august 9, 2003
i seem to be writing things down in my sleep, on mysterious subjects that appear really important at the time. one unconscious note reads, "the view is at once the sign, the crowd, the sea, the skin, the suit," "have you spoken to the projectionist?", and my favorite, "if we think of it enuf something will happen."
the last few weeks have been little more than jaded commutes into interchangeable screening rooms that require a steady stream of notekeeping. i think we are all hungrily circling this deadline for the LA preview because afterwards the prints for the whole country have to be struck and then the animation show will finally be all out of our mothering little hands. we are dangerously veering near "let us just please finish now mr god and move on with what is left of our lives" territory.. which is actually quite a familiar place. i own a little log cabin in this territory. there are many trees. but there are no roads.
the old post-production adage, "it is never as bad nor as good as you think" still rings loud and true. improvements continue to be made though, for instance we have managed to restore the colors in "mars and beyond" to a degree that has wowed everybody, but most of the remaining patch-up work all surrounds mike's and my new films and dealing with all the last minute logistics of conforming the feature negative once and for all. somebody once said (billy wilder?), "i love making movies, what i hate is having to release the damn things." it reminds me of the rumors i've heard of jd salinger having written 15 novels in the past 30 years but not bothering to publish anymore: as soon as he finishes a new book he just stacks it atop the previous one in a private vault. the process is more important than the outcome. salinger has been quoted as saying, "it is contact with the public which hinders my writing."
and hey speaking of which ha ha i will be traveling for most of next month and into october to support these screenings, but really anything will be better than this current work and at least i'll have some more significant breaks in there to finally do my own thing again and tend to my own vaults. and hopefully i will stop keeping hallucinatory but sadly dutiful production notes in my sleep.
somebody stole my little orange tree. it used to sit in the sunny hallway in front of my door and a few mornings ago i found it was gone. i'd been coddling this little tree for over a year and it was finally struggling to birth its very first oranges, bright little green bulbs that looked like large peas. we even battled a dramatic stem fungus problem together. there is a small ring of dirt there now where the pot used to sit, with dried up blossoms and leaves still scattered around its perimeter. every time i walk up the stairs now the hall looks wrong.
one of the christian ex convict neighbors explained to me in great excited detail his big plan to pretend to be homeless for an entire year, and wander around the country begging for cash and sleeping on streets in different states for the sole purpose of documenting all the things people give him. and "YOU," he said...(pointing!) "YOU have to come with me to shoot it all with hidden cameras."
tonight i swooped through an inexplicable new bunch of little post-it note drawings... i thought they were way too edward gorey at first and then i figured well as long as we're going to rip him off in that direction let's just go all the way with it and see what we get. they sort of came out all at once after that and i think they tell a little story. somehow. sorry edward
hey look what steve has gone and done to himself >>>>
july 26, 2003
the austin screenings went really well and everyone is glad to have our difficult first test previews behind us - the saturday show went better than friday, which seemed to have a weird charge in the air and a bit less excited audience, though we could easily have been so tired, nauseous and irritating to everyone around to have done this to ourselves. have just enjoyed my first week off from the burbank lab commute but tuesday it's back to work affixing the remaining cosmetic patches and band-aids onto the show for the LA preview. i am considering just biting the bullet and actually reshooting a couple of these difficult overexposed shots in the "end of the show" that are still causing problems but rebecca has much confidence that we will still be able to milk more out of the colors and effects through the digital telecine again so we'll probably give that one more try based on the test tape i see tomorrow. the digital trick worked pretty ok fixing shots temporarily for the austin screenings but they are still not quite right yet.
meanwhile a few of the films' soundtracks still need work, subtitles need to be remade, more color timing to do, etc. also we had to cut the one swiss paint film days before austin because the sound elements they sent us were just not up to snuff so that piece will be seen for the first time with the show in LA. but otherwise i think we are pretty much ready for our closeup. have meanwhile been doing about one interview a day again which are uniformly humiliating and stupid. also have been able to slowly ease back into animating which has been nice as i've been out of action on the new film for too long now and am looking forward to playing an artist again.
