Evan Mann on Short Film “Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler”

Evan Mann, Film, Short Film

“I thrive on rules. They make infinite possibilities more accessible. By limiting myself to the real materials and shunning CGI, I am forced to solve problems that play within reality.”

Evan Mann sits down with us to talk inspiration behind short film “Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler” among other things…

Honey Wagon Confidential: How does your background in sculpture and painting affect your work?

Evan Mann: I am grounded in material. The physical world has so much to offer, and making a sculpture or a prop with my hands: shaping, gluing, texturizing, manipulating, painting, really having the opportunity to transform matter from a disparate list of materials into a cohesive object (prop) or interior installation (set design), is essential to my process. Placing these props in front of the camera allows their context to further change. Familiar materials are pushed into a space that questions their reality, especially in a digital age of CGI. This forces me to use traditional, practical effects, like masking techniques and stop-motion, to achieve what digital imagery could easily overcome. What remains is a tactical world. Real, yet unreal. This is painting. Pigments combined to create the illusion of something so far beyond themselves, not only visually, but also metaphorically. When we look at a painting, we are seeing pigments on a surface. But in most cases, the initial observation sees the illusion of a larger image. Trompe l’oeil. The pigments join together to point towards something greater. Physical becoming metaphysical. This is transfiguration.

HWC: What were some inspirations behind this film?

EM: I wanted the first human to encounter the last human. To pull humanity, and all of our achievements into one time and space. A simple interaction between two people. I have little faith in the “progression” of humanity. We make one thing better and another gets worse. Cause and effect. The idea of the pioneer really came forward. I watched Ken Burns documentary The West around the time I was editing Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler (VOTGSP) and this was so obvious to me. I also live in Northern Colorado with oil and fracking. Big drills assembled upon the landscape. Big money. Big consequences to the little communities who surround them. Other inspirations: 2001 a Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Christian Mysticism, portals, space, time, light, sound, paradoxical situations, and I wanted to make something more narrative. Loosely narrative. I wanted it to be funny and weird still.

HWC: Your film “This Mountain” won the “4K Challenge.” Did you learn anything through making this film?

EM: Most of my projects seem to take years to make. The Samsung 4K challenge only gave me two weeks, and coming out on top among 500+ submissions was a huge surprise. I think my experience making wedding films should get the credit for winning. Weddings were the bread and butter when I first started my company, Otherworldly Productions. Filming a wedding is really a non-sexual form of voyeurism. Honing in on intimacy and vulnerable moments and making them beautiful. for the Samsung film, I turned the camera inwards. My own life and intimacies were exposed. I let strangers in. People appreciate the sincere rawness of being vulnerable.

HWC: You play around with different mediums and forms (i.e stop-motion, using everyday objects to build your sets). What sort of freedom do you think this gives you artistically and why do you choose to pursue it?

EM: Absolute freedom is found within boundaries. I thrive on rules. They make infinite possibilities more accessible. By limiting myself to the real materials and shunning CGI (not because I am against it, I just choose not to employ it), I am forced to solve problems that play within reality. I prefer to use what is accessible to me, what is economical, thrown away. To repurpose, re-contextulize. This adds a touch of humor to my work, but it also makes my worlds more accessible, believable.

  Behind the Scenes

HWC: How long did the stop-motion in this film take to complete? How did you keep perspective on the film throughout this process?

EM: This film was not heavy with stop-motion, so it was not terribly time consuming. The proboscis poking the planet, the arm going down the rabbit hole, and the shaving cream rings. Less than three days. Building the props took way longer. Keeping perspective for two and half years was not possible. I would say perspective was discovered along the way. My wife, Deborah, and I had two children and bought our fist home, which I extensively remodeled. We also grew our production company and allowed life to happen. I could not pause life for this project. I was created in little increments. Build props for two months, film day, build more props for three months, film a sequence. Patience.

HWC: What stylistic choices did you make to isolate the themes of the film, such as pioneering or technology in our global culture?

EM: Lots of portals. A proboscis. Juxtaposition of cave man and space man. Old and new. Analog versus digital. The interior of the space ship is created from mostly analog music players. But please know this was not my intention to make a film “about” these themes. They are what emerged through the process. For example, in building the interior of the spaceship, I had access to old electronic components for cheap. As I assembled the cockpit, the record player, piano and tape deck all become components to control the spaceship. The obsolesce of these objects were subverted when placed in the context of a spacecraft. Meaning was formed through process.

For more on Evan, head over to his site!

