Inter-Action (2011)

Inter_Action_card_smallInter-Action is a 75 minute program of twelve animated shorts by Seattle filmmakers and curated by Tess Martin. It premiered at the NWFF in Seattle, WA in June, 2011, and has screened in NYC, Portland, Montreal, and toured Europe in October 2011.

Animator Tess Martin presents a collection of short animations that explore inter-actions – action between each frame of motion as well as between each subject on screen. Made individually by twelve members of SEAT (Seattle Experimental Animation Team) these thought-provoking films reflect on love, insanity, faith and murder.

1. Britta Johnson, Two Dots, 4:39 (2009)
Marbles illustrate the subtle math of a relationship in this video made for Lusine’s song ‘Two Dots.’ Marbles, dental floss and wax animated frame by frame.
2. Drew Christie, The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln, 5:15 (2010)
TMWSTMWSL is an animated interpretation of the strange and bizarre life of Boston Corbett, the man who killed John Wilkes Booth. Animated on the pages of 12 books with charcoal, pastel and crayon. Contains one instance of nudity and violence not suitable for a young audience.
3. Aaron Wendel, Dwellings, 3:53 (2010)
Over time, two houses slowly destroy each other. Hand drawn on paper.
4. Tess Martin, Plain Face, 10:42 (2011)
In a fantastical land, a stranger arrives and is the subject of prejudice, violence and love. We follow her journey through memory as she decides whether to give up her heart. Paper and plastic cut-outs animated on a light-box. Contains one scary moment that may not be suitable for a young audience.
5. Amanda Moore, Bridging Wounds, 5:00 (2009)
A whimsical exploration of the lives of strangers told through silhouette puppet animation.
6. Davis Limbach, Loopforms, 5:03 (2010)
Loopforms is a dance of energy or spirit expressed in ‘maximized loops’. A traditional narrative is omitted in favor of a sensual, emotionally affecting experience. Ink and pencil on paper.
7. Sarah Jane Lapp, Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist, 6:30 (from 26min film, 2009)
A eulogist in training interviews his mentor on the eve of war. India ink, wax and gouache on paper.
8. Clyde Petersen, The Dirty Street, 4:44, (2010)
A found footage film, recut, projected and rephotographed using the “Hipstamatic” app for IPhone one frame at a time. Music by Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. Footage: “Jealousy” – a Prelinger Archives film from the Series, Marriage for Moderns. (1954)
9. Webster Crowell, Parasol, 8:30 (2008)
Parasol is a short, quick revenge film about bicycles, dancing and speed; animated with pastels across the surface of a few thousand paper parasols.
10. Stefan Gruber, Both Worlds, 10:17 (2011)
In an Eden like garden, cartoon deities sit upon mountaintops ready to trade gardening tips about their mountainside utopias. Hand-animated in Flash. For this screening Stefan Gruber will be performing live narration and music.
11. Salise Hughes, Somewhere, 4:00 (2010)
Somewhere between a 1950s sock hop and the Wild West, a Technicolor and Black and White pair of lovers meet to belt out a tune from “West Side Story.” Found footage manipulated frame by frame.
12. Bruce Bickford, The Comic That Frenches Your Mind, 5:28 (2008)
Bruce Bickford’s latest complete pencil animation is a trip – this is your mind on eggs. Contains nudity and drug use.

Total running time: 74 mins

 Inter-Action has so far screened at these locations:

Montreal: Cinematheque Quebecoise, Feb 1, 2013 (altered program with The Whale Story instead of Plain Face)
Portland: Northwest Film Center, May 17, 2012
New York: NewFilmmakers at the Anthology Film Archives, July 20, 2011
92YTribeca, New York, NY, July 18, 2011
Seattle: Northwest Film Forum, June 16, 2011

Brighton: The Nightingale (part of CineCity Film Festival), Thu Nov 17, 2011
Paris: La Peniche Cinema (part of La Fete du Cinema d’Animation), Fri, Oct 28, 2011
Vienna: MuseumsQuartier (presented by ASIFA Austria), Mon Oct 24, 2011
Berlin: Lichtblick Kino, Sun Oct 23, 2011
Amsterdam: EYE Film Institute, Tues Oct 18, 2011
Groningen: VERA Zienema, Mon Oct 17, 2011
Amsterdam: De Nieuwe Anita, Sun Oct 16, 2011 (special program)
Newcastle: Star & Shadow Cinema, Wed Oct 12, 2011
Brighton: University of Brighton, Mon Oct 10, 2011
London: The Horse Hospital, Sat Oct 8, 2011