as usual it's still a wrestling match to sit down, settle in, and focus on drawing this film because the work is endlessly tedious and repetitive and my arms and my back really want nothing more to do with it. a typical night consists of animate, read magazine, animate, play guitar, pace around the room, animate, watch tv, eat, animate, eat, read book, animate, talk on phone, eat, drink, animate, stare at ceiling, animate, drink, animate, drink, sleep.
i appear to be gaining back some weight. i suspect fried meats 3 times a day in texas had something to do with this. my apt building smells really weird tonight. also my jaw has been loudly clicking all day and i think the crunch noise it makes is audible to people listening in close proximity outside of my head
july 15, 2003
king of the road
more daily commuting to and from film labs while helping with the new website. as a leader i find myself mostly making crisis decisions, wondering if any of it made sense and then promptly forgetting what it was that somebody just said.
today i realized that i grind my teeth when i drive to burbank. and yesterday i was unknowingly gnawing on my lip so much that it bled all over the place. all of this bounced around has drained the fluids clear out of my head. my walk has a sort of new dreamlike sway to it. i just got in the door and was hoping to finally do the dishes and clean up a bit, though i am sort of just sitting here kinda stunned staring at my bottle of juice with my mouth slightly open.
the lab told us a little while ago that our 35mm soundtrack to "billy's balloon" had "dried up and decomposed, so we threw it out" (this is labspeak for "we totally fucking lost it"). luckily, this reminded us that this old stracktrack was in mono anyway - it was struck from the original 16mm source back in 1998 - and so provided us with enough excuse to create a fresh mix from our original materials and once and for all play it in proper stereo for theater audiences. as of right now the lab has yet to properly synch up the new track, a fun game they like to play three days before our first screening. tomorrow we have one more go at a final polish for everything that the folks in austin will be seeing; the prints will be shipped out of our hands come wednesday and i think we fly out thursday. mike has decided to cut a section out of his stuff and beyond that i think most of the kinks with the new films were ironed out today... everything will be just fine
july 8, 2003
got through our second day of color timing at the lab in burbank today... it looks like i will be having to dart back and forth to LA every day this week in order to get everything finished in time for the animation show premiere in austin. today went better than yesterday though. it is always horrible and unpleasant to do color timing because it is a lot like going to a doctor's office to receive a diagnosis of will-it-live or will-it-die. you wait in a clean little white room with magazines until you are invited into a little screening room where you watch your film play out with every one of its shots all messed up, either too blue or too pink, when it all just needs to be white. and as it speeds along you holler out to the colorist all the bits you notice where the colors are shifting, all the while trying to determine how it is that your soundtrack is out of synch. you drive home an hour later questioning everything you saw, depressed and convinced that you are a miserable failure. today we got most of the stuff fixed from yesterday but there is a double exposure in the "intermission" that is still looking awful plus a bulk of the effects shots in the "end" that need further highlight work. in fact it is sounding like these shots are near impossible to color correct via traditional film methods, at least in time for next week. so rebecca and i are going to try a little experiment for the first time by polishing these bits in a very fancy digital telecine thing, which can then output us corrected negatives.
meanwhile towards the end of the week we will begin work on going through all the rest of the films in the program and making sure everything is looking right. it is not an easy task as many of the shorts in the show are coming from other countries and all of them are coming from different film labs, in various conditions. so it's another early bedtime for me tonight. we will make it to austin but they may have to wheel me in on a cart.
last night i dreamt there were several snails crawling out of my bath tub drain. i asked somebody what to do about it and he suggested using a blowtorch. i said, but that would mess up my pipes! and he said, oh yeah.
