13. Counterbalance

How I slow up to avoid burnout. Being in a film; books books books; progress on animated short Chamoe. Also, spooky recommendations + a ghost story.

“The truth was I had always assumed that pleasure was being held in store for me, like something I was amassing in a bank account, but by the time I came to ask for it I discovered the store was empty. It appeared that it was a perishable entity, and that I should have taken it a little earlier.”
—Rachel Cusk, Second Place


What even is time anymore? Weird covid temporality aside, I feel like I’m moving in parallel with the main stream of minutes, kind of like a subway train continuously converging next to and diverging from, another on parallel rails.

I’m driving hard to finish a draft of my animated short Chamoe before year’s end, and I’m feeling a bit of pressure. This latest sequence was a headache for a variety of reasons, and I’ve been working long hours. The fear of burnout is real.

One experiment that’s been saving me is getting to the desk 2 hours later than usual, after having breakfast in bed with a book.

One morning I found myself quite uncharacteristically bringing espresso back to bed, where I ended up reading fiction for a few hours. I hadn’t planned it—indeed, I’d been anxious to get cracking—but was surprised by the beautiful bubble that this spontaneous decision created in an otherwise stressful and breathless schedule.

So I tried it again the next day, and again the next. I still ended up putting in roughly the same work hours as before—as many as 12 on the worst days, the longest I can go before I run out of gas.

But beginning the day with a routine that makes time feel ample—like a fat wallet—has made me look forward to, rather than dread, each morning. In a constant state of urgency, this small luxury has felt priceless.

In this issue,

I share news about a film I was involved in, book recommendations, and progress on my animated short Chamoe. I end with a ghost story + bonus content for members, including a secret Vimeo of Chamoe with subtitles and sound.

Crossings film premieres at HIFF

An important documentary film, one very close to my heart, is about to premiere after 6 years of fundraising and production. (Filmmaking is expen$ive.)

Some of you know that I went on a peace mission to North Korea in 2015 with a small but mighty group of women activists to call for the reunification of families, and an end to the Korean war. We were to make a symbolic crossing on foot from North to South Korea at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), walking, and holding dialogue, with women from both sides of the line.

There was some noise about it.

Filmmaker Deann Borshay Liam, with cinematographer-turned-director Nadia Hallgren, documented that entire crazy journey. Now, that film is finally going to see the light of day, premiering mid-November at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

I was able to preview Crossings and reunite with delegates over the weekend. It was emotional to relive a time which changed how I view and experience my very identity, and which had a such a profound impact on me both as a woman and as an artist.

While access is limited as the film makes its way through the festival circuit, it will eventually be available more broadly. Stay tuned.

Otherwise, I’ve been reading. A lot.

Aided by breakfasts in bed, this past week alone I finished three books (this is unusual):

Rachel Cusk’s magnificent Second Place—in striking stylistic contrast with her Outline series, the hyper-visible “I” speaks within a more traditional, linear narrative structure. Masterfully written; loved it.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan—A mystery! In Robin’s own words: “a tale of books and technology, cryptography and conspiracy, friendship and love.” Super fun, quick read.

A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes by Rodrigo García—Written by son of famed Colombian writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Gabriel García Márquez, this memoir was published recently enough to mention Covid. Though my Spanish is rusty now, I read Márquez in the original Spanish as an adolescent and the experience was a gift. This book itself was written in English and is another quick read. Lyrical and reflective.

And painting the sequence from hell

I've been painting feverishly for my animated short, Chamoe (some background here). This third sequence, “Cravings,” is just over 20 seconds long, of which I’ve painted the first 6.5. The remainder should be less labor-intensive 🤞

The camera pan as the field comes into view was too tricky for Photoshop (PS) so I moved to After Effects (AE) for that. While PS is great for painterly effect, it’s impractical for animating in general, especially for things like camera movement. I don’t recommend it unless you really want to use the brushes, which is unfortunately the case for me.

Cutting out layers and rendering hand-painted boils took a while. Once done though, there were lots of powerful things I could do, like leveraging speed graphs and linking one layer’s position to another.

I still need to fix a few things, but I’m at that point where I can’t really “see” it well anymore, so I’m going to move onto the second part of the sequence and refine as needed later.

Members, please feel free to take a look at the bonus issue (web only this time, see below), which contains a full resolution Vimeo with subtitles and sound.

I put a lot of time and heart into writing these biweekly issues 😇 Member support helps me keep The Line Between going strong, and makes it possible for me to work on an animated short every year 🙏

As always, deepest gratitude to members for believing in my process and vision ❤️

Let’s get spooked

It’s nearing the end of October, and I’m nothing if not game. I love scary stories, and I thought it’d be fun to end this issue so close to Halloween with a fantastic 20 minute animation of Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor.” I discovered it—of course—through the wonderful resource that is Animation Obsessive. Turn down the lights and hit play.


Bonus story: “The Reeds,” a true tale of terror

One more for the road! A spooky thing that really happened to me years ago and never forgot. Here’s an excerpt:

The reeds were tall, but the maze looked un-intimidatingly small from a distance. We walked in and began to make our way through. Rachel assured me that she knew it like the back of her hand. After about 10 minutes, I asked her how much longer it would take to get out to the other side. “Can’t be far,” she said.

The sun had seemed to linger, as it does at a certain point above the horizon before you realize how fast it’s actually moving. By now it was gone and darkness was rapidly setting in. Another 10 minutes passed. It wasn’t pitch black, but close to it, and I could just make out Rachel’s pale skin against an interminable phalanx of reeds.

Read this story in full and take a peek at how Chamoe is shaping up so far, in the latest bonus issue for members. And this time the supplemental is web-only! Yay, fewer emails! I’m embedding it here, like a magic portal, or a worm hole. Enjoy, and happy Halloween.

The Line Between
13s. Member only supplemental
Dear member, Welcome to the other side! This is the third member-only supplemental, with access to a secret WIP Vimeo + a personal ghost story. Thank you for your ongoing support! I hope you enjoy reading, and watching. Chamoe, the story so far There are a few rough spots in the latest 6.5 seconds. I’ll refine them after finishi…
Read more

Thanks for reading, and following along as Chamoe comes to life.

Burnout isn’t worth it. I’m a firm believer in taking time now, spending a little of it every day on something I love. I wish for you a means to counter the heavy hours in your own day with an indulgence, however small or idiosyncratic.

Until next time.