Kodak Moment gets Animated.

Everybody has experienced their own Kodak Moment. Even Kodak itself, when once a year it hosts Focus on Animation program. Yesterday with the efforts of Kodak’s Anne Hubbell and Susan Selig this special program had taken place for the eighth time in the last 8 years. DeWitt Davis, our another Kodak agent 007, was the infallible expert behind the dark curtains separating audience from the projection room. The event went without a hitch. It was a moment of glory for Kodak and Animation.

Me and Bill Plympton presented the following films:
by Juan Pablo Zaramella (this film made it to Academy’s short list for nominations, a great story about the power of light, collaborative efforts and love told with the help pixilation technique)

by Danny Madden, Jonathan Silva, and Will Madden (this film made it to Annie Awards, a  mix of pixilation and hand drawn animation it tells a story of a boy at a biology class who can’t hold his imagination tied to the dry biology notes)

“Why do we put up with them?”
by David Chai (if you had ever had a dog, you’ll laugh and cry during this very short film, but I had a question: why do THEY put us with us? we don’t understand even one tenth of what they tell us while they know what we want before we can say it)

“More than Winning”
by Nick Fox Gieg (what would happen if the human species run against all the others? well, this film shows what is happening, in 2 minutes)

“Paths of Hate”
by Damian Nenow (this film made it to Academy’s shortlist in competition for nomination, it shows the strength of male hate; not ironically, the film is loved by all men and hated by most women who see it, I love the polarizing gender aspect of it)

“Place Stamp Here”
by Noelle Melodie and Joy Vaccese (to counterbalance the previous film’s testosterones this short brings the best of estrogen – sweet but daring story of a girl, her heart and her travels)

“Made You Cringe”
by Andy London (this is a teaser for Andy’s larger project – TV series pilot that is in the works; Andy explores the fine line between normalcy and madness of his own strange but unflappable family)

“Rocks in my Pockets” excerpt from work in progress feature
by Signe Baumane (about this: later)

“Test Late in Summer”
sneak preview of work in progress
by David Levy (David’s Dad tells a story how he, a poor kid from Brooklyn, miraculously got into Cooper Union  and David animates the story with a great skill)

Summer Bummer”
by Bill Plympton (sharks are out to get you)

“Waiting for Her Sailor” (ships are out to get you)
by Bill Plympton
30 sec

11. “Fantastic Flying Books”
by William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg (a  bit incomprehensible but cute story that could be perceived as 15 minutes long commercial for Public Library, nevertheless, the film made it to Academy’s short list)

The filmmakers who were brave enough to attend the event were grilled after their films. Here’s the happy family photo before they were eaten:

Nick Fox Gieg, Joy Vaccese, David Levy, Andy London, Signe Baumane, Bill Plympton

My personal excitements from this Kodak screening were in showing first 6 minutes of my work in progress “Rocks In My Pockets” fully colored, edited, with sound and music. In the weeks before the screening the project’s art assistant Rashidah Nasir rushed to finish painting few scenes while the project’s art supervisor Wendy Zhao feverishly composited animation in After Effects and then edited the Quick Time movies in Final Cut Pro. Ljova Zhurbin, the raising star of the competitive music for film field, gave several amazing pieces of his music to fit the video (he is the official composer of “Rocks In My Pockets”). The talented sound designer with an extraordinary ear Rob Daly worked diligently to do the complete sound work. The result of this collective effort was impressive, but I was still very nervous to present it in front of audience. Few months before I had presented a black and white line test of the same footage with no music nor sound and the audience feedback was pretty brutal:

– Your voiceover sucks. You should get a professional actress.

– The film is going to be fine if you get rid of your voiceover. Your voice has a weird accent and it is elevated – no one speaks like that in real life.

