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Andrew Moxom – Photographer

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Allen Downs – Photographer

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Greek tragedies via a French rooster: an update from Tom Schroeder

Our profile of animator and filmmaker Tom Schroeder first aired on MN Original in November of 2011, and was filmed even earlier, during May of that year. We caught up Mr. Schroeder to learn more about his latest film and some of his other recent creative projects.

UPDATE: We just learned from Tom that Marcel, King of Tervuren was accepted into competition at the Sundance Film Festival!

An excerpt from Marcel, King of Tervuren, © Tom Schroeder.

MN Original: Your profile on MN Original first aired in November of 2011, and in it, you discuss starting a new film called Marcel, King of Tervuren, which you say is modeled after a Greek tragedy. Tell us more about the film.

Tom Schroeder: I finished Marcel this past August in a French and an English language version. The film evolved as a friend, Ann Berckmoes, who lives in Tervuren, Belgium on the outskirts of Brussels, began to tell us installments of the story of her rooster Marcel. My wife, Hilde, is Belgian and we tend to visit Belgium almost every year. As the story developed I began to think there might be a documentary-style animated film to be made from it and by the point that Marcel’s son, Max, blinds him in one eye it began to sound like Greek tragedy as enacted by roosters. (There’s nothing specific that the film is mimicking and the relationship to Greek tragedy is somewhat ironic.) When Ann visited St. Paul one spring I recorded her telling the story once in English and once in French, because she said she actually lived the story in French. I edited the story to a piece of music that I licensed for the film composed by Phil Kline and performed by the string quartet Ethel. And then I animated the film to the audio tracks. The music is meant to draw out the gravity of the situation and the animation was intended to contradict that gravity, but in the end the film turned out grimmer than I expected. So the comic element I thought would develop is subdued.

MNO: How did the act of drawing on an electronic tablet, as opposed to drawing on paper, alter your creative process in creating and writing Marcel? How has it helped your artistic development?

TS: The painterly look of Marcel is a result of working with the tablet. The look of the brush strokes and different rendering techniques are easier to audition digitally. You can test out movement with the rendering possibilities more quickly. Animating itself, which I’m still not entirely comfortable with, is initially less controlled. Once you start to adapt to not having pages to flip and having no graphite on your fingers, you realize that you are essentially drawing and testing simultaneously. You can play and watch your animation even as you’re drawing it, as opposed to having to scan a stack of paper, assemble it in another software and then watch it. The immediate feedback tends to make me work looser and take greater risks with the movement. Also, the transformations in the lines and character in Marcel are a direct result of working digitally. It’s a little soon to judge how it’s effecting my development, but I’ll know more after the next film.

MNO: In your profile, you mention that it typically takes you two years to finish a film. Marcel recently screened at The Walker Art Center, so did you find that using digital tools like a tablet allowed you to create a film more quickly? What are the pro’s and con’s to potentially having a faster timeline for your art?

TS: Yes, working with the tablet definitely speeds up the process of drawing a film like Marcel. It probably helped even more that I had some funding from the McKnight Foundation for the film which allowed me to hire two former MCAD students to work with me on the film. Having help with something as labor intensive as animation allows me to free up more energy for “directing” and storytelling. I really can’t imagine any cons right now to anything that helps me make films more quickly. Animation is so grueling to produce, especially for an independent with little resources, that the biggest danger in any film is losing focus or interest in the content.

MNO: What was your perception of the screening of Marcel at The Walker? How did it compare to previous screenings you’ve held?

TS: So far Marcel has screened locally at Paul Creager’s Square Lake Festival and at The Walker. The screening at The Walker came about opportunistically in that I was just testing a new projection format, DCP. Heidi Schuster at Splice Here kindly arranged with The Walker to project Marcel so that I could see how the new format looked. Sheryl Mousley saw the film the afternoon that I saw it and included it in a program. Because the program was only two nights later I didn’t have much time to publicize the event. The film did look beautiful on DCP and the new sound system in The Walker auditorium is great. A friend who showed up to the event gave me a useful tagline for the film too: “It has a happy ending in the middle and then it gets sad again, like life.” A local composer was also present and has contacted me about doing a collaborative project with a musical group called “Improvistra.”

MNO: What’s next for Marcel? Will you shop it around to festivals?

TS: I’ve just started sending Marcel to film festivals. I made the deadline for Sundance, which is one of the bigger venues for independent films in the U.S. My last two films Bike Race and The Yellow Bird played in competition at Sundance, so I hope I’m still in favor with the programmers there. The festivals that are most important for a film like Marcel are the large dedicated animation festivals: Annecy, Ottawa, Hiroshima, Anima Mundi, Melbourne and others. This is where most of the distribution business for a film like mine is done. I have a distributor in London, Shorts International, who handles many of my animated films. I’ve had my films in the past broadcast internationally on Canal Plus, SBS in Australia, CBC in Canada and Independent Lens on Public Television in the U.S. I imagine Marcel will have some interest in Europe. Oh, Marcel is also scheduled to play on MNTV locally on TPT.

MNO: What other projects are you currently working on?

