Recorded live at The Moth LA's GrandSLAM; The Regent Theater, January 28th, 2019.Read More
Sean David Christensen
It is my profound honor to count Ghost Tape #10 among the incredible, award-winning films at the 2019 Athens International Film + Video Festival. Awarded a Special Jury Prize, the “Alden Award,” from a guest panel of renowned artists and filmmakers, I was moved by this unexpected surprise early this morning. One of my favorite destinations for humane and invigorating experimental and documentary works, AIF+VF continues to inspire me with their lovingly-crafted shorts blocks, as delicate as ever, this year…definitely not to be my last! Special thanks to Festival Director David Colagiovanni and 2019 Jury Members: Laura Harrison, Lynne Sachs, Chris Sullivan & Jodi Wille.
2019 Athens International Film + Video Festival - Award Winners
Documentary Short Award: Stone Engravings and the Three-Colored Chickenpox Tale by Vinícius Lopes & Luciana Mazeto (Brazil)
Narrative Short Award: De Terugkeer van Sooi Dingemans by Marc Bryssinck (Belgium)
Animated Short Award: Egg by Martina Scarpelli (France)
Experimental Short Award: Goodbye Fantasy by Amber Bemak & Nadia Granados (Mexico)
Black Bear Award (Best use of sound): Pain is Mine by Farshid Akhlaghi (Australia)
Film House Award (For visionary filmmaking): Shooting Crows by Christine Hürzeler (Switzerland)
Alden Award: Ghost Tape #10 by Sean David Christensen (USA)
Narrative Feature Award: We Are Thankful by Joshua Magor (South Africa)
Documentary Feature Award: A Thousand Girls Like Me by Sahra Mani (Afghanistan)
Special Jury Mentions:
Fest (Animation) by Nikita Diakur (Germany)
Elder Abuse (Experimental) by Drew Durepos (USA)
I Have Sinned a Rapturous Sin (Experimental) by Maryam Tafakory (Iran/United Kingdom)
Fauve (Narrative) by Jeremy Comte (Canada)
The Academy Award-qualifying Athens International Film + Video Festival awaits Ghost Tape #10 next month. I’m honored to be included in this year’s documentary program, alongside AIFVF’s 46-year legacy of finely curated shorts & features. Very special thanks to the faculty & instructors of the USC Center for Visual Anthropology MVA for their support - my film wouldn’t have been possible without their guidance and patience.
A long time (first time) fan of the show, it was an absolute delight and an honor to perform on the RISK! storytelling stage in Los Angeles last winter. A show whose impish premise is grounded in “true stories you never thought you’d dare to share,” my story came from an original idea I workshopped with The Moth GrandSLAM in October of 2018. The version on this RISK! show, “The Album Cover,” was expanded from that original performance, with thanks to Master Instructor Larry Rosen for his notes and guidance.
Whenever I’m on stage, I can’t help but lose myself in the story I’m crafting for the audience in real time. I hope it feels real and immediate for them. Sometimes, the emotions of whatever I was feeling in those moments within those stories, those past lives, will finally catch up with me behind the microphone. Sometimes they surprise me. The story above was a special performance for me, one that I’m thankful I’m able to share thanks to my friends at RISK!; LA producer Beowulf Jones and Executive Producer/Founder, Kevin Allison. Special thanks to the storytellers I shared this episode with, Mike Cho and Leland Carina. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. As always, thank you for taking the time to listen. It means more than I can ever express on my blog!
As I’ve stated before, birthdays are excellent motivators for artists to establish deadlines for themselves. Let’s say a friend’s birthday is coming up. Do you have a calendar? Do you want to make that day special? Plan ahead! This year, I’ve made a commitment to hand-make as many gifts as I can for those I love, rather than contribute to an avalanche of products, “stuff” and other retail ephemera. Boo! There’s a magic that happens when you transform raw materials with your own hands, knowing that whatever you’re breathing life into is going to find a home with just one special person. I see it as a communication, a special message that repeats each time they look at it or pick it up. Emotional/Memory replay, like a video?
Engineering this piece solely by eyeballing photos on Google Image Search was a unique challenge, as I didn’t have a VHS tape handy for physical reference. (Next time, I will!) The process began on paper, as I sketched out its rough dimensions and visualized it hanging from someone’s chest, once the chain would be added. I approached it as a three-dimensional cartoon, as I hand drew the sprockets and wrapped the inner gears with construction paper (VHS tape). This project has definitely awoken more ideas within me to create colorful representations of household items, as well as setting a high bar for Maggie’s next birthday. *wink* Love you and Vidiots Foundation!
My goal is peak-Sailor Moon.
Cola @ Coachella
Finished crafting these last night, additions for a miniature room I’m designing with my friend/musician Ricky Berger for her upcoming music video, “That’s Where I Belong.” Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes snapshots!
