End of the semester

Well, I have just finished my first year in Parsons. It was a wild time, having to get used to being in a new place, new people, new influences, new ideas... I'm now settled and I even managed to make two new animations this semester.

The first was done for a collaboration called "Writing on the wall", and was led by Ted Byfield. The film was a joint effort - I was in charge of animation and the visual aesthetic. The film is meant as an explanation or documentation of a new system we were working on to make it easier for Parsons students to register for classes they wanted to take.

This film will probably be shown on a website dedicated to our suggestion for a new registration system. 

The second film is more in the vein of "Trilemma" and "5 to 12". I had been following the debate that followed the Sandy Hook shootings, and I was particularly interested in how certain ideals were communicated using a technique called "framing". This film is meant as a visual essay that explores the rhetorical frame used in the political debate and its consequences.

My next project will probably be about the interpretation of data, and how the same set of information can be viewed positively of negatively.


In production

For those interested in the animation process, here is the third pencil test for my latest film "Paranoia".


In production: how to draw

How to accidentally draw non-Euclidean structures in three easy steps!

1. draw some perspective lines
2. draw arcs on the horizontal and vertical lines.

3. Fill it in.

I'm going back to work now.


In production

For those that like to follow the nitty gritty of animation, here's a collection of pencil tests that make up the introduction to my latest film.



Last post I was talking about the gun industry's cynical use of other people's fears to maintain their commercial advantage. Based on that idea, I drew up a rough storyboard. It's been a week since that last post, and I have been thinking further. 

So far, I've established that the gun control debate is largely influenced by the NRA, which serves as the mouthpiece for the gun industry, and both are driven by very cynical minds.

This cynical tone, then, affects all other facets of the gun control debate:
While I was doing research I noticed two trends, this:
and more relevant to the subject, the rhetorical technique of "framing":
The frame, as I understand it, is a way to "package" a concept in a political ideology. This is done through the use of language - a colleague becomes a "comrade", a body bag becomes a "transfer tube" and a gun owner becomes a "law-abiding, hard-working American".

In the gun lobby's case, the frames used are ones that play in on the fears of American society - particularly the fear of losing control to a faceless and authoritarian government. The consequence of using such a visceral fear as a framing device, is that it leads to mass paranoia.

So, to get back to my own focus for this film, the original theme - cynicism - changed into its consequence: paranoia.
A few weeks ago, I briefly explained the trouble this subject presents to me.

The problem is that I am a foreigner. That automatically makes me an outsider.

As such, I am not really in a position to criticize a society I do not belong in. I am out of my element.

This means that, if I want to make a critical film, I have to be careful. The problem with topical films is that they have a short shelf-life, and they are usually drawn/written from the point of view of a particular opinion. This means two things: the first is that a film loses all relevance when the political situation changes or a resolution is reached. The second is more in the interest of the filmmaker: an opinionated film is a dangerous thing to have one's name tied to when the political situation gets hairy. Add to this my position as an outsider commenting on events that have little to do with me, and that means that making politically engaged films is a risky business. Particularly when the debate is dominated on both sides by paranoid people.

For this film I turned to my favourite animators: Jan Svankmayer and William Kentridge. 

Jan Svankmayer
William Kentridge
What I like about these two is how they "package" their own political message in carefully constructed metaphors and imagery, without being overt in their opinions, and without necessarily having to pick sides. In the case of the former, Svankmayer, used humour and surrealism to create incredibly critical films against the authorities in Socialist Czechoslovakia. The latter, William Kentridge, lives in a country that has to deal with the scars and damage left behind by apartheid on a daily basis.

In my own film, I decided to have two main characters/elements:

The gun lobbyists, as represented by pin-striped suits.

And the frame itself

As an actual object, in all kinds of different shapes and sizes.

So here is the storyboard:

Until next time.


Gun Lobby

So after weeks of thinking and brooding about the subject of guns, I think I finally figured out what my focus is:

the cynical way the gun lobby tries to preserve its commercial advantage by playing in on people's emotions, particularly their fears.

They do this through the rhetorical technique of "framing" - a way to package a concept to fit your own ideology. "Gun control" for example, is framed as an abuse of power by the government.

Because this is such a sensitive subject, I've decided for the following strategy: to never refer to the subject directly, but instead insinuate what I mean so that viewers can watch the film again and again to find all the little clues that build up the final message. (old Russian propaganda films sometimes contained little hints as to what the animator's actual opinion was, subtle enough to avoid the censor, yet obvious enough for the public to understand and enjoy)

The film's narrative will be an illustration of the different frames used by the gun lobby. There will be two main characters: the gun lobby, represented by black leather shoes and pin-striped suits, and a little girl, who will play the part much like the boy in "the emperor's new clothes" - uncovering the "truth" behind each frame. Recurring elements will be the frame, and the stripes from the lobbyists pin-striped suits.
Here is a storyboard showing the first few scenes:
Part 1 of the storyboard
Part 1 of the storyboard
Part 2 of the storyboard
Part 2 of the storyboard
Part 3 of the storyboard
Part 3 of the storyboard
Part 4 of the storyboard
Part 4 of the storyboard
Part 5 of the storyboard
Part 5 of the storyboard
As to the style of the film, I want to experiment with the graphic style found in illustrations and posters from the 1950's - a nod to the cynical use of nostalgia, and refers to the "lost innocence" found in the rhetoric used by conservatives and populists.
Little Boy With a Big Horn - a children's book I grew up with, and an example of the style I am thinking of
Little Boy With a Big Horn - a children's book I grew up with, and an example of the style I am thinking of.
Here are some colour sketches I made:
Rough colour sketches - experimenting with representation gun lobby/salesmen/merchants
Rough colour sketches - experimenting with representation gun lobby/salesmen/merchants
Colour sketch
Colour sketch
colour sketch of girly feet
colour sketch of girly feet
Painting. Forest of gun lobbyists.
Painting. Forest of gun lobbyists.
Until the next post.