Sunday, September 16, 2007
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.