Whilst kneeling in an alley out back from the Dominion pub in downtown Montrose, NY, Anton Chekov whispers in my ear: "Something said briefly can be the fruit of much long thought.
“The best of us,” countered a voice from the shadows, “can say in a sentence what everyone else says in a book.”
Back in the bar, a voice: “I don’t mean to bother you, sir, but were there some trends you noticed?”
“Fish, lots of fish.”
“Are you seeing more digital?”
“Fish, lots of fish.”
“Can you give me anything?”
“They’re getting longer.... much longer. Lots of these short ass punks are making big fat pimply assed fatties.”
“How the fuck do I know? Most of these mutts can’t stand for five minutes.”
An Aussie, Brit, Latvian and Israeli walk into a bar.
“Let’s ask them.”
The sexy Latvian lady is not pleased with me: “Why are you so biased against animators making features? Why can't we do what we want to do? Why is this a question at all?”
“Cause there are suddenly much bigger ones, that’s why. Seems logical to me to ask why. Is it technology? Is it ego? Are you tired of feeling like the retarded hee haws of the film family? Will making biggies bring you more attention?
The Brit man with the nice sweater takes a sip of his beer then looks at me: “I don't think so. That is, if it has, I don't know about it. Generally the pre-selection committee for features is made up of one-eyed ass-holes from the industry choosing stuff which re-enforces their own particular way of seeing. A film made for nothing, consisting of 120 frames repeated over and over again is not going to re-enforce any notion of theirs about culture, nor is it meant to.
“More satisfying? Yes. Immeasurably. I want to deal with subject matter that unfolds over time. Spend time with the characters. The short is pretty limited in this respect. I get a lot of pleasure from this. Pleasure, my own, is pretty much my priority.”
“Did he just call me an asshole?” I wonder, knowing it’s not the first, second, 79th time.
“Having made 14 or so short films,” says the Latvian, “I felt constrained by the genre of shorts, I always felt I had more to say than a short allowed me to. 90 minutes is also more challenging to organize in one comprehensive, engaging story. I need challenges. I don't just live to pass the time.”
“Hey hey hey, calm down there Miss. I’m just asking is all. I’m a writer. I get it. Most writers not named Carver wanna scribble the big novel, not a bunch of short stories that only get read by the scribblers themselves in a barely lit barpub of 7 people, 5 family.”
The Israeli lady gives me $9.99, Canadian. I shake her hand.
She speaks: “My goal has always been to write and direct feature films, rather than to make animated films in particular. I think it speaks to the side of me that loves movies in general, but also to the practicality of show business... I never wanted to self finance, or to be the only one pushing for my work to get made, as is mostly the case when you make short films... “
“So, you want to make mainstream stuff,” I say, continuing to shake her hand.
“No,” she interrupts, releasing my hand, “but I do want to be a part of a business structure that believes my films should get made, and be able to collaborate with a large crew of talented people who are getting paid for their work. Making a feature film is a mammoth endeavor, but so many parts of the process are incredibly interesting and challenging, and when it's out in the world and people respond to it, it's a great feeling.”
“What about you Aussie Yank? What’s the allure of making a feature?”
“Alluring is not the word,” he says with an accent that makes me giggle. “The experience of doing this thing practically solo is hardly an exhilarating experience. For myself it was something that came about and there was an opportunity to do it. I've never been paid for my shorts and have never spent more than $200 on a single one of them. This feature comes with a lump of cash so for a certain portion of the year I won't have to hustle. I spend an inordinate amount of time hustling for work.”
“Isn’t there a greater risk involved?”
The sultry Latvian grabs my arm and squeezes as she speaks: “I don't know if an audience will connect with the story. I don’t even know if any festival will accept it. And I don’t know what distributors will think or do. When I undertook the project it was a leap in the air. It is a risk not only economically (i had put my and other people's money on this bet) but artistically, and I put my reputation at risk too. If one cannot understand why people take risks like this, then one cannot explain it to them.
“I make features,” says the Brit, “because I'm bloody-minded and I say why the hell not? When things get tough, my films get bigger. I refuse to be bound by their rules, one of which is stick to the short film, the playground of animation independents. My films wont make money and I don't give a shit.”
Anton returns and whispers in my ear: “It’s almost June 22nd, time for you to go. You must trust and believe in people or life is impossible.”
With that, the lights go off.
The sun rises.