TS: I always need a break after finishing an animated film, so that usually means a music project. The music project I’m working on now is also a live action experimental film called “Turboencabulator.” The turboencabulator is a fictitious machine concocted and described in fantastic techno-jargon by GE engineers in the late 1940′s (I think). I play with an improvisational group called Waschering Maschine which I imagine as a lost German rock/jazz/space band from 1972 [Editor’s note: Waschering Maschine makes a cameo appearance in Tom Schroeder’s profile on MN Original!]. We record jams once every other week, which I edit into more manageable lengths. When they’re really good we mine them for raw material and make a CD. Turboencabulator is a 42 minute prog-rock chamber music piece that I’ve composed after the fact through editing and over-dubbing. We’ve got some really good musicians who contributed including Pat O’Keefe on clarinet from Zeitgeist and Jacqueline Ultan on cello from many bands such as Jello Slave and Saltee. The music is just about done. Then over the next few months I’ll edit an impressionistic machine-themed video in synch to the music from footage that I’ve been shooting all summer. This whole process takes about 6 months, which by animation standards is a kind of immediate gratification. It takes 6 months to make a 42 minute piece as opposed to 18 months for a 6 minute piece. When Turboencabulator is done I’m going to start the next animated film “Isola del Giglio.” This will be an impressionistic film about an Italian island that I’ve visited twice. I’m making this film in collaboration with an animator who lives in Paris, Lisa Paclet, who spent her childhood Junes on the island with her family. We plan to make an animated “Les Vacances de M. Hulot” (Jacques Tati).

MNO: What other animators locally or nationally do you follow?

TS: Animation is a small subculture, so it tends to be very “international.” Some of my favorite animators are: Igor Kovalyov, a russian living in Los Angeles, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, who live and work together in Calgary and whose latest film is “Wild Life,” Rosto and Suzie Templton, who live together now in Amsterdam but don’t work together yet – her last film was a stop motion adaptation of “Peter and the Wolf,” and Jeremy Clapin, who lives in France and whose film “Skhizein” was one of my favorites of the last few years.

MNO: What’s the best local arts event you’ve attended in the past year?

TS: Michelle Kinney and Chris Cunningham host music salons at their house occasionally and one that I attended including Mississippi Peace, The Orange Mighty Trio, and some Tango music from Astor Piazzolla was one of the most memorable and (very) local events that comes to mind. Being a film fanatic as well I have to mention The Trylon in general and thank Barry Kryshka for picking up where the Oak Street Cinema left off.

Lowe_Drawing

Kristen Lowe – Visual Artist

From Minneapolis to NYC: Checking In With Rebecca McDonald

MN Original is in repeats for the Summer, but the talented artists that appear on MNO continuously amaze us with their new work and activities. Since appearing on MNO in January, Rebecca McDonald (aka B FRESH) has created enough new art to fill a couple episodes of MNO. While Rebecca now claims New York City as her home, she constantly travels back and forth between the Twin Cities and NYC, and has retained deep connections to the arts community here. Rebecca fills us in on some of the details:

“In May, I accepted a position as Associate Producer at MTV World in New York working on very exciting new global music content. From African hip hop to Chinese punk, from Brazilian baile funk to Swedish folk rock, we restlessly scour the world in search of exciting young musicians creating the sounds of the future. MTV World represents the future of music, and I am honored to be a part of the team!”

Rebecca has maintained strong ties with City Pages, and since appearing on MNO, her work has appeared on the magazine’s cover three times. Be sure to check out her documentary, Bound for Love, which Rebecca reports was one of the most widely-viewed online stories in the history of the publication.

Staying true to her commitment to community engagement in the Twin Cities, Rebecca also served as a photography consultant on the Picturing Peace photo documentary exhibit sponsored by the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support and the Downtown Improvement District. Her love of youth and community engagement also led her to an interesting teaching opportunity. Rebecca explains, “This past semester, I taught photography to more than a dozen local youth, as a community engagement project that explores young people’s reflections to violence and hopes for peace and safety in their communities. The gallery opening was held at the City Hall Rotunda Gallery, and their work will also tour Hennepin County Libraries throughout Summer 2012. Select photos are displayed on downtown utility boxes as Public Arts installation.”

Tune into tpt2 this Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. to revisit Rebecca McDonald’s profile on MN Original!

Brady_Kiernan

Brady Kiernan

5 Questions with Brady Kiernan

Brady Kiernan’s profile on MN Original is re-airing this weekend, and a lot has happened with the local filmmaker and director since his profile first broadcast nearly a year ago. Read our interview below with Brady to find out more!

MN Original: What have you been working on since your film, Stuck Between Stations, first premiered last year?

 I’ve been working with the writers of SBS (Nat Bennett and Sam Rosen) on another script, trying to get it ready for production. I’ve also been working on writing something with my brothers.

Are you still living/working in the Twin Cities?

I’ve been back and forth between Mpls and NYC quite a bit lately.

In your profile on MN Original, you say that Minneapolis has a great film scene but isn’t necessarily thriving. Do you still feel that way? What developments (or lack of developments) have you noticed since releasing SBS?

I do still feel that way. It’s nice to see some films come out and have some modest success (SBS, Memorial Day, Marvin Seth and Stanley), but in order to make it sustainable we need to have some breakout hits. We also need more people making good films, but I think our community lacks the mindset that they should get feedback in the script and editorial phases of their films. They just rocket through the process because they are impatient and want to get it done and out of their lives, when in reality they probably could do quite a bit more to make their movie better. I wish there was more of that kind of attitude from the filmmakers here. Also, I’d like to see our community get a better understanding of how to make their movies even modestly successful, and understand what the indie film landscape looks like these days. I think IFP MNis the only real resource we have in town that has a connection to that, the only place that makes an effort to connect to the larger indie production community.

What’s your favorite scene in SBS?

The tent scene was the most fun to film, and it was early enough in the production schedule that it gave me the feeling that the movie was really going to work.

Best movie you’ve seen in the past year? Worst movie?

The best movie I’ve seen in a while was Contagion, by Steven Soderberg. I hate calling out worst movies, but I did think that Haywire was pretty bad, also by Steven Soderberg.

Thanks to Brady for taking some time with us for an update. Tune in to tpt2 at 6:00 pm this Sunday for MN Original’s piece on Brady and Stuck Between Stations.

Huiting, Dan

Schroeder, Tom