Friday, November 12, 2010

Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized at the SFIAF 2010

Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, a 4 part visual representation of the Decemberists' 2009 album The Hazards of Love was meant to only be a one-time show- a backdrop for a performance of the album start-to-finish in LA. Everyone liked the result so much the film is now being shown in festivals all over. Last night it opened the San Francisco International Animation Film Festival, which runs until Sunday. Andrezza Valentin and Guilherme Marconde, husband and wife team who worked on the third of 4 segments, were in attendance to introduce and close the film. This was the first time they had seen it without the band playing in front of the screen.

I thought about how different it would have been to see this playing behind a band rather than sitting in front of the screen without any distractions. As it started I was thinking about how this setting for viewing gives more power to the musician AND the animator, because the viewer has less senses to get lost in. The music and the animation complimenting each other force you to succumb to what's happening in front of you. The animators take the wheel, you relax and let them take you on journey through all dimensions. Guilherme confirmed my thoughts during the Q&A at the end of the hour. He said though it was a little more nerve-wracking since there was more attention on his work, he enjoyed watching it without the band playing in front of it. Seeing it at a concert means it's a party atmosphere, with lots of energy and a less immersive experience.

Since each frame is paid so much attention to in animation, it's insanely subjective and the end product means it is arguably much more of a direct reflection of the artist than other mediums. One of the many delights of this hour long wonder is that 4 different directors worked on 4 different parts, which means you experience 4 different styles of animation back to back. And when the Decemberists talked to the animators about the film they asked them not to animate based on the lyrics and the characters in the songs but rather on the the feelings they had while listening to it. During the Q&A Guilherme and Andrezza spoke to their creative process. "Sometimes we will listen to the music and ask each other, "What visual does this sound make you think of?"

During the show I started pondering why I was feeling so much nostalgia. Perhaps because most children watch a lot of animation. But there's something else: Oftentimes animated movies or videos create worlds made up of simple shapes and colors that looks visually like a child would think: simply. I talked to Guilherme about this idea after the show. "Animation like this is so abstract that everyone can draw their own meaning from it," he said. That idea makes me think that animation has the potential to be a spirituality. Simple shapes and music allow you to draw meaning where you like, and you can leave feeling immensely full.

The switching back and forth between CGI, stop-motion and hand-drawings makes you notice the differences between each medium. I guess I am a traditionalist-- when the hand-drawn stuff comes on constellations in the sky make shapes of animals that are then dancing with each other, and it feels like childhood and your ideal romance. Stars play a big role in all four sequences because a theme of the entire thing is the seasons. I thought about the ideas that go with stars: the delight, the twinkle, the mystery, the wonder, the sparkle, the HOPE. Stars signify hope and things that are bigger than ourselves. Shooting stars are obvious signs of hope. That's how this animation spectacular feels too.

All of this delight and guess what? These animators do this work as a SIDE JOB. Such brilliance it kind of boggles your mind that they can't even make a living doing it. Most of them do marketing work to make money. I asked Guilherme about this idea. "When you get paid for it you have to do what they want," he said. "If you do what you want, you don't get paid for it. That's just how it tends to work," he said with a chuckle. As a result he enjoys watching this work, because he did it from a place of passion.
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