The problem is that I am pretty invested in the voiceover. The theater director Sturgis Warner rehearsed me for 7 weeks in 5 hour everyday rehearsals. When I was ready I performed the piece in front of a small group of 20 people and the story seemed to hold their attention (unless they were mesmerized by the home-baked snacks behind my back?) Based on that audience’s feedback I shortened the piece and made adjustments. When we recorded it the  story seemed to work also as just an audio track. But once the voiceover started to get animated images and shaping into a film the wind shifted.

– To be honest, you are no Meryl Streep. Hire a good American actress that can act and speak properly.

– But an American actress would have no Latvian accent – how would an audience believe she was from Latvia? – I feebly protested.

– For a good actress faking an accent is no problem.

– But… but this is my personal story and I feel my voice with my Latvian accent has to tell it to stay close to the truth, – I kept protesting, getting weak and sweaty.

– The truth is – you are not famous and will never sell your film without a big name attached to the project.

– Then make me famous. These days any dirty street pigeon seems to get on a Letterman show. I could do it, too.

– Oh, you just don’t get it…

And I don’t. So I thought maybe if the film was colored and had sound effects and music, maybe that would distract the audience from paying too much attention to my imperfect voiceover?

The Kodak screening was that chance to try it.

At the end of the night the feedback came in.

– It is still unnaturally elevated, not your normal voice, – was one verdict.

– I loved the voiceover, – was the other. – It was so deliberate. It reminded me of Beatnik poetry.

Hmm… would you listen to a Beatnik poetess reading her funny mega poem about depression for 90 minutes while watching surreal images in bright schizophrenic colors?

I would.

“Rocks In My Pockets”

creative team (part of it) at Kodak

Wendy Zhao and Rob Daly

Signe Baumane and Rashidah Nasir

Rob Daly, Signe Baumane making a face, Ljova Zhurbin

The Golden Standard of Independent Animation:

Bill Plympton


About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Hazards of being an artist, The Work in Progress, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Kodak Moment gets Animated.

  1. Hi Signe,

    I have to add my support to those who say the voiceover is harming the picture (and I think I’ve mentioned it before).

    You have a cool and interesting voice. If you were making a 3 minute film I think it would be perfect, but what you’ve written is a job for an actor.

    Yes, you CAN do it. You can also fix all the electricity in your studio and an accountant can make an animated feature. Chances are, though, that a licensed electrician won’t burn down the building and a real life animator would make a higher quality film than an accountant.

    The time you’ve invested with Sturgis is the kind of work directors need to do anyway to work with actors. It won’t be wasted, it’ll make you more adept at dealing with a professional.

    As for the accent, the story is universal despite your personal history shown in the film. The audience doesn’t care if the voice has an authentic Latvian tinge -since we don’t know what that is anyway -but we do care that the words are delivered smoothly.

    Fierlinger is a guy who can pull off the narration of his own films. He’s not a good actor, per se, but his voicework -to me- is phenomenal. I don’t know why it is, but it works exceptionally well.

    That’s my take, anyway, I think you’re doing a disservice to the work if you don’t at least try another voiceover. If you still prefer yours, use it.

    • You might be right. I don’t disagree with you. It is hard to judge how this voiceover works from a 6 min clip. At the moment I’ll work with the voiceover track I have then play the finished film in front of people who don’t know me and see what they have to say. For me – audience is the King. That said, I also know that this is not a mainstream entertainment film. Even if I had a very good and famous actress lend her voice to the project the film would still be bound to an art house audiences.

  2. paolo says:

    I am amazed at hearing that the film (I guess there is a 35mm print of it, so you can call it a “film”) with the two aviators who shoot at each other, shoot at each other, shoot at each other, etc., “is loved by all men and hated by most women who see it”. As I find that having to stand > 10 mins of videogame-like action with epyleptic editing and cool computer effects is not what I expect from an animated movie, I conclude that that videogame (pardon, film) has taken out my female side…
    Good luck with your feature, I am looking forward to it

    • Paolo, now we know that you are well connected with your female side.
      : )
      I don’t know what to think of “Paths of Hate” myself. I don’t hate it (which reveals my strong male side) but the point the film tries to make is so insipid and chewed too many times before.

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