i am off to go buy milk now because i have no breakfast
june 19, 2003
sound is locked! after a grueling two weeks mixing with tim i've just sat with the latest cuts and have with much relief deemed the little trilogy finished. we now have a day and a half left for polishing and stereo work before our big lab deadline. it's been a very difficult deadline and final 14 days but everyone here really pulled through despite all the long hours. i will have to buy tim a fruit basket. and believe it or not we broke the embarrassing "rejected" 80 hour sound work record, these three cartoons somehow
collectively required around 100 hours of sound work, if not more... all for 8 minutes of film. at least it only took about 8 months to animate and shoot, and thankfully it's all turned out to be fine. right now i think i like the middle film the best out of them. it's a big relief to not just be finished in time but finished and satisfied. i can't imagine what this deadline would be like right now if all of this work was going into something that was sucking, despite our best efforts. anyway there should be celebrating this weekend, hopefully the crew will be all together in the same place for a change. i want to see "winged migration." then next week i'm back to fulltime animating the big film. i am now going to get drunk and draw on post it notes
sound mix and the last bits of voice recording with tim + rob carry on. rob is just about done with all his lines though i think i have recorded and re-recorded all of mine several times over by now. the deadline for the three little films - now affectionately and pointlessly referred to as a trilogy - comes nearer and though all the sound work is going pretty smooth i am paranoid that it all may balloon into an 80+ hour sound nightmare marathon like "rejected" was and we'll end up camping in the studio to get it done in time. june 24 is the current target for completion and just typing that now makes me want to ring up tim and go back to work on it some more. but the films are behaving very well and i think are going to be quite good. at least the material is not a horrible mess at this stage like "rejected" was, and all the bits are dropping in real easy. the first two cartoons are three minutes each and the third is around two. rob and i went to one of those outback restaurants a couple weeks ago to eat something fried and for years now whenever i've gone in there i admire their big two foot tall decorative stuffed kiwi, and i've long ago decided i want this looming over my bed. there have been many schemes of making off with it, however his feet are bolted down so i would need a team involved to distract the waitstaff while i applied the proper tools. this time though the waitress was friendly and gave me a special secret phone number where i can call and order up my very own giant stuffed kiwi. today amy asked if i had ordered my fiji yet
june 3, 2003|
after 3 am
chocolate bunny knows you better
than you know yourself
on the coca cola box today is a picture of multicultural people really, really enjoying the metaphorical rollercoaster that is a can of soda
may 27, 2003
the final footage looks pretty good so i don't think there will be anything more to animate or re-shoot at all for the three little cartoons. added up the three films come out to about nine minutes, and it seems that every other shot has a special effect in it. the multiple exposure bits are all still impressive but there's a psychedelic-y sequence that will make all the kids nauseous and has become my favorite of the bunch. so now we have twenty-something days to fly through vocal recording and a final sound mix - rob has been in town a few times to get these voices done with me and we're in the process of editing all those sessions. sound mix can get tedious but it is far more welcome than the nightmares of photography. i wanted to add a kung fu sequence to this one thing because i'd found the perfect music for it, but that will have to wait for another time. occasional painting continues on the big film though i've just run out of cels again. we went to the beach today and for the first time in the 8 years i've been living here i swam around in the ocean which is usually freezing. of course the sun cooked me from head to toe because i am a nature idiot so my writing may be slightly heat-feverish. amy is slathering me with some sort of aloe slime every 20 minutes. tomorrow morning there will be a don sized husk of shedded skin in the bed and i will be running around with a shiny new coat. currently though the tops of my feet are dark maroon and terribly itchy and i want to saw them off. i'm sorry you have to read this for whatever reason you are reading this. tonight we watched the latest in the ocean documentary series which had a bunch of killer whales flying out of the surf to eat baby seals. when they snatch one they play with it before eating it by hurling the seal dozens of feet into the air to each other for half an hour. there was all sorts of slow motion footage of floppy screaming baby seals being paddled back and forth by enormous whale flippers. they said they did not know why the whales bothered to do this
may 14, 2003
shot all weekend and principal photography is now done for these three little cartoons, save for inevitable fixes and reshoots. i am going to have start the whirlwind editing and sound mix process right away this weekend and keep things chugging along. had a bad scare while shooting when one night the camera decided to simply stop working but i was able to eventually fix it after some initial panic, timid poking of wires, a subsequent electric shock, dumb staring, and eventual clear thought. the cartoons have required some tricky photo work: lots of stop motion, experimental lighting, weird shadows, watercolors, scenes only in pencil, and a daunting load of optical effect shots - lasers, deathrays, etc.
