Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Douglas Gordon's "Play Dead"

I had never heard of Douglas Gordon before stumbling upon his show at the MOMA in 2006. It was one of the first video installations I had ever been to, and it was the first time that video in the fine art setting felt really accessible to me. I haven't been nearly as affected by a single other video as I was when turning the corner and coming face to face with his piece, "Play Dead."

Projected onto two massive screens, it literally took my breath away. It's the first time I can remember ever feeling confronted by art. A silent film shot from a low angle, it centers on an elephant and is set in an empty gallery (the Gagosian, to be exact). The camera circles the elephant as it is prompted to lay down, then sit, then stand again. When talking about the project, Gordon said, "...one of the beautiful things with film and video is that it can imbue a sense or sensibility that doesn't actually physically exist." Looking back at it, that is exactly what gave me pause when entering the space. The elephant on the screen was seemingly to scale; impressive, majestic and powerful on screens that offered the only source of light in the giant space that contained them. The animal felt present.

As the elephant shifted, preparing to sit, or rolled on its side, trying to get up, the lack of sound gave it a feeling of weightlessness. The omission of this very important quality (sound) is to intentionally leave out one of the most important characteristics of any video that seeks to ground itself in "reality". So to omit sound is, in a way, to do away with showcasing elephant the animal, and to offer elephant the image. The sense of the elephant.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recreating RSA Animate

I've recently been approached with a request to make a "RSA Animate"-type short. In my meeting last night, the client showed this example:

I'm fascinated by stop-motion/digital hybrids, and trying to figure out what is "faked" and what is real. This one for sure has me scratching my head. Is it a real whiteboard? How did they light it? Is it done in sections or as a whole with a camera moving as he drew? Is it all digital and they fake the drop shadow? Does any of this matter as long as my solution gets them the same end result? That seems to be the point, ultimately. Get them the result, stay on budget.
I'm going to do some tests over this weekend, with the goal to be to post my process here. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Caricature of me by Bill

I just finished representing two of Bill's films at two festivals and he asked me to share my experiences on Scribble Junkies, so I thought I'd also re-post here.

First up was "Guard Dog Global Jam" at the Ottawa International Film Festival. It was my first time at OIAF and I have to say it was everything I hoped for and more. I won't say that I loved every film that I saw, but being immersed in a community of animators for five days far outweighed any distaste I may have had for certain program selections. I will also say there is merit to exploring what you do not like as much as there is indulging in what you do like. Here are some highlights from the shorts competitions:

I wasn't one for abstract animation until this film. I also love that Steven is holding it down with ink on paper.

As for this one, I just love how smooth the animation is, the timing, and the music paired with it.

This undergrad thesis film played in the same block as GDGJ, so I was lucky to sit on a Q&A panel with Caleb the next morning. He is bright, thoughtful, and is really engaged with the process of making hand-drawn animation.

Also, a welcomed moment of levity from Danny Dresden.

This past weekend I accompanied "The Flying House" at The Hamptons International Film Festival. Centered around East Hampton, the festival boasts multiple red carpets, complimentary hor d'oeuvres and glasses of wine, and programming that couldn't have been any more different than Ottawa. Not that I expected them to be at all similar, and also not that I've been to so many festivals as to be able to draw comparisons, so instead I'd like to discuss the matter of shorts: live action vs. animation.

After attending a block of shorts, it seemed to me that (at least in the case of this program) the filmmakers all dealt with "real life" situations to match their "real life" mode of visual storytelling. With the exception of the one animated piece, they all dealt with the themes of parenting, morality, and youth. Each story was uniquely executed, and very much had an individual style, genre and "voice", but it left me wondering if an animated short would ever be "popular" with the same content. I'm not saying that it should or should not, but more so thinking about the inherent differences in the mediums leading to differences in the end products.

I think one attraction towards live action is that the director is not representing people going through life, the actors are people going through life (as far as the audience is concerned). This allows them to be more immediately accessible so the writer can just "dive right in". Animation offers a limitless playground, where anything from complete control or lack of control can be employed to provide a more expressive representational approach to the same themes. As animated filmmakers, we have to work to engineer the suspension of disbelief, whereas live action can easily be accepted as "real." This, to me, can be sighted as a reason (amongst many that I won't go into here) for the difference in content that I experienced between Ottawa and the Hamptons.

I had trouble hunting down videos of the shorts, but the program I'm referring to can be found here.

I would like to thank both festivals and their wonderful staff members for their generous hospitality and for offering films that, like it or not, showcase how we continue to address the world with our visual storytelling.