's clothes make for good sound absorbers.  I used the Voice Memos app on the iPhone to record the rubber cement bottle being rolled around on the floor in the closet and banging into things:

This film turned out to be one of my favorites so far.  It ticks every box of what a quintessential A52 film should be:

  • Commentary on the human condition.
  • Cheap to make but not cheaply made.
  • Utilized a fairly unconventional approach to animation.
  • No human figures/faces.  No dialogue/language/syntax/words.
  • BONUS! Only took 3 days to complete.

Thanks for reading!  Now go WATCH "MAKER OF THE MAZE"!