For those in a rush: after five years of dreaming and planning I finally I had the incredible experience of filming my surreal cyberpunk short film. However, finishing the film involves an extensive visual effects and animation process that I cannot do on my own. I'm raising money on Kickstarter so that I can get the help I need to finish the film.
Five years ago I had an idea for a surreal short film about two characters who made video recordings of themselves and then 'plugged into' those old recordings - using analogue video ports on the top of their heads:
Thus they would try and relive the past by directly connecting to it. In reality we are always using technology to try and reconnect with the past. Our current obsession with documenting ourselves and our relationships I think is rooted, at least partly, in fear. We want to capture the vital reality of the present moment and have it in the future, to avoid the truth that these past moments are irretrievably gone. A story about an emotionally inert couple trying to "plug in" to their past romance seemed to me to be a potent allegory for this modern condition.
At the time I conceived of the story I had no idea how I would accomplish the visual effects that the strange world I wanted to create would require - I wanted to take real actors and graft the modifications onto their actual bodies, using their real movements. I wanted the world of the film to be convincing - I felt that the bland smoothness of CGI would prevent people from getting drawn in to the atmosphere I wanted to create. Not to mention I didn't know any actors cinematographers and producers that would help me make my elaborate vision a reality.
I never lost enthusiasm for the idea though, and earlier this year seemed to be the right time to bring the project back: I met two actors that were taken by the idea and wanted to play the main roles. Having made two music videos with the independent film company Glass Eye Pix, I had become a more careful and decisive filmmaker. Working at Glass Eye I also met Larry Fessenden and Chris Skotchdopole who also believed in the story and wanted to help produce the film. In the past few years visual effects technology has also become much easier to use and I had become much better at using it.
Finally - I became interested in handdrawn animation. I realized that even though CGI would be instrumental in bringing the world of the film to life, I didn't have to settle for that bland over-smooth look. In a series of tests I experimented with superimposing hand-drawn tracings onto CGI and live action clips. I really liked the duality of the resulting images: simultaneously I felt drawn into the three dimensional reality of the original clip, while being enchanted with the vibrating, scintillating dance of lines and textures on the image's surface. This odd mixture of the real images with the hand-drawn elements superimposed seemed perfect for the more surreal sequences in the film. Best of all, by abandoning the goal of photorealism I was free to work in a more intuitive artistic way without getting bogged down in details.
All these elements made me confident that the stars were finally aligned: I could create my original vision at last. In early September of this year we shot the film: first on location in New York City, and then on a set I built in Upstate New York.
For the last few months I have been editing the film, crafting a unique soundtrack for the film with the composer, Carles Delgado, and slowly working through the extensive process doing all the visual effects shots.
The money raised on Kickstarter is being used for the final stage of process: finishing the visual effects and creating the hand drawn animated look of the film. This look requires that many frames of film are printed out, drawn over using pen and charcoal, scanned and arranged in their original order. Tracing over thousands of frames of video is an incredibly time intensive and laborious task, and I knew that if I tried to do it alone it could take me over a year and I might never build the critical momentum necessary to finish the drawings. This is why I have turned to Kickstarter: in order to finish the film I need help tracing over all of these drawings.
My talented friends Auden Lincoln Vogel and Annelyse Gelman - who have collaborated on their own animated short films - were excited about the project and agreed to help me finish the film. In order to do this however I need money to bring them to New York and pay for art supplies to finish the film. This is where the money raised on Kickstarter goes. Here is what your donation contributes to:
- 4 months of rent for two people
- 4 months of food for two people
- Art supplies including thousands of pages of tracing paper, lots of pens and charcoal to draw with, and 30 - 40 cans of workable fixative to make sure the charcoal doesn't smudge.
Here is the final result of the test:
It might seem crazy to spend this much effort on a short film, but I believe if one puts effort into an image or film it results in a richness of experience for the viewer that could not have been achieved otherwise. Some of the most powerful experiences I have had are when artists overwhelmed me with a uniquely detailed otherworldly vision. I want to create an experience like this for others. By being part of this campaign you will be able to experience a film created with a totally unique process.
One small final note:
When I've donated to Kickstarter campaigns in the past its always been because I was excited to see the final product. That's why I made every single reward level come with a high definition copy of the film. Whether its a digital or physical copy, the film itself is available to you for just 10 dollars. I think that a pretty good deal.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge on this project is time: drawing thousands of frames is a huge time-intensive task. My belief that we will be able get the film done by the summer of 2014 is based on the test I did drawing roughly 170 frames of the film in the spring. However, this is a rough estimate. It is possible that the film will not be completely done until some point in the summer.
I understand that donating to a project with this long of a time scale can be daunting. I will update you every step of the way. If the project is not complete by the beginning of June I will give every donor the option to watch the work in progress digitally that I will also be screening at my school.
I have a history of being able to complete long term projects: I worked on a short film for the better part of 2 years in high school, and have already been continuously working on this project for 6 months. If there is one ability I have that I pride myself on, it is being able to diligently work, piece by piece, through laborious and difficult tasks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)