M Dot Strange is one of the foremost advocates for creating your own animated feature. After making 3 solo feature animations he’s got a wealth of knowledge on how to do it, and he’s also got really valuable ideas on personal auteur cinema and storytelling.
M Dot has a new feature ‘I am Nightmare’ that has just been released and he’s selling it here for real cheap. I’ll be reviewing it as soon as I’ve got the money to get a copy.
For now though check out this 30min presentation where he talks about how to create your own CGI feature and goes through his production pipeline. It’s a really interesting watch and invaluable if you want to follow a similar path.
One of my big problems in venturing to make a feature animation, is that I realistically only have 3 to 4 years to complete it in. Because I’m doing it ALL(writing, design, production, animation, sound, post) I’m going to have my work cut out for me. The slowest part of the workflow for me will always be the animation and actually generating the shots. This means that my animation needs to be quick but it also needs to look good enough to evoke mood and engage my audience.
There are several ways to speed up animation, but not a hell of a lot to speed it up but still retain quality. This year(2013) my biggest goal is to create several short works that will help me reach a style and form of animation I can continue to develop when creating my feature. Right now I’m all over the shop, I’ve experimented in silhouette, drawn, stop-motion, multi-plane, 2D digital, 3D cgi, and hybrid animation forms but have not settled on anything I could use to make a feature to the standards i want. My work will always have elements of many forms in it, but I need to get a base form down to develop my style in.
These are all factors that will help me decide what direction to go in developing my own form. The other is the actual style I want. All the animation I really admire that’s done by a single person or small team has been pretty heavily stylized. I see photorealism as a trap. I’ve seen and heard of numerous animators working on an amazing looking photo-realistic short animations, only to have it take them years to create 5-10mins of animation. On top of that, photorealism is boring. If you want photorealism, pick up a fucking camera and use that. The only way I can develop into the master storyteller i want to is to create many projects over the years and learn from my mistakes, not get bogged down on one project searching for perfection. In saying that though I do need to be a perfectionist to an extent, but it’s like balancing on a tightrope. Produce quality animation + finish it in a certain time so i can move on and develop.
‘Aw dude check out that sweet photorealism!’
I’m starting on this search as soon as I finish a quick silhouette animation I need to get out of my head in the next month. I’m pretty sure I can reach a direction with style/form this year if I work hard and take plenty of risks.
M Dot Strange is a solo feature film animator and ‘Uberector’ from San Jose, California. What is a solo feature film animator, or Uberector I hear you ask? Well it’s someone who through wielding a gigantic amount of willpower and determination, has completed a feature length animation, mostly if not completely by themselves. An Uberector is pretty much the embodiment of Auteur theory and D.I.Y or Die mentality. M Dot is such a man and he does it well.
Heart String Marionette is the second feature animation from M Dot Strange, his first being We Are The Strange. Heart String Marionette or HSM is a tale about a samurai, a child and a prostitute who quest to defeat an evil warlord and his minions who are devastating the world. On the surface the narrative of HSM is a relatively simple tale of revenge and Good fighting against evil, but on closer inspection the story is thick with subtext about rampant capitalism and commercialisation, sexual abuse, resisting corrupt governments and corporations, and navigating the current world as a creative, artist and individual.
The art in HSM is mindblowing. M Dot Strange creates a world that is as tangible as it is surreal. The characters and monsters have a childlike simplicity to them, as they all represent puppets and marionettes. The atmosphere of HSM is thick, dark and foreboding. The score to HSM by composer Endika was heartfelt and amazing, however i feel it was a little overused as it covers the majority of screen time without break. This has the effect of making HSM seem more like an opera than a film. I’m not sure if this is something I liked or detested. I feel that the lack of diegetic and atmospheric sound in HSM took me out of the space that was created and I felt like the world was less of a place I could inhabit and explore, which is something I value in animation. It also made HSM into a sort of weird Noe theatre puppet show which I enjoyed.
The only other criticism I have of HSM is the way females were portrayed, which could be construed as misogynistic. From reading and watching M Dots work(especially the strong anti-misogynist message throughout We Are The Strange) I know this is not the case, however it troubled me non-the-less.
Heart String Marionette is an odd and highly personal work from one of the best and most innovative artists and filmmakers today. I definitely recommend getting a copy and supporting M Dot Strange, just don’t watch it with your mum.
You can buy the digital version of Heart String Marionette HERE for $5 which is totally worth it.
You can read about more M Dot Strange madness on his blog HERE where he talks about being a rad filmmaker.