Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry and Bright

click to enlarge, print, and turn into next year's wrapping paper.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


One of the animation classes I teach is for a small group of developmentally delayed young adults. Some of these students have physical challenges, some have mental challenges, but as a group they each contribute something different to the film. So the person who has a lack of fine motor skills may not be able to move their paper characters 1/16th of an inch at a time, but will invent the story and dialogue. Another may be almost nonverbal, but has that animator's instinct for creating movement. Here is the project this group just completed.

Space Bananas! from Gregory Nemec on Vimeo.

There was a new student this session. Among the open faces and smiles, he was quiet, withdrawn even. During our test animation with toys on a tabletop, he created convincing flickering flames from clay. Hmmm...maybe this is one of the quiet instinctive ones. I asked for story ideas from the group, and there were lots of childlike, enthusiastic responses: "Race cars!" "Monkeys!" "Pirates!" I asked the quiet one what he'd like to make a movie about. He shrugged. When I asked what kinds of movies or shows he liked, without looking up he said, "I mostly read Lovecraft." That one sentence told me he wouldn't be comfortable making the equivalent of kids' drawings come to life, and probably wouldn't be comfortable working with the other students. Thankfully I had an excellent assistant who was great with the rest of the group so I could work more directly with this one student. He was hesitant to talk about ideas for animation, even after finding out I knew who Cthulhu was, and especially hesitant to create characters or animation: "I'm a perfectionist and it wouldn't have the level of realism I would want." I showed him the animation of William Kentridge—here's someone who gets emotional depth without realism. Once he saw Kentridge's torn paper figures he was ready to get to work. His movie is made from cut and torn black paper on a white background. All the atmosphere was added by the animator using the excellent, discontinued version of iMovie.

The Dunwich Chase from Gregory Nemec on Vimeo.

During animation he would talk about Lovecraft's universe and his own interest in online gaming. His group leader told me that he never talked this much anywhere else. He had told her that he wasn't sure he should even be in this program because he was "so high functioning." He was very particular about each aspect of his film. And he was a natural, laying down torn bits of paper until figures were formed, and he knew how to make them move. Never looking me in the eye, never betraying a single emotion in his voice or face. On the final day, he added the effects and the audio. As the members of the group were getting their coats on to leave, I said, "Christian, it was good to meet you." He said in his typical quiet way, "But you already met me." I explained I meant it was good to have worked with him, and I was glad to have met him, and I wanted to tell him since we may not see each other again. He said "Oh." He put his hand out, we shook hands, and he was gone.