William Faulkner had said that the only story worth telling, is of the human heart in conflict with itself. I want to make 2D hand-drawn animated short films that explore that idea.
Taking a page out of Philip K Dick’s works, I want to explore the human condition/experience by creating a world and putting the reader into the conflicting mind of the protagonist. While the world is different from the one we inhabit, the struggle in it, the viewer will find, comes from the same philosophical place. By putting the viewer into this world, I want to shine a light on to their own selves.
Using existentialism as a lens, I want to explore the human condition in three broad parts:
1) The Self
3) The Universe
Each of these questions will involve me making 2-4 minutes long 2D hand-drawn animated short-films that will involve me creating new, fantastic worlds and explore the existential conflict within individuals living in these worlds. I will make these in 30-40 second bits, so I can more effectively share them over social media.
A one year program will give me space to create 4 full videos over the course of 3 months each. This while I put up 30-40 second short versions every month.
This bit would be an exploration of what constitutes identity and the conflict between Subjective reality and the idea of an Objective reality. In essence, what shapes the human experience. This will involve two possible shorts.
NOTE: These video ideas are mostly suggestions and may change slightly or completely depending on new knowledge, understanding of the theme and upon collaboration.
A girl lives in a house that serenades her. All the appliances and furniture sing songs for her as she goes about her daily activities completely oblivious to her environment. As the video progresses it becomes clear that she doesn't really exist and is simply a simulation that the intelligent house is running before it gets shut down permanently. This is an inversion of the idea of we-are-what-we-own, where the objects in the house are trying to define an owner.
Consider a world where our personality traits materialise as tiny monsters that live with us. One woman embarks on a journey to rid herself of her monsters. Through her journey, she comes to the realisation that these monsters are simply a part of us and we have to learn to live with them. Fighting them would be the same as fighting yourself. This was inspired by the use of the black dog as a metaphor for depression. This story can be an exploration of decentralised identity. Unlike characters out of storybooks, human beings are inconsistent and complicated. The only thing consistent about us is the constant struggle within our psyche.
This is an examination of the individual as part of the larger tapestry of selves - which is the society. What is the individual's place in society and the society's role in defining the individual?
An ennui-ridden man living in the city (in a world exactly like ours) discovers the universe inside his navel. The universe keeps leaking out of it, and as it does, stars seem to vanish completely from the sky. As the world descends into panic and hysteria, the man tries to seek help to staunch the seeping universe. This idea is rooted in Hindu mythology, which says that the universe appears out of the navel of the god Vishnu. The story itself is a commentary on us as a society and our purpose in the wake of Nietzsche's announcement that God is dead. The stars disappearing is a metaphor for the absence of religion or mystery as a provider of meaning. While the man's struggle with the universe inside of him is his struggle with his radical freedom and power that he doesn't know how to deal with.
How does an individual react to the lack of meaning and the silence of the universe to human existence?
Hotel at the end of time
A couple is running a small family restaurant in a dream-like place. Weary travellers come in and wait indefinitely for something they can't explain. The travellers don't remember much of their pasts or where they're supposed to go to. Their actions in the restaurant and the interactions that they have with the couple running the place tries to answer the question of our place in the universe. This is inspired in part by Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
I taught myself sketching with pencil while I was in my undergrad school. The difficulty of finding a way to scan the pencil sketches where I lived (it was in the middle of nowhere and phone cameras weren’t that good at the time), made me turn to Photoshop. Initially, I used it to touch up my pencil sketches. Eventually, all my illustrations were being made on it. With strong support from the online community of users, I could get access to third-party plugins like Lazy Nezumi that smoothed my transition from traditional to the digital format.
In the beginning, my aim was to just make digital paintings. However, after being introduced to the world of hand-drawn 2D animation, I pivoted entirely and taught myself AE on youtube. With a little bit of batch processing, I found myself making animation full time in the middle of 2016.
Since then, I have been trying to chisel my workflow down to push up my productivity. The ecosystem surrounding 2D animation and Adobe products is vibrant and there are open software programmers who create plugins regularly for the community. After a period of experimentation with batch processing, third-party open source plugins, I have come to use Stephen Barril’s Animcoleur and Animdessin as essential parts of my animation workflow.
Most of my initial animation work has been short gif contents, but now I want to build off of that foundation and make well crafted full length contents. Having grown stylistically into the medium, thanks to the tools and community support online, it’s important for me to tell the stories that I want to tell. This while I empower others to do the same.
My workflow for the project
- Mood boarding, usually on Pinterest but also using cut-out boards.
- Scripting + Storyboarding, on paper.
- Workflow primarily involves me making frame animation in Photoshop. I use the timeline window and onion skin to do my work alongside Animdessin by Stephane Baril.
- I color in the timeline with the help of Animcoleur (another plugin by Stephane Baril), creating three primary layers - Line, shader and color. These primary layers may have associated secondary layers depending on the style.
- Next, I’ll composit the frames in After Effects, along with any necessary frame animations. All my scenes will be saved in separate psd files which I’ll import as composition.
- Color correction and parsing of shots will then happen in Premiere Pro.
- Any sound work would involve me shuttling between audition and premiere pro.
How I plan to share my project with the creative community
This will happen through a number of steps.
- My plan is to collaborate with musicians, sound artists, and writers in developing the ideas further.
- Once I start working on the animation, I’ll be sharing the concept arts, animatics, roughs etc through Instagram (both posts and moments) as I make them.
- I’ll be sharing all the 4-5 second animations that can be infinitely looped on Instagram, twitter and facebook.
- When I’m done with a 30-40 second bit that can stand by itself, I’ll share that like an episodic version on twitter, facebook and Instagram through Vimeo/youtube.
- Once the entire short film is completed, I’ll push it out on Vimeo.
- As soon as the project is done, I’ll share the entire documentation and step-by-step process on Behance and my portfolio website.
- I can share an in-depth workflow by sharing everything from my rough sketches, to raw line animations, even possibly make parts of it open source so that if anybody wants to remix something, they can.
- Being a part of NYU gives me access to communities in Tisch ITP and MAGNET (Media and Games Network) which regularly engage with its alumni; inviting them for guest talks and workshops. This will open up more opportunities for me to unpack my projects for a dynamic community that is at the forefront of technology and arts.
What I want the creative community to learn from my project
The most immediate thing that I can share is my workflow and process. 2D hand drawn animation is an attractive medium of expression and sharing a tried and tested workflow with the community can provide an entry point to those people who want to experiment with the it.
Apart from this, going into the process will allow me to share my understanding of the visual culture that we have inherited over a hundred year of cinema and thousands of years of paintings and friezes.
We are the heirs of a long history of visual culture, whether one were to draw a genealogy from diverse sources such as the Renaissance, early Worli paintings from India or Ethiopian murals. It will be cool to try and place the idea that I’m working on in that timeline of ideas to put some perspective.
My long-term career goals and how the residency will help me achieve them
My goal is to jump-start my studio practice with this residency. The content that I create while I am a part of the residency, I want to take it to film and animation festivals, such as Annecy, and get some traction in the visual community.
Also, being with other talented residents will provide me with an opportunity to grow and open up avenues of collaboration. It’s important to be a part of a group that can stimulate you and be a place where one can improve on their ideas. The works of previous Creative Residents, especially Julia Nimke’s Folklore project, is really inspiring.
Being relatively in the early part of my career, I look forward to being mentored by Adobe creative folks. Adobe has essentially been a one-stop shop for all my projects and applying for a residency here is a no-brainer.
By the end of this, I hope to have a list of people or companies that I can work with to make more of what I will be making. I want to make animated short films, projection installations, and such to tackle important social and philosophical issues.