It was an honor to illustrate for the LA Phil as 2018 came to a symphonic close. Seeing my work animated (by Daniel Anderson) was a real treat, as my drawings transformed in imaginative ways along with Olivier Messiaen’s vibrant Turangalîla Symphony. I’ve gathered additional illustrations for this piece, as seen below, to give you a more complete appreciation for the evolution of the video:
December 21st, 2018: Arizona was especially cold this winter. As my family & I admired the illuminated cacti at the Phoenix Zoo, fond memories of this Christmas tradition added an extra glow to the similarly decorated mesquite trees that lined its walkways. Mountain lions, gila monsters, roadrunners, snakes and all manner of desert creature scurried to the surface in decorative form, amidst the chatter of sneakers and other slow moving families trying to keep warm. As I cradled my paper cup of hot chocolate in my hands, grateful for each sip, I saw a saguaro cactus strung with brightly colored bulbs next to a howling coyote. “I still need to glue on those needles,” I thought, picturing the half-finished art project which would become this year’s Christmas gift for my mother: a paper cactus.
Firmly believing that birthdays make the best deadlines for artists, holidays are an equally powerful motivator. Fueled by the giving spirit of the season, I began crafting this cactus (seen below) in LA, finishing it back home in Arizona after an inspirational trip to the Phoenix Zoo. Just as the resilient desert plant stores water for the dry seasons ahead, I treasure these trips back home to charge my emotional batteries for the droughts in my life, giving back to those who mean the most to me. This year, I chose to leave my mom with a cactus, a model of perseverance and stubbornness…two of her finest qualities. By making something from the heart, why not choose to leave a part of your spirit with someone you love, instead of something factory-assembled? A new tradition, perhaps?
Working as a graphic artist for the USC Thornton School of Music has given me the opportunity to help visualize some incredible stories about its students & faculty. One of my favorites from last year was “The Magnificent Seven,” about a group of seven legendary drummers brought together to honor the legacy of professor Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. Faced with the challenge of completing her friend and colleague’s remaining weeks of instruction after his untimely passing last February, Patrice Rushen, Chair of the Popular Music Program, “…called seven legendary drummers, asking each to fill in for one week. They all said yes.” Having grown up listening to Chancler’s work with artists such as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Lionel Richie, it was a honor to express how much his impact on the music communities, both at USC and around the world, will be cherished and missed.
Story by Julie Riggott / Illustrated and Animated by Sean David Christensen / Music by Ricky Berger
Named for the highway suspended between Bakersfield and the Kern River Valley, The 178’s reimagines classics from Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson through cloaks of electronic flourishes and dreamlike arrangements. I had the pleasure to visualize this connection from one city to the next, one genre to another, by deconstructing a familiar roadside landmark with an abstract approach that speaks to the album’s quirky sensibilities. On their rendition of “Crazy,” the vocals scatter like broken radio frequencies, the type you’d expect to find in-between AM stations, chirping through the gaps. With elegant instrumentation and production, The 178’s handful of new classics illuminate the connections between the past, the present and every side road along the way.
Evan Calbi: Nylon-string guitar, electric & double bass, pedal steel, vocals
Pat Dietz: Electric guitar
John McClung: Pedal steel arrangement on “Silver Wings”
Bill Severance: Drums
Rich Wenzel: Hammond B3 organ, keyboard
Win_go: Backing vocals
Recorded at Ardent Audio Productions, October 2018
Mixed by Rich Wenzel
Produced by Evan Calbi & Rich Wenzel
Been meaning to make this miniature for awhile, my first attempt at miniaturizing cartoonish food. Served on a (tiny) paper plate, the ingredients for this short stack were: Discs of painted clay covered in syrup (Gorilla Glue) with a disc of butter on top, which ended up being a slice of a synthetic rubber eraser from a mechanical pencil!
My memories are still humming from a wonderful evening of storytelling shared with The Moth. The photograph above (by Ricky Steel), taken moments after the winner was announced (go Ron!), gathered all of us together on stage to receive a warm round of applause from the audience. Huddled shoulder to shoulder out there in the darkness were a handful of my friends and my mother, who drove in from Phoenix the day before. I was honored to share such a special night with those closest to me, as well as my growing community of fellow storytellers & writers whom I continue to be inspired by.
For a handful of mornings in late-October, I’d rise before work and whittle away at this gift, chattering crows on the other side of my kitchenette window. After awhile, a second skin of super glue dried on my right thumb and index finger, smudged with the wax residue of colored pencil illustrations I pressed onto the panel’s surface. Before wrapping it up, I could see that I’d left a fingerprint along the panel's edge, a faint “hello” to the friend I was making it for. I wondered if he’d notice. If you’re an artist, and wanting to strengthen your skills of accountability when it comes to delivering an original piece by a specific deadline, I can’t recommend other friends’ birthdays any higher. The wreckage of my latest collage (see above) was strewn with love for one of my dearest friends, a opportunity to test out some new approaches for an audience of one. Everyone has the ability to create things with their hands & heart, and for my money, nothing beats receiving a gift in the mail that only you know could've come from someone you love. After all, it has your fingerprints all over it.