now that the hopefully-last roll of that's off to the labs, i've returned to painting chores for the long film and might even work through to animate some new scenes there now that i'm still feeling productive. i'm getting pretty good with the painting thing. i have discovered that the secret is all in the color mix. as well as how you apply the paint. that's pretty important too.
i currently have dozens of cels carefully scattered around the apartment covered with oil paints and once they're dry i can take them off the bed and go to sleep. many deadlines are closing in now, we really must work fast. like bunnies. sleepy, sleepy bunnies. my new daylight hours have been helping me out much though, and i think i may even be getting a tan. i am walking around all bronzed and swarthy. people think i am a gladiator. though this might just be because of my trident. has anything else been going on worth writing about? i'm sorry this is all so dry and dull. mostly it's just been a crazed few months of production with little else. maybe once every two weeks comes a day when i end up with nothing to work on due to film at a lab or a lull in the work tide and i get the restless shakes and want to tear at the walls. with my trident. the "blue planet" bbc documentary series is very good on dvd
april 29, 2003
i successfully flipped my hours a couple weeks ago with an all-nighter and am now happily waking up at dawn instead of passing out. i don't remember much from that day without sleep, other than watching "catch 22" for the first time, taking a wobbly sunrise walk to the beach and getting a lot of work done, sort of. but so far it's been very nice to see the sun again and i get to take more walks to the beach now and if i time it just right i can catch the dolphins flopping around out there. so this is good. the outer space shot came back from the lab last week and looks very pretty... whew.. there are a couple of flaws in there to fix but at least there is nothing disastrous that needs to be totally reshot which is very, very welcome news. so the film is back on the shelf again for at least a month or two while i wrap up these three cartoons for the summer thing... i have two and half more final bits to animate this week and then i can shoot it all and move on. tonight it is more experiments with watercolors - i am trying to get a surreal effect of the top of somebody's head dripping... not melting, just kinda dripping... and so far i've managed to get paint all over my shirt and a somewhat ok looking pencil test. a new round of pages are drying as i type this which will hopefully come out looking better.
i think i'm gaining weight again... during production my weight always yo-yos and it seems i'm back on the upswing. hopefully i will not be round, bald, and porous by the time i have to show my face in public again. they found a body in the alleyway about 100 yards away from our studio a couple weeks ago. we were a bit scared about a killer on the loose as the only news coming out of the first report was that the inside of the car was completely soaked with blood. we later learned that he suffered a drug overdose, apparently poisoned by his dealer and threw up more or less all of the blood he had.
meanwhile, one of the cars in my apartment lot had its back window smashed and was covered with spraypaint and gang symbols. what's going on around here?
tomorrow i have to do a canal+ france interview but otherwise it is still lots of draw. i am going to eat some carrots now. the county fair is in town and i want to go
april 8, 2003
ugh, every night i vow to get to bed earlier and try to slowly reverse my waking/working hours for good, yet i can't ever seem to find a night where i'm free enough to actually do it
all work and no sleep sleep make don a sleepy sleep. right now is truly the busiest and most hectic i've ever found myself in production, even from back in the days when i was somehow making these films while juggling a full college course load. i'm also used to being able to take my time a little with this sort of thing but now these three short things have DEADLINES, plus loads of producer work now having to talk on the phone all day with instructions. the other night i spilled red wine all over my dinosaur pillow.
