Sunday, September 16, 2007

Good Morning!

I’m excited to report that my film, Good Morning, has been accepted into the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Regretfully, independent filmmaking has played only a small part in my career to date. I often get ideas for films but work and life priorities often intervene and pull me in other directions. Good Morning has it’s own unique creation story and I thought I’d share it on this blog.

In late October 2006 I flew out to L.A. to pitch a series idea and launch my book at an event with ASIFA Hollywood. When I got home there was a message from my Dad that my mom was in the hospital again. She had been a cancer survivor for over thirty years and enjoyed a high quality of life without any pain. Now she took a turn for the worse and things were looking grim. For the next month and a half she would be in and out of the hospital. Before my mother took ill, I had accepted a job to animate on a pilot. By the end of my first week on the job, my mother lost her battle and passed away. At less than a year later, this still seems unreal to put in writing let alone to say out loud. As natural and inevitable as this process is, I don’t think anything prepares you for it. The event made me re-evaluate my priorities and I put work on hold for a month to be with my family.

Shortly after the New Year I returned to my job animating on the pilot. In addition to this I had teaching obligations to finish up at NYU and SVA as well as three more months of freelance work to complete on a series of films I was commissioned to make for TV series about wine. On top of everything my girlfriend and I were trying to close on an apartment and once that finally happened, there was the matter of having to move. I found myself consumed by all these responsibilities.

Happily, by mid February my work on the pilot and the wine show were both near the finishing stages. At this time I accepted an offer to direct Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim series Assy McGee, but that wouldn’t start for some time. All I had left on my plate was teaching two classes a week. The rest of the time was mine. I started to flirt with the idea of starting a little film project; something purely to please me and free from the demands of any client. I saw ten days coming up where I could devote to whatever muses might grab me.

Because of all the madness of the last four months, I ended up with a wacom tablet sitting untouched and brand new inside its box. I decided to install it and maybe make a little film to test it out. Searching for inspiration, I searched through a stack of CDs and rediscovered a disc of children’s songs written by my friend, Bob Charde. Ten years ago he had composed the theme to my first film, Snow Business. I popped on the CD and fell in love with a short song of Bob’s called, Good Morning. The tune was bouncy and full of joy. I made up my mind to animate to this track and by that evening’s end I had fourteen seconds in the can. I finished the short over the next nine days.

Working on Good Morning was like allowing myself permission to bliss out. Never had making a film felt so good. At this time in my life it was like a form of therapy. Contributing to the fun were the filmmaking rules I assigned to this project. Rules are incredibly important because they give you parameters on which to create. For a film that barely cracks the one-minute mark, it sure has a long list of rules. I decided to not have any scene cuts or separate backgrounds. All the animation would be brown line art against a brown paper bag texture. There would be no other color. Overlapping lines between characters and backgrounds were okay. Instead of cuts, I used animated transitions between each scene. Forsaking a traditional storyboard, I deliberately worked straight ahead, allowing myself to paint the film into a corner at the end of each scene. I hoped this would all conspire to give the film a sense of joy and spontaneity. Certainly, with a track as good as Bob’s song, I couldn’t go too far off.

It’s very gratifying that this film is experiencing some festival success, but I don’t know what could compare to the important role it’s already played in my life. I can’t watch Good Morning without thinking about my mother…and that makes me smile and bliss out all over again.


Avi said...

Good Morning is a really great short, I watch it every so often for inspiration. Its cool to hear what inspired it. Looking forward to next Monday! (boy, that sounds weird)

-Avi Tuchman

Alisa said...

Thanks for sharing the story behind the film. I had no idea it was completed in such a short time! Congrats on the festival recognition!

David B. Levy said...

thanks for the congrats! I'm living proof that its okay to have your first success at a festival after ten years of making films. I like to think long term. It's a lot of fun to have something to work towards. Early and quick success always reminds me of those who peaked in high school. Where's the fun in that...?

Micah Baker said...

Fantastic news for your film! And a very heart warming story. I look forward to seeing your film soon.

Uncle Phil said...

Congrats on getting into the festival Dave! And I'm really sorry to hear about your mom. We should catch up soon.

Forni said...

Hey Dave, you know what, here in Brazil we have a saying (probably it is world wide): "Don´t chase buterflys, take care of your garden and they will come."

I think that is the best route, to do something that makes you happy, that means something to you. The rewards, festivals and etc, that will come ;)

Nice story. Do you have your short on the web? I would like to watch it ;)

Um abraço !

David B. Levy said...

Hi All,
Thanks again for the congrats and support. And, Forni, those are some wise words you write. I will post the short on youtube in the next day or so and I'll give you all a link.


Jayna S said...

I'm sorry to hear that your Mom died. :0 Still, I'm certain your short carries a lot of feeling in it, despite the short length. The fact that it makes you smile means part of your mom is there, immortalized for as long as you see her there, and if she could I'm sure she would be smiling. (Sorry I got all mushy x_x I lost a very close uncle last winter).

Anyway, I really want to see the short now, but apparently I have to wait. I'm sure it's worth it though. :) Be sure to let me know when you upload it ok?

-- Jayna

john said...

Thank you for sharing your whole story about the production of your film Good Morning. I'm sorry for your loss of your mother, ... but I appreciate your sharing your story very much.
I went to YouTube to watch your film, but I wasn't able to find it yet. I look forward to seeing it.
I also really enjoy doing straight ahead animation.
Have you ever tried ToonBoom Studio for your work? It is similar to flash, but it has a camera in it to do zooms, and pans, and a traditional animation dopesheet.

thanks again. I'm enjoying your blog.


Ken A. Priebe said...

Hi David-
Glad to see your blog...I've added it to my links on my production blog (

Very inspiring story, and sorry to hear about your mom. I'd love to see the film.