How we just enjoy it. Sound and music for my animated short, refined subtitles, and an early surprise for everyone.
But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Caribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn't mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.
The other day I was walking so fast that my smart watch asked me if I wanted to log an outdoor run. My partner says he’s never met anybody who moves around so much. For someone who adores the idea of stillness, I’m abysmally bad at it.
Here’s what got done for my animated short Chamoe (CHA-meh)—approaching the finish line after a year-ish of labor—in the past two weeks’ mad dash: music, sound, trailer, rough cut, and subtitle refinement. Also, the first 10 seconds of base color and texture for the last sequence:
Here’s what didn’t get done: color and texture for the last 8 seconds of the film. Many unexpected things took over my schedule, and I ran out of time.
Long story short, unbudgeted hours got funneled into the music collaboration, as well as an overseas trip I didn’t even end up taking. The fallout from that trip cancelation, by the way, in terms of money, time, effort, and idiocy, has been immense—all during a critical stretch of the project. So there has been some spiking of the blood pressure, and a little drinking of the bourbon.
Someone once said to me that much suffering stems from our inability to accept reality. I’m a master sufferer in this vein despite truths I know, but can’t seem to believe, without hard resets.
Resetting is usually triggered by said “suffering” reaching certain levels, but I’d love for it to become less triage, more general maintenance. I recently bought Four Thousand Weeks, and have been dipping into The School of Life. If you’re not already familiar, the latter is a body of popular and concise (around 3 to 4 minutes each) animated meditations on perspective. They’ve been surprisingly effective at reminding me about my own insignificance, which in turn has been helping me relax enough that I can enjoy what I’m doing.
WIP: A closer look (and a listen) at the film’s music and sound, behind the scenes. And an early surprise for everyone!
For Members: A rough cut of Chamoe, minus color for the last sequence—available only for 24 hours.
Music & Sound in Chamoe
For those of you joining us for the first time—welcome! To catch you up: I’ve been painting a 2 minute animated short called Chamoe (Korean summer melon), in Photoshop for about a year now! I’ve been sharing progress this whole time on Substack. The film is narrated by my mother, and she talks about the cravings she had for chamoe when pregnant with me. The story is about love, family, and magic, and I hope you enjoy it when it premieres in a few weeks!
Phil Brookes, the lovely musician and sound designer I’ve been working with, had a hard stop before a trip of his own last week. We ended up working around the clock right up to his departure; he delivered the final pass literally in the eleventh hour—just before midnight BST.
(View this issue in the browser to play videos inline. Note that sound levels and subtitles are subject to change.)
We went through many iterations but ended up heavily leveraging the sound collage I’d initially drafted. It features an ambient synth that runs throughout the film like an unbroken thread (an inspiration from David Lang’s “Depart”):
We eschewed prominent melody for the film in order to better showcase the voice-over (VO); we’d support it with more subtle, transportive ambience instead. Phil had composed some beautiful swells of strings, which he was able to include during credits:
However, the strings felt disjointed from the rest of the film, and it was a shame to not hear them earlier. To marry the existing ambience and the melodic strings, we introduced “accents”—a subtle musical motif that would pull everything together at the end. These accents would emphasize key moments in the film, showing glimmers of the ending in a series of pre-echos. They would also provide a framework for the trailer. Compare:
Before accents were added:
After accents were added (note when the table comes in to meet the girl, around 0:08):
One of the most challenging sequences for us was the animal stampede. Here’s a clean, sound-only pass from Phil:
Although we see only one animal at a time, I wanted the scene to feel big, overwhelming, and a bit chaotic—as if each animal were part of an invisible stampede, emphasizing the fantastical and impossible aspects of the grandmother’s journey (to this day, we’ve no idea where my great-grandmother obtained out-of-season fruit for my mom).
We landed here after some iterations, hewing closer to my original draft. Key to this was, arguably, the quick step foleys surrounding the heavier tread of the visible animals. They sound different from the bear/deer and create a feeling of an otherly, multitudinous presence. I used those quick steps instinctually in the beginning but felt good to be able to articulate why I wanted to keep them, by the end.
I love the detail he added around 0:03, which sounds almost like a growl:
Phil and I are pleased with how everything turned out. We’d admittedly expected less hands-on involvement from me, but Phil was so chill and open to an amateur getting in there with him, that it alleviated a lot of stress from the last sprint. I’m grateful to him for engaging with me in a truly collaborative process.
The film is slated to premiere on May 8th, Mother’s Day, rather than after I hear back from festivals. Many now have flexible premiere requirements and I may as well fire on all cylinders.
I’m also going to try to leverage AAPI month to promote the film and am seeking promotional partners such as Asian/Korean-American organizations and publications. Talking to some folks while I get a press kit together and figure things out. Yes, I’m running late [melting face emoji]. Send me good vibes!
More ideas for exposure and promotion are super welcome.
OK, now for that early surprise. While I plan to announce the trailer properly on its own soon, it is now technically public and I wanted to quietly share it with you first. Listen for the melody that has roots in the film’s musical motifs:
Members, continue onto the supplemental to take a look at the rough cut of the film! Title, credits, and color for the last sequence still to be added. Available for 24 hours only.
Member support helps keep The Line Between going, 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 🙏❤️
Bonus content almost every issue + access to more benefits as they develop!
In closing, let me share with you this super old photograph whose provenance I can no longer trace. There are many things about it that fascinate me: the Sriracha bottle in the foreground. The light from a flash wielded by a mystery camera person. The tidy absence of beer cans. The solemn mid-flight focus, about to erupt into hilarity.
Why did they have so many air mattresses on hand? Were they procured expressly for this purpose? Is that a stuffed feline in the background? Is this taking place in Pasadena?
As I enter into the pressure-cooker of the next two weeks, I’m gonna try to be more like this guy. I’m gonna try to just enjoy it.
Until next time.