so the last bit of shooting the space scene in the longer film beheld a near-miss disaster last week which might otherwise have resulted in my screaming like a child and retiring from filmmaking altogether... just before i was to shoot the final composites of this over 100 exposure sequence (the single roll of film being carefully back-wound over 100 times to shoot each separate element), which happened to be star fields, i realized a dumb math error that would have made the panning and tilting of all the stars totally out of sync with the rest of the scene's elements. after sinking two weeks of full-time shooting into this 45 second roll of film i reckoned it just wasn't worth taking any chances with anymore, so we just processed what i'd shot thus far. so i will later have to combine those stars into the shot from another roll on an optical printer or something. i should be able to see the results of this so-far starless sequence soon. i have never done anything on an optical printer like this before so it should be pretty educational. meanwhile i'm just a handful of shots away from finishing animating those other films and am simultaneously working on designing a whole new website which will probably inspire/uncontrollably coerce me to want to redesign this place soon after. too. much. work. greasy don locked in basement constructing giant big mysterious scary machine with smokestacks and flickering lights and big toothy motors. it is for you i think but keep back and no touching yet
march 24, 2003
"and all the news it just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream that we've both seen"
shock and awe!
dizzy, and tired... i'm still working on that space sequence's photography every night and animating by day while watching war and drinking beer. photography remains rough. i'm shooting in total darkness with horrible flourescent backlights that fog my vision with a weird gray haze over the top half of everything i see... at first i thought it was smoke and the studio was on fire but then i learned that i need to avoid staring into the lights so much. i imagine my eyes are constantly confused in there, for hours constantly adjusting between blinding bright little planet and starlights inside a pitch black room. here's something a little cheerier: it sounds like the big announcement that we've been promising for so long will finally be let out of the bag by mid july - with probable sneak previews in certain unnamed theaters at that time. but no this is not the new film i've been shooting, which will be lucky to see release before the end of the year. but do keep your eyes peeled for some news and stuff over the summer. there is a whole bunch more work to juggle and a lot of very late nights still to come but it should all come to a head someday soon.
i got new glasses last week. last night i dreamt about aliens. i have grown increasingly angry with cnn's hypocritical war coverage. today they decided not to broadcast the iraqi video of dead american POWs because they said it was "just too disturbing." if you aren't prepared to show the results of war then you aren't fit to cover war. amid all of the video game explosions and excited anchorman warmongering i haven't seen a single dead body or other consequence on tv yet
march 18, 2003
just got in the door from more shooting... i've now spent the last ten days slowly wading through the photography of the big space sequence and will probably take another ten days to finish. even though it's only about 45 seconds long, the scene is made up of approximately 100 individual exposures to shoot and keep track of, all of them moving about the screen in tandem. so there's plenty of slow and careful balancing involved, because if i screw up just one frame of one of those 100 elements, the whole take will go down the drain. as this carries on, animating and editing the other projects during the day take up the rest of my time. unfortunately, i've had to slowly crawl back into nocturnal hours to keep up with everything but i will fight that as soon as i can. at least this all has kept me distracted from the world news, which seems to pendulum between hilarious and horrifying with equal measure. the president is about to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to start an unprovoked war against a country that is fifty percent children, all in the name of saving his credibility because he was stupid enough to paint himself into a diplomatic corner. let it be known that we saw this coming.. he's been looking forward to this for a long time. i reckon things are going to get rather depressing. will try and write again soon
february 28, 2003
in the past three days i've logged over 20 hours shooting in the studio and my brain is now made of nerf, or a nerf-like material. all is well, there's just a whole lot to do... have been in a very good manic state through all this, though sometimes it feels like an allergic reaction.
