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Travel Tales: Mapping the Extraordinary With Short Films

Pretty Persuasion chats with filmmaker Evan Mather about his film premiere at SXSW.

SXSW 2011 has come and gone, and many of us are still recovering from its bounty. At most festivals, I choose to watch short films over features in large part because distribution for these works is so limited and one is able to get a fantastic sample of the current creative landscape. Stitched together by the programmer’s hand, the collective works take viewers on a journey through many realms, emotions and experiences.

One of my favorite short films at this year’s SXSW is the sublimely quirky 39-A: Een Reisverhaal Van Eindeloos (A Travel Tale of Interminable).

In this insightful autobiographical mashup of Super-8 home movies, vibrant animated cartography, and Dutch pidgin-speak, a family’s 1981 vacation to the Kennedy Space Center is chronicled in exquisite detail.

Curiosity, wonder and hilarity inform this documentary which has been described as an autobiographical mash-up. I emailed with filmmaker Evan Mather about his unique production and asked about the inspiration for this “Metamentary”.

He explains, “In Spring 2010, I was in NYC and visited a few museums - MoMA, Whitney, etc. I noticed that each installation/exhibit was accompanied by a video "tutorial" - ostensibly to communicate the intent of the installation to the unclean masses.  Fast forward to June, and I was asked to participate in an installation at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles. What better to create said video tutorial as my product? As inspiration, I took an old Super-8 film from my childhood - something my father shot during a family visit to the Kennedy Space Center - and took it upon myself to examine it in excruciating detail - as if this were some superior piece of filmwork from my past that demanded exhibition and commentary.”

When asked about his creative approach, with extensive info-graphics and animation, he noted that once he decided on the subject matter, he knew he needed a map. “I am a bit of a semi-professional cartographer by trade and I love maps and graphic design. In fact, I have found a way to include maps in nearly all of my short films. The basic maps (and all graphics for that matter) were created in Adobe Illustrator, and animated/composited in Adobe After Effects. Sequences were exported from AE into Final Cut Pro and edited into the finished product - which additionally incorporated downloaded stock footage and the aforementioned digitized Super-8 footage.”

As marketing and advertising is the blog’s bent, I queried Evan on how he promotes his films. He admitted that his promotion is limited by budget and he replies heavily on word of mouth, his website ( and vimeo channel ( and the festival circuit.

“Since my body of work spans so many different genres (animation, documentary, title design, etc.), I have been fortunate to have screened at a variety of festivals, at museums (A+D, Walker Art Center, Seattle Art Museum), on television and in print,” he notes. “The festival circuit is key in all this since it gives me the opportunity to introduce my films to audiences who are passionate about cinema.”

As we exchanged emails, I felt lucky to be counted among them.