This project was born out of a series of threads that all sort of came together, one of the first being a simple sketch that I did one evening last fall. I think that sometimes when we make things without thinking about them, our subconscious is discreetly setting pathways that we will be able to connect the more we pay attention.
For my whole life I have been really attracted to intricacy, complexity, and different kinds of sensory stimuli. Recently I'd been especially drawn to the ominous beauty of industrial machinery; Although these structures and what they represented frightened me, drawing them was somehow cathartic. Making them a fixture of my art allowed me to express my indignation at an apathetic society slowly poisoning itself. But these pieces were still so underdeveloped that they rarely yielded the interpretations I desired.
One night this September I was sketching and I drew another factory. I wasn't really thinking much about it, but the more I looked at it I realized that in the structure I had drawn there was a subtle but clear hierarchy in the architecture. The top was ornate and elegant, while the bottom was grotesque and chaotic. There were even human features like eyes and mouths that pipes funneled through. The more I looked at it the more I noticed that the structural differences represented a society that was built off of struggle, labor, exploitation, and poverty.
Shortly after that I was walking home one day, and all the imagery that had compounded sort of formed this visual story in my mind. I could see everything very clearly; vivid colors, moving shapes, and symbols that represented the concepts I had been trying to express. It felt like this capitalist system was a sick game that we were all forced to participate in. Like we were on a roller coaster swinging drastically from growth to recession, constantly repeating the same mistakes. The more I thought about it the more the imagery kept accumulating.
Right around this time, we were discussing our senior projects, and even though this idea seemed a little ambitious to turn into an animation, something I had never really done before, I knew I wanted to do it. But there were so many logistical obstacles, the biggest being that I would have to construct the project while simultaneously learning to use After Effects, which was the most compatible program for my workflow. I really wanted to believe in myself but I had no evidence that I could make it all happen in the time we were allotted. And because the idea was so elusive and difficult to explain it was a challenging project to sell. To try to draw some connections between the concepts and the visual symbolism I made a series of storyboards and an animatic which I showed to my class.
I was really inspired by a short film I had watched called "The Tale of How" by the BlackHeart Gang, a South African studio of concept designers. The imagery was so intricate and beautiful, and the movements, although simple, really provided a platform for the story. I was also really inspired by the set designs of Cirque du Soleil and by a project called "Dismaland" created by Banksy and a series of other artists who had constructed this cynically backwards amusement park to shed light on the hypocrisies of consumerism. The idea of turning the economy into some kind of nightmarish carnival seemed so ominous and creepy, which was the exact vibe that I was going for. As said before, the roller coaster bears close resemblance to the economic growth and decay curve, and the sharks stomach strongly resembles a circus arena, representing the hellish pit of debt that induces the violence of class warfare. And the detached hands in corporate suits smashing the resistance look a lot like a sick game of wack-a-mole.
Color is very significant in this film. The first world we encounter is red, which implies a sense of danger, perilousness, and chaos. The white world, which is the third scene we encounter, is symbolic of a new chance at redemption, but it is infiltrated by corruption. And the symbols of greed and corporate dominance all possess a similar design. They feature many similar elements, such as gears and pipes to symbolize production, and even mouths to symbolize consumption. Even though the machine, boat, and shark all have faces and an almost human-like quality to them, they are all the same dark color scheme to imply a sense of soulless avarice.
I wanted the film to play on a continuous loop to reiterate that we are stuck in a never ending cycle, but the idea of never being able to escape this nightmare seemed too cynical. I decided to include an alternate ending to show that we do have the power to change our fate, if we can manage to revisit our resistance strategy. I never storyboarded this but I thought it would be interesting to incorporate natural elements into the final scene to juxtapose all of the industrial imagery. Including a hopeful prospect where growth and a new beginning were possible seemed really important
Pre-production, which lasted from October to December, was mostly dedicated to crafting the right imagery. After building each element in photoshop, I would assemble them in After Effects and make each element move in tandem with one another. This phase of production, which took place mostly in January, was the most condensed and arduous part of the process. After Effects was more complicated than I ever could have imagined; I must have built each scene about three times before it started to look right. The user interface was like photoshop but infinitely more complex, and there were so many different things to account for when animating. There were weeks were I would work anywhere between eight and eleven hours a day on one scene alone. I messed up countless times but research and patience helped everything to make a little more sense each time I did it. I started to find tutorials explaining pre-compositing, time remapping, motion blur, camera rigging, effects and expressions, and tons of other tools that really expedited the speed of my workflow.
Post Production was also a complicated process because it involved timing the video to correctly fit the musical score, which I sourced via soundcloud. After creating each scene in one master document with all the different moving pieces unflattened, I rendered them out as mp4s and put them into a new file, where I worked primarily on time-remapping to fit the audio. My original plan was to create my own audio, but after a long day of attempting I decided to save that for another endeavor. I knew what kind of sound I wanted but commissioning someone to create a custom piece of audio could have been endlessly frustrating and expensive. Then I found push pull live, a DJ from Santa Catarina. When I listened to his song "Chakras" I knew it was perfect for my film so I emailed him asking if I could use it, and he agreed. His tracks are definitely worth a listen!
When I put the entire video together and lined it up to the music, it was about five minutes of looping footage before reaching the ending, which was undeniably repetitive. The more I researched and watched other animations, the more I realized that dramatic transitions and jump cuts really helped to make these films so dynamic. So I cut down the audio and began to work on building the drama I wanted, which involved cutting up my preexisting footage and creating some new short pieces to incorporate.
This piece has really been a struggle and a joy to work on. It made me realize that animation is definitely something I want to continue doing, and this summer I'm planning on making a plethora of abstract shorts, possible even one a day. I'm so glad I ended up doing this project and I really want to thank everybody who supported me, gave me feedback and helped me to believe in myself. My family, my professor Ralph Giguere, and my friends really built me up during this time and this project wouldn't exist without them! Thank you everyone, and keep an eye out, there is certainly more to come ;)