so i will be shooting another full roll of film next week which will be our first pass at the big outer space sequence, once i pick up the $2000 worth of effect sheets / lithographs i'm having created for it. before i even shoot it we can already give this one the blue ribbon for being the most difficult and expensive sequence i've ever had to photograph, and i've been mentally preparing for it. it seems as these films get more and more complex i'm having to find twice as much time to shoot them properly. i spent several miserable hours last night stop-motion-animating scores of individual tiny plastic ants 24 times a second atop traditionally animated drawings for one of the shorter films, sort of like from back in the old "genre" days. would love to have been able to shoot with real ants running around the artwork somehow and i tried to figure out a way to do this but it would probably have been problematic
february 20, 2003
i finished animating the last of the three short pieces a couple nights ago so photography will start up again soon. i think january was one of my most productive months ever, much is happening... i'm even back on an almost normal daylight schedule now. so with all that out of the way it's back to work on the big one again and i have decided to use watercolors for painting in all of these planets in the space sequence in order to give them the proper swirly-atmosphere-planet look. the detail work going into each painting is a bit much considering they'll be whipping by at 24 paintings per second but i actually don't mind so much because these watercolors are probably the most enjoyable medium i've worked with in a long time. it doesn't destroy my wrist, there's no erasing involved and kind of relaxing. it should also be noted that the doors are very good to watercolor to but maybe that goes without saying. soon i will be watercoloring all my films while listening to whale calls, twirling around the room in tinted sunglasses. the photography for this infamous space sequence could start in as soon as 2 weeks and may take as long to complete even though it's only a 45 second shot. because it's so complicated with all the multiple optical tricks and exposures going on there's little point in running any more camera tests, as the tests themselves will probably take just as long to shoot now. so i will probably just forge all the way through with fingers crossed. it looks like i may have to be back in LA for another meeting on friday but hopefully i can phone it in and keep at work here.
this morning i dreamt about interstellar vehicles that were fueled by rotting meat. the engines were powered by the bacteria and chemical reactions created in the decomposition process. in case this is a massive transportation-propulsion breakthrough i've come up with, i offer it here for free for the engineers of the world.
today i had to go to the corporate hippie art store to buy more watercolors and after i paid for them i asked the lady at the register if she could break a 20 into smaller bills for me for my laundry and she said no because "laundry change machines accept 20 dollar bills."
january 26, 2003
spent the last couple of weeks inking with these huge toxic markers (use only in ventilated area, ha ha) that are making me increasingly woozy and thinking it was tuesday when it was wednesday and then wondering what on earth i had done on the tuesday i'd somehow missed. but now it is saturday and in the meantime i've also spent the last two weekends knocking out vocals with rob on two out of three of these little side projects. yes there are three now. it was one and now it is three. and all of them have been really great for blowing off some much-needed steam while still under the shadow of the big film (now affectionately known as "miserable life-sucking-away project").. i've been inking-in hundreds of big black boxes around every planet for the space sequence with those voodoo pens which just amounts to a great deal of nauseous scribble time (the black boxes are necessary for allowing each planet to composite properly when exposed into the outer space shot..... oh never mind). but i only have 37 more big black toxic boxes left to fill in tonight and then i can clear out this ink hell for good. which will leave me well ahead of schedule on prepping this big sequence and could even be shooting it in a few weeks... and with that underway another major hurdle in the big film will be crossed and we'll crawl ever closer to completion. yes folks, come may 2003, this film will officially turn 3 years in the making. i absent-mindedly went to bed last week wearing my animation glove, if that helps illustrate the workload. it's hard to believe i'm technically juggling 4 films at once. and if that paragraph sounds like a big confusing jumbled mess you'll get a general idea of all the busy that's been going on around here.
you know what i hate more than commercials? letterboxed commercials. so the christian ex-convict neighbors downstairs expressed concern yesterday for my kinda droopy little orange tree out front and have now taken it upon themselves to move it in circles all around the apartment balcony during the day so that it is constantly in a sunbeam. at first i thought maybe it had grown legs but its just the neighbors climbing the stairs to relocate my plant every hour. today when i was getting into my car one of them said "hey you know there's a swimming pool behind that fence," as he was pointing at the dumpster, behind which is just another apartment building. and i said "what?" and he said, "heh heh." and i drove away
turn the page and read on
return to main journal menu
return to main menu