Vincent Peone on Slo-Motion Short “The Sea is Blue”

Film, Stop-Motion, Vincent Peone

“You’re always saying “this could work” and then you change directions to suit the resources that are available to you. With stop-motion, you have control over every aspect of your frame.”

Vincent Peone sits down with us to discuss his short, “The Sea is Blue” among other things…

HoneyWagonConfidential: Where did the idea for “The Sea is Blue” come from?

Vincent Peone: A decade ago, my life was almost unrecognizable. My family was thrust into turmoil when a fire tore through my childhood home, badly injuring my mom and kid sisters. There aren’t words for the feeling I had when I thought I might lose my family. I wasn’t alone for long. My mom, Doreen was alright, and while Angeline had suffered severe injuring, she was on a clear recovery path.

All attention then turned to the middle kid, Dina, who had sustained third degree burns to nearly seventy percent of her body. Months of harrowing uncertainty lay ahead as Dina fought through a drug-induced come – my mom, Angie, and the rest of our family waiting patiently by her side. The doctors tried to manage our expectations, calling the situation “touch and go” at best. We never stopped believing that Dina would pull through. To make painfully slow-moving minutes go by, I decided to write a story. I imagined Dina was off on a profound adventure, struggling to make her way home. After three long months, Dina woke up. She grew strong again. Both of my sisters have gone on to pursue their dreams these past ten years, making me the proudest brother. Their strength and confidence inspires me to this very minute! Somewhere along the way, I decided I was ready to share the story I wrote by Dina’s bedside.

HWC: Had you had any experience with stop-motion prior to making this film?

VP: Not a terrible amount, this is pretty much my first go at stop motion. Though I came up in the CollegeHumor circuit and there was a video I directed called “The Nightmare Before St. Patrick’s Day” but as with most things at CollegHumor, the turnaround was insane and I wasn’t able to get too hands on with the physical production for the short.

HWC: How long did it take to make “The Sea is Blue”? What do you feel stop-motion as a medium offers that other mediums aren’t able to?

VP: The actual production took about seven months, but we were building sets and puppets for about two years prior to that. Making a stop mo film was experientially different for me because I was actually able to translate my vision directly to the screen without compromise, in a way unlike ever before with any of the live action projects I’ve worked on. There always seem to be compromises, albeit location, casting, etc. You’re always saying “this could work” and then you change directions to suit the resources that are available to you. With stop motion, you have control over every aspect of your frame.

“Their strength and confidence inspires me to this very minute! Somewhere along the way, I decided I was ready to share the story I wrote by Dina’s bedside.”

HWC: You’ve also worked with live-action. Do you prefer one medium to the other?

VP: I don’t specifically have a preference. I view stop motion as a tool for storytelling. I knew I couldn’t accomplish a lot of the things I wanted in this short practically, so stop motion was the best tool for the job. There are tons of advantages to live action of course, as well. You begin to feel like a crazy person spending an entire day to make your stop mo “actor” raise their arm when you could just simply ask a person to do it in real life and all it takes is an instant, haha.

HWC: “The Sea is Blue” has a really unique tone and feel. What were the inspirations for the film and what steps did you take to achieve this tone? Were there any aspects of the sea, etc. that you definitely wanted to include?

VP: I grew up loving stop mo, so there was definitely a nostalgic quality to making this film and the distinct stylistic choice the medium offers. Trouble was, I entered into this project with the absolute most basic understanding for how stop mo worked. I relied very heavily on my animation director Mike Healey at //Kneeon Studios as a crutch on a visual storytelling level. We worked very closely and he was immensely patient with me as I grew to speak the language I needed to communicate as a director of an animated film of this scale. I was fortunate to find someone as passionate as I was for the story.

The sea itself played a big part of the story from the get go – we had a lot of early discussion about how it was almost a character of itself in the film. A lot of effort went into getting it just right. In the end, I think we ended up animating it using 30 bottles of hair gel on plexiglass to get the look we wanted.

HWC: Who were your biggest inspirations?

VP: My sisters Dina and Angelina are an inspiration to me. They overcame obstacles and continue to overcome obstacles that serve as a constant reminder to me to push myself creatively. I dedicated the film to them-they have the last title card at the end!

HWC: Anything in store for the new year?

VP: We’ve submitted the film to a number of festivals, and we’re really excited to see how it measures up in that space. Also really amped to make moves into directing and writing television and feature work with my partner Josh Ruben this year. We’ve had some inspiration within our writing lately that we think would translate well to TV and we’re hoping we get the opportunity to bridge our work over.

To check out more on Vincent, head over to his site!

Kirsten Lepore on Stop-Motion, Snowmen, and Keeping Perspective

Film, Kirsten Lepore, Stop-Animation

“If I didn’t trust some past version of myself, then I’d have surely quit and none of my films would exist right now.”

