Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Starkdale in Italy + Online Viewing

I mentioned a while back that my recently completed animated film, Scenes from Starkdale, Ohio, has begun to appear in film festivals. I’m pleased to report that for the next month, the film will appear in a digital film festival based in Florence, and that it may be viewed online along with 39 other animated shorts.

When I started the project, I envisioned it running on large flatscreen monitors in an ambient setting—I didn’t think of it as a movie in a standard sense. The pacing is purposely slow, and the project is offered as a kind of visual essay. I created an early version of it for an exhibition curated by Todd Hignite on underground and alternative comix, and in that context I built the narrative with voice bubbles and typography. I had not contemplated the realities of teeny type on small screens at video resolutions, since I thought it would run on giant flatscreens from a quicktime file. As a result, the online viewing experience poses legibility challenges at smaller file sizes. I almost certainly goofed up the compression as well.

The film traces a simple action. Snyposis:

An ensemble cast of four people and a lost elk make their way through suburban landscapes of commercial opportunity while trying, or not trying, to process dispatches from Iraq and the Middle East. Mortimer, Lisa, and Sniffy address the audience directly in voice bubbles, offering their own perspectives. Mortimer is certain that everyone is lying; Lisa belives that life is 'a beautiful pageant.' Richard follows stories in the paper extolling precision bombing. Much of this is punctuated by interludes of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune, 'This Guy's in Love with You,' a dreamy musical setting for the avoidance strategies that occupy, but begin to trouble, Lisa. Meanwhile the elk works his way across Starkdale Township toward an uncertain end.

The festival includes five categories, including animation. The Scenes from Starkdale, Ohio page offers two choices: a button marked ADSL (the smaller player) and Full Resolution, which is slower to load but larger onscreen. (The animations will not load over a wireless network; you have to be on an Ethernet to access them). The type is easier to make out at the full size, though it's still a little blurry. But I’m pleased to report that the sensibility of the piece comes across very clearly at either scale, and it’s good to be able to present the project to a wider group. I will be eager to hear comment from any Graphic Tales viewers.

I wrote, directed and managed the production design; Wesley Gott and Melanie Reinert ably handled sequential shifts at art direction and animation; many people helped in the production art process; Frank Oros produced a terrific sound design and incidental music; Anna Donovan, Mike Costelloe, Lori Dowd and Skye Giordano helped get the thing out the door at the very end. I am very grateful to all.

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