Watch this interview with curator Tess Martin, put together by the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam as promotion for the Inter-Action screening there in October 2011:

Feb 052013

I’m sitting on a plane (window seat) back to Seattle from Chicago. I had a great four days in Montreal, bookended with travel troubles. On the way up from Vermont my Greyhound bus broke down and they had to send another one so I arrived into town 3 hours late, just 90 minutes before the screening was supposed to start at the Cinémathèque québécoise. If you remember the Cinémathèque brought in a program I curated in 2011 called Inter-Action, of animated shorts from Seattle. That was my main reason for taking a side trip to Montreal after my residency in Vermont (more on the last week of the residency in a bit). And today one of the legs on my journey was cancelled and had to go through some rigmarole to end up actually on the same second leg I’d always been booked on. Go figure.

Mural near Rue Saint Urbain

Mural near Rue Saint Urbain

But the screening went great. It was in the Cinémathèque’s smaller theater and we got a small but respectable attendance, including two Montreal animators, Jacques Drouin (of ‘Paysagiste’ fame – Jacques took over the care and use of the pin board from inventor Alexeieff. More on this in a bit) and Michèle Cournoyer. I’m very happy they came and they had a lot of questions afterward.

Marco de Blois, the Cinémathèque programmer was also great to work with – a true champion of Montreal animation. He programs animation events every week! Sometimes more than once a week. He also organizes a yearly animation festival in December. Seriously, I think Montreal is probably the city most saturated with independent animation culture in the world. But, tellingly, despite this, Marco said most Montrealites (?) were unaware of the animation history and culture in their own city, and it was hard to get them out to the screenings. I thought, if Montreal is having a tough time making the public aware of independent animation, what chance do we have in Seattle?

Oh yeah, I spent almost two hours inside Drawn and Quarterly - did I also mention that I visited the Montreal public library's extensive comics/graphic novel section?

Oh yeah, I spent almost two hours inside Drawn and Quarterly – did I also mention that I visited the Montreal public library’s extensive comics/graphic novel section?

But we’re trying. I feel like SEAT (Seattle Experimental Animation Team) has been successful at this on some levels, but perhaps the community is still too small for it to have a giant impact? Do we have enough animators and enough animation aficionados to warrant our own animation festival like Marco is doing? I don’t know think so. But for now we have individual programs that can be curated like the Inter-Action one that screened on Friday. I would love it, though, if more independent animators moved to Seattle and became active in SEAT. That way, even if we didn’t have our own festival, we would become more of a presence at the NW Animation Festival in Portland (happens every May) as well as SIFF and Local Sightings here in town. It would be cool if Seattle became the city where independent animators moved to, as opposed to Portland where studio animators live. (I’m sure there are also independent animators who live in Portland, but I figure most animators there are there because of LAIKA – the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman).

My four days in Montreal were great, and the definite highlight was a trip to the National Film Board of Canada to see Alexeieff’s pin screen. This is a piece of equipment invented by the animator in the 30s. He made 6 or 7 in his lifetime, improving on them each time. But only this one is currently functional and being used by an animator. Only this one in the whole world! Five are in museums and too deteriorated to use, and one needs restoration and will eventually be available for artist use in an archive in Paris. But for now, this is the one. Animator Michèle Lemieux is currently the ‘keeper’ of the pin screen, and is working on her second film with it. Her first one is called Here and the Great Elsewhere. You can see a trailer here. She showed it to me in her studio and it was lovely. Very meta, referencing the pins the images are made of.

Alexeieff's pin screen seen from the side with a drawing in it by Michèle Lemieux

Alexeieff’s pin screen seen from the side with a drawing in it by Michèle Lemieux

To explain the object itself a little: it’s basically a metal frame that is squeezing together 140,000 tiny pins. Each pin is encased in a tube that is only just big enough to fit the pin. Together the pins become a prickly field that can be pushed in from the front, and pushed back outwards by reaching around behind the frame. In this way you can push the pins in and out and change the relief picture. But that’s not all. What really creates the black and white shades on the screen is not the pins alone, but the shadows of the pins cast by a lamp on the left. Where there are shadows, the image is dark. Where there are no shadows, the image is white. It’s a little hard to understand which is why I’ve always wanted to see one up close to figure it out. Michèle Lemieux was very kind in letting me into her space and I’m forever grateful. I was practically skipping down the sidewalk afterwards, except it was -20 degrees F so I couldn’t actually do that.

