“I’m not asking you to call me / I’m not asking for much / Just want to hear the right words fall from your mouth.” - Lyrics by Heather Marie Ellison
“Tayra and I grew up on a beach in the north east of Brazil. We were inseparable. The sea breeze brings me back happy memories.”
This stunning film by director Nara Normande was my favorite at the 2019 Palm Springs International ShortFest. Blessed by the fortune of having Guaxuma programmed in the same shorts block as my friend Lizzy’s, this devastating and powerful stop-motion documentary evoked these special “memories” through sand paintings on glass. Extraordinary work that left me in tears.
I am inspired by my friend Lizzy Hogenson and her film Dani, a claymation documentary short about a daughter delivering the news of her breast cancer prognosis to her mother. The intricacies of their relationship are painstakingly handcrafted, one subtle movement at a time, from yarn, beads, cardboard & felt. These fragile elements are bound together by the hard work of producer Kyle McClary, editor Robert Panico and original music & sound editing by Ricky Berger. An official selection to this year's Oscar-qualifying Palm Springs International ShortFest, I'm eagerly awaiting to see it on the big screen next week!
When you’re lucky enough to find yourself riding waves of laughter with a cinema audience, it’s a sublime experience. This was animator Bryan Lee’s gift to those who gathered for a screening of the USC Cinematic Arts - John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts’ fourth-year final projects on May 11th, 2019, his film capping the evening and his cohort’s four-year program with raucous laughter. Cage Match, a devilishly clever ode to the resilient spirit of innocence, was one of my favorite films. Animated with BIC Round Stic ballpoint pens with a childlike fury, its deceptively mischievous surface (complete with hulking, chicken wrestlers and a frenzied Japanese language-speaking game show host) masked Lee’s tender exploration of what it means to preserve one’s sense of wonder and belonging in this world. Hilarious and heartfelt, Lee executes his distinct style with handcrafted innovation and heart.
Bryan Lee is an animator, story artist and designer in Los Angeles, CA.
If you don’t mind spoilers, Sean Wing has composed a soaring musical climax to Wet City, an Adult Swim SMALLS limited series created by Nate Sherman & Nick Vokey (Fired on Mars). Set in an oceanic, post-apocalyptic seascape reminiscent of Waterworld, Wing provides (in addition to his laconic character narration) a wistful, future-pop score that beautifully gallops towards the final episode’s conclusion. Watch the entire series here, its three episodes make for a great mini-binge!
Created by Nate Sherman & Nick Vokey
Co-Producer & Supervising Animator: Matthew Incontri
VO and Music by Sean Wing
Animation by Matthew Incontri and Nick Vokey
Storyboards by Olivia Pecini
Character Design by Nick Vokey
Backgrounds by Liesel Plambeck and Nick Vokey
Editing, Compositing, Sound Design, Music Supervision by Nate Sherman
Special Thanks Liesel Plambeck, Amy Vokey, Cam Vokey, Elise Wine
Produced for Adult Swim SMALLS by Matt Harrigan & Dave Hughes
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
There’s something about a deadline that stokes the fire, sharpening your work ethic to deliver something out of the blue; To pull a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak. To that, I decided to dust off some of my old tricks to contribute to my friend’s upcoming endeavor. Rick Darge, the ever inventive & industrious filmmaker behind Zen Dog, has created a midnight film festival at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles, one of our city’s most beloved, classic movie theaters. “ABRACADABRA ALAKAZAM” (Nov. 30th) is meant to be a celebration of the weird and wonderful, just as delightful and unexpected as a great magic trick…this rabbit popping out of the aforementioned hat, above, for example.
I haven’t traditionally animated anything in awhile, sticking mostly to documentaries and 2D visual art (illustrations), but the fires of my late-October deadline to deliver this short, 15-second animated bumper has inspired me to get moving again. Time to dust off some old skills and test out some new techniques in the process. Stay tuned for the complete “magic act,” coming soon later next month!
This past summer at the Marfa Film Festival, I had the honor to the share the screen with this film. Jay Hollinsworth's "The Art of Emptiness," its namesake taken from the song by Torrejón, follows a retired president in Texas who has taken up oil painting. Cleverly using subtle gradient shifts and trembling line work, the film binds together a string of vibrating static shots that betray the bucolic scenery with their sense of unease.
Gathered inside the Crowley Theater, its tin roof trembling against an angry thunderstorm, the audience absorbed the plaintive guitar of the song and the retired president's eyes tightening at the unease of the task before him; What to make of a blank canvas? While raindrops scattered like needles above me, I was thankful for the company of Jay's film, even though it couldn't keep away the storm.