Florida Film Festival Winner, Kirsten Lepore sits down with us to discuss her short film, “Bottle” among other things…

Honey Wagon Confidential: You work a lot with stop-motion. How long does this usually take? Let’s say for something similar to “Bottle”?

KL: Stop-motion is pretty time consuming – but it’s definitely different for each project depending on the complexity. At studios, a single animator can usually shoot between 4 and 15 seconds of footage a day. “Bottle” took 9 months total to make, but shooting was about 3 months of that time.

HWC: How did you first get into stop-motion and why have you stuck with this medium?

KL: I’d wanted to experiment with stop-motion since I was young, but didn’t know how to approach it until my Dad lent me the family camcorder which I used to make a few very crude stop-mo films. In high school, I taught myself 2D animation with Flash, but didn’t approach stop-motion again until college where I made “Sweet Dreams” – my first real stop-motion film. I think I’ve mainly just focused on stop-motion since then because most of my recent ideas require it or work better in that medium. I always try to go with the medium that best suits the concept.

HWC: When directing with stop-motion, do you ever feel that your shots are affected by the medium or do you feel pretty free to shoot in whichever way you wish?

KL: The shots are definitely affected by the medium. There are a lot of strange limitations within stop-motion that live action filmmakers or even 2D animators wouldn’t necessarily expect. Anytime a character or prop is airborne (this even includes 1 or 2 frames of a “run” action), rigs must be used to hold it there for that frame. It’s really annoying, actually. You are unable to (practically) do most fx that involve particles or really subtle movement (clouds, fog, rain) because those natural movements would be too minute to control or difficult to suspend in a set. This was always a huge bummer for me because I love playing with weather in my shorts. It just ends up taking a lot of compositing. Also any camera move at all usually requires some really complicated equipment.

HWC: How do you keep perspective in such a time-consuming medium?

KL: It’s really hard, actually. This is another reason why it’s great that you have to pre-board and essentially pre-edit (via an animatic) an animated film. I always have to stick with the plan/animatic that I build for myself at the beginning of the project because I inevitably always lose perspective. Around the middle of production on any of my films I’m always exhausted and “over it.” I find myself thinking “Trust Kirsten of the past – the Kirsten that made these boards 6 months ago that thought this film would be a good idea.” If I didn’t trust some past version of myself, then I’d have surely quit and none of my films would exist right now, hah.

After a film is done, I can never really watch it like other people. I hardly ever see any semblance of a narrative – I just see a jumble of shots where I remember how I felt the day I animated them.

“I always try to go with the medium that best suits the concept.”

HWC: You also write. Do you prefer writing to making these stop-motion films? Is your process different for the two?

KL: It’s funny – I never really think of myself as a writer in the traditional sense, because I’ve never written a real script and my ideas always feel visual rather than confined to language. I generally try to stay away from dialogue in my personal work as well. I’ve also only ever written for my own films – never for anyone else, so they do feel like a synergistic thing rather than two separate processes. I will say that when I make stop-motion for something I haven’t written (i.e. a client project) I put way less pressure on myself since I’m less invested in the final product. I’m much more apt to compromise with something I haven’t written, as it feels much less like I have any ownership over it. Sometimes it’s refreshing to work on those projects, because it’s pretty stressful to be 100% invested in a project all the time – too high stakes.

HWC: How many snowmen (or sandmen rather) did you have to make when shooting “Bottle”?

KL: Hmm, I haven’t thought about that actually, haha – it would have been the same number of days I shot in the snow, since I just made a new one every time I got to location. So maybe 20 of them…

HWC: You’ve worked with physical objects, illustration and clay. Do you prefer one to another?

KL: Again, it just depends on the concept/story. Sometimes tabletop clay stuff is fun – but once I’m fighting gravity and it has to stand on its own with internal rigs, than it gets annoying. Stop-motion has its fun bits, but it’s also a pretty rough medium that can drive you insane at times. The most relaxing way to animate, in my opinion, is in Flash or some other digital 2D method. Being able to sit in front of a computer in an air conditioned space, take breaks whenever I want to, have an undo button – those are luxuries.

HWC: Who are your biggest inspirations from a writing/directing standpoint?

KL: Ooooh that’s a tough one. To be honest, I’d say I’m most inspired by my friends and peers who are also short filmmakers – Julia Pott, DANIELS, Allison Schulnik, Hiro Murai, David OReilly, Becky and Joe, Andy Huang, and Mikey Please to name a few.

Check out more of Kirsten’s films here!