I’m hoping to create something akin to the pin screen in Seattle and see how I can use it.

The field at the end of my short film shoot

The field at the end of my short film shoot

The same place the next day after most of the snow melted

The same place the next day after most of the snow melted

Back to the Vermont Studio Center. The last week was very busy! I created the basis of three new short shorts during those last three days. The first was the snow film – yes, it finally snowed again and though the snow was not perfect packing snow, it was good enough and I managed to shoot my film outside. Good thing too, because the next day it warmed up and all the snow melted away. The pictures require a lot of color correction but eventually they will make a nice one minute short.

Shooting my short short. This is where my toes froze.

Shooting my short short. This is where my toes froze.

The second project was an experiment I carried out in the print studio with the help of Catherine Rondthaler. I wanted to see if it was possible to animate a print, and we made a simple loop together of a ball rolling into frame. Someone mentioned it looked like a snowball, so maybe there was a snowball theme happening that week. What we did is we scratched into a piece of plastic (instead of a traditional metal plate), inked it, printed it, then scratched in the next position of the ball, inked it, printed it, etc. By the end of the action the plate had ten scratches in it, and with each successive print, the ink from the earlier scratches fades away (as it’s picked up by the paper). So you get these kind of ghost images of where the ball used to be. We played around with this and made a nice loop. I photographed the prints on my stand and was able to show the little film at open studios that evening. I will re-photograph them once I get back to my studio with better lighting, though.

One of 20 prints that create a short loop

One of 20 prints that create a short loop

The third project was a one inspired by life drawing. Steve the life model was very patient and he let me direct him in two minute poses that followed an action. The action was a boxer bouncing in place, as if fighting an invisible opponent. He throws a punch, he avoids a punch, he gets knocked out. I drew these poses on lots of different sheets of paper with the aid of my lightbox that I brought in the studio. This was actually the fist time I’d ever used paper and a lightbox to animate, which is unusual as it’s usually the first thing people try. I only had 3 hours with Steve so I need to finesse some of the drawings and shoot them properly, but I think it will make a cute short. It’s kind of a story of the life model fighting to stay a ‘life’ model as opposed to a still life. It will make sense when it’s finished.

So that was my last week at VSC! Very full! I’m so grateful to have met all the other wonderful artists and writers and to have had the chance to focus so intently on my work. So many new ideas were spawned there that would not exist otherwise. I’m looking forward to the next residency already.

Jan 112013
Inter-Action program screening in Montreal!

Last year I curated a program of 12 animated shorts from Seattle called Inter-Action. It’s since screened in Seattle, Portland, New York, and I went on tour with it to 9 locations in Europe in October 2011. Now the program, with one substitution,  is coming to Montreal, and screening at the Cinematheque Quebecoise on February [...]

Mar 262012
Inter-Action coming to Portland, May 17th!

The Inter-Action program of animated shorts from the Seattle Experimental Animation Team is playing on Thursday, May 17th at the NW Film Center in Portland, OR. Here is the listing on the NW Film Center site. This 75 minute program is comprised of twelve original shorts, including my own Plain Face, Drew Christie‘s The Man [...]

Jan 282012
Inter-Action screening this Wednesday!

Did you miss the Inter-Action program of animated shorts when it screened at the NWFF in June? Well, fear not! It is playing once more at the Naked City Brewery in Greenwood, this Wednesday, February 1st! And it’s free! If this sounds familiar, it’s because the January 18th screening fell right in the middle of [...]

Jan 112012
Inter-Action screening at Naked City Brewery!

Did you miss the Inter-Action program when it screened at the NW Film Forum on June 16th 2011? Now’s your chance to see all 12 locally-made animated short films for free (!) at the Naked City Brewery in their monthly film night, Third Wednesday with Northwest Film Forum. Here is the Facebook event. And here [...]

Oct 292011
Inter-Action: La Peniche Cinema, Paris, France

Tess Martin’s travel blog: This is my last entry on this tour! Last night was the Paris screening of the Inter-Action program (actually only half of the program due to time restrictions). It was pretty awesome. This event was held at La Peniche Cinema, a cinema….on a boat! ‘Peniche’ means canal boat in French. The [...]

Oct 252011
Inter-Action: MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Austria

Tess Martin’s travel blog: I flew into Vienna yesterday morning, and was kindly picked up by Holger Lang, one of the professors at Webster University Vienna campus. The event here was sponsored by them as well as by ASIFA Austria, the local ASIFA chapter that I’m happy to say seems quite active and interested in [...]