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How we transition. Stylistic explorations, animation update, music and sound for my short. Plus, a film about appetites.
Another friend, who remains in Odessa, [tell] me he just got back from the store: “People are grabbing any food they can find. I’m trying to do art. Read out loud. To distract myself. Try to read between the lines.”
I ask how I can help. Finally, an older friend, a lifelong journalist, writes back: “Putins come and go. If you want to help, send us some poems and essays. We are putting together a literary magazine.”
In the middle of war, he is asking for poems.
—Ilya Kaminsky, Poems in a Time of Crisis: Opinion, NYT guest essay
As I write this, it’s 39ºF and rain-snowing in New York City. It’s beautiful, the tail-end of a long goodbye. Max Richter’s Path 5 is playing.
Temperature broke 70ºF (21º C) here last week before pulling lower again. Undeterred, restaurants began packing away their heaters, and birds, congregating in trees. A scant hour once given, was again taken away. Despite all the contradictions, signs of a seasonal shift are clear.
Things are changing here in the studio, too. I’m working on the final sequences of my animated short Chamoe (CHA-meh), a 2 minute film about my mom’s cravings for Korean melon when she was pregnant with me. Music is being scored, and foleys, recorded as we speak (a peek behind the scenes, below). I’m looking at how to promote the film, where to submit it, when, and in what order.
Chamoe has been a departure for me in many ways: stylistically, procedurally, commitment-wise. It’s been an incredibly edifying experience so far and, among other things, clarified the kinds of things I want to explore further. My heart is already ahead, and I’ve begun to follow.
Exploring: new stylistic direction
WIP: Chamoe with sound by Phil Brookes
Provisions: a delicious film to replenish creatively
Last Monday, I felt lethargic
and ended up doing animation sprints to re-energize. I’d been sitting with my back to the desk that morning, staring dumbly. A springtime breeze was wafting through the studio, gauzy curtains billowing at the windows.
I suppose I didn’t feel much like working. Sometimes it’s good to power through moments like these but, much like the insomniac advised against trying to sleep, I decided to flout previously-laid plans.
30 seconds later, I had a loose sketch in hand:
which I quickly animated:
Chamoe’s been quite labor-intensive because of its intricate use of layers for color and texture. I find myself wanting to spend less time on production, move farther away from realism, leverage lines differently, get less precious:
Midway through another exercise, I delighted in how it was syncing with music I happened to be listening to at the time:
Morning elided into afternoon, then evening. This wasn’t the day’s work I’d planned, but it was good work, however out-of-groove—full of serendipitous nuggets, and markers for a new beginning.
Meanwhile, progress continues on Chamoe,
and I remain on schedule despite occasional and necessary off-roading. Here’s Sequence 07 (out of a total of 10 🙀) in color, where my mother explains how the mysterious gifts from her grandmother differ from common Korean melons:
In Sequence 08 (and a bit of 09), the primordial I takes a long-craved bite of the delicious fruit. Here are the lines:
Finally, enter my collaborator over in Wales: sound designer/music composer Phil Brookes, who’s scoring, as well as designing sound effects (foleys) for, the film:
Phil has done work for the likes of Medium, The Tate, TedEd, and has numerous Vimeo Staff Picks under his belt. He recently scored the much-lauded experimental short Peregrine by animator Daniela Sherer, whose The Shirley Temple was an early inspiration for me. We hope to share more behind-the-scenes like this in upcoming issues.
That’s a pear, by the way.
Previews of latest Chamoe work with rough sound and subtitles usually go out just to Members in supplemental issues. This week, I’d love to share with everyone.
Here’s how everything came together these past few weeks (audio not yet touched by Phil aside from the aforementioned foley) :
I hope these visual stories of my life in New York and at the desk make you feel less alone in your own day-to-day. Enjoy with a half-full glass or cuppa!
Member support also makes it possible for me to work on an animated short every year; bonus content almost every issue + access to more benefits as they develop ❤️
Lastly, for creative replenishment
I lost myself in a delicious film.
Phantom Thread is a weirdly cozy film with a remarkable cast and a gorgeous score. (I’m not linking to the trailer because I think it’s dumb and doesn’t represent the film well.) Daniel Day Lewis is fantastic as an eccentric couturier in 1950s London, and I deeply appreciated the performances of Vicky Krieps as his muse as well as Lesley Manville as his business partner and sister.
Ostensibly a story about a mid-century fashion designer, it’s really about appetite and appeasement. I find myself thinking often about the climactic scene toward the end where mushrooms are sautéed in gobs of butter for an omelette, sprinkled over with finely diced parsley to finish.
So far, I’ve watched it twice during heavy rains and snow. It’s available on Netflix.
For a third year uncertainty has only increased. We’re learning how to navigate turbulence in times of incongruity, making mistakes, trying again. There’s a lot of bad going on, and it can feel silly going about business as usual, talking about omelettes, and birds. It is silly. It is dumb. It’s crazy-making.
We talk about the “beauty of art in times of crises;” how necessary it is, how soul-saving—and yes, that’s true. But also, from a distance, easy. Multiple truths can coexist; I can appreciate that. I accept that.
But, when artists assert this from the heart of a fire I can finally approximate what the saying must really mean, understand where it comes from, whence it draws its power.
In witness. And until next time.