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The Animation Pimp: People Are Leaving – The Early Lipsett Diaries

A selection of intimate writings that didn’t make it into the final ‘Lipsett Diaries’ animated short.

Image courtesy of Andreas Hykade.

A few years ago, I took my first stab at writing for film, specifically the animation short film, Lipsett Diaries (dir. Theodore Ushev, 2010).

This must have been my first draft of the script for Lipsett Diaries. A chunk of stuff here ended up in the final film, but there’s some other bits too that didn’t make the cut – including a nod to The Kinks at the end.

The inspirations:

My childhood and family, scribbles from a couple of Lipsett’s notebooks, Robert Pollard, the television show Six Feet Under, John Lennon, and snippets of dialogue that I cut and pasted from various Lipsett films and then re-constructed to tell my story of Lipsett. Lipsett, of course, used the same process when he made his films. He’d take select dialogue from found film footage and re-purpose them to fit the theme of his films.

Theo Ushev surprised me by adding an assortment of home movie footage that was shot between the 1960s-1980s by my grandmother, Kathleen Robinson (who died just weeks before the film was completed). We also added another family connection by inviting my eldest son, Jarvis, to read a few very difficult lines of dialogue.

So, while some people see Lipsett Diaries as a story of Arthur Lipsett, it remains, for me, a deeply personal story of my childhood and family. I think part of Lipsett Diaries’ success has been that many people can see their own stories in the words and images of the film. Lipsett Diaries could be about any one of us.

Arthur Loves Postcards

In the beginning it was white.
Maybe it was the snow.
Maybe it was the dogs.
Sun, smiles and laughter.
Big open space. The dogs ran free.
My sister and I chased each other around grandpa’s house, into the fields, and down into the gully.
Everyone was having a great time.
It was home.

Or maybe that was the home movies.

Darkness fell.

I’m in a small space. There’s hardly any room to breath. The windows are small. No room for the sun.

Where did everyone go?

I want to go home.

Another space. Little bigger. Still no sun coming in.

School starts. All these people and voices. It scares me. I don’t know how to react. Soon as I’m free, I run home.

Not sure why I was running. I couldn’t have been in a hurry to get back.

The man screams at me. Teacher spanks me. I cry. Kids laugh.

Another night. Screaming. Sound of a slap. Am I next? I run out the door. Nowhere to go. Stand in the driveway covering ears. Tears rain. The Man came to get me. Told me I was being silly. No one was going to hurt me.

A few days later he threw a baseball at my face and busted my lip. It was an accident he said.

I keep trying and trying to find something good about this period. There was the comic books and old postcards. I liked that. There was a forest behind the school. I loved wandering through their at lunch and recess time. It was mysterious, it was a place I could just lose myself in. I could run away and no one would ever find me.

I remember the comfort of the Christmas lights.

I never felt like I was where I was.

“I’m bored,” I told my Mother.

“Well, find something to do,” she said before returning to the darkness.

I hardly remember Mother. She was lost in her own darkness. Seems to hate me. Puts me down, screams at me, mostly shows no interest in what I do, unless it’s something bad. I’m left alone.

The Man was not there much. He sometimes tried, but he’s frustrated with this woman he’s married. She was cold, distant, moody and frigid.

The door of the house was wide open. Something was wrong. My heart raced, chills fell through my body. I’m anxious and scared. I walk through the open door and discover that someone had dumped the contents of the house everywhere. Were we robbed? I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and readied myself for a burglar or a body. I swam through the vast swamp of chaos and headed upstairs. More closets, pictures, towels, clothes, cupboards and boxes had been emptied all over the floor. On a desk in my parent’s bedroom I spotted a bottle and a note.

“I love you both. Goodbye, Mom.”

Rat poison.

Where’s my postcard collection? Scattered all over the place. Damnit. I had them in order. I have to put them back together.

I’m startled by a noise.  “Mother? I ask as I catch my face in the mirror.

There is no answer.

Mother never does come home.

No one came to tell us why.

Incidentals, extras in their movie.

Someone I love is gone and I don’t know where.

Arthur Makes Movies

Profound sadness, final gasping a realization that there is no direction and yet a strange elation and a feeling of brotherhood, a concern for man, has finally hit the man on the street, even if it’s just the instinct for survival, the realization that life is worth saving, that we’re in this together.

He smiles while hell freezes in the sun.

I think that whatever is freely living is a very interesting object to me, right off. And the more like me, so to speak, that is, the more my kind of existence, the more easily I communicate with it.

The total human situation as a work of art.

What is the meaning of life?

What is good?

What is value?

Well if you're interested in truth you know what I mean but it sort of makes… besides I'm... you can't know anything.

Yes, I believe in the return of Christ, and salvation through mortality. It was the faith which raised the voices of men in glory, that raises them still.

They could reach above the haze because they needed to see the stars to find where they are, now.

Emotion in its true sense is the capacity of a higher rather than lower intelligence. Men, the most rational of creatures is the one that is also capable, of the greatest irrationalities.

What have I become?

Somewhere between science and art, an undetermined person.

The past is never past.

I don’t trust what I say anymore. I have no idea what is wrong or right, what is truth, what is lie. Do I even mean what I say or are they just words stumbling on their own.

A thump against the window. A bird. A blotch of feathers remain. The head moves slightly, eyes blink, but he doesn’t budge. Tears. Move bird. Don’t die. Don’t stay there. Go on. He goes on.

I go on.

I don't think there's a deep concern about anything-- I think there's a lot of you know there's there's sort of passing interest in things... but there's no real concern - I don't mean it's a matter of conviction again - people seem unwilling to become involved in anything... I mean really involved.

I'm afraid.

If you want to be just like...

We are suffering ah... we are suffering from ah... from ah...everyone’s leaving

Pain is enhanced in some way as a result of our understanding of the environment in which we receive the pain or damage by learning and experience.

Can I go back? Can I go back?

To me it is not the same thing as a world full of human beings. There's something gone, there's something missing.

He says you can't. You’re shaped from birth you know by everything around you - you can't really prove your...

Well, take me to a place where I have freedom...

I'm a human being, I want to be free. I want to feel free and do things as I please, the same thing as you wanted... You're human, I'm also human.

I find it terribly warm in here. 

Who is hurting you?

Were you fighting you or your mother?

Is there anything you would like to do?

Because I have nothing, I am tired here. I’d like to find a new place.

Arthur Goes Crazy

They say the situation is getting worse.

One brick came loose from the wall.

I found myself on the ground with the rubble.

I think of my mother.

Can't escape the past.

It's in your blood.

Had me but didn’t have you.

The children wont save me, films wont save me

nothing except yourself...

and you can't cause u don’t know how...

and then you think of how you've acted

people have seen you weak and broken

shame and embarassment and it drags you down lower.

Then a child hugs you and asks if you're going to be okay and your heart snaps

then what’s worse you see that everyone survives without you,

that they really don’t need you, you were just in the way and they can go on...

I can’t talk because I don’t believe anything that comes out anymore.

I can't talk because I don’t know what to say.

I can't talk because I'll just cry.

I hate to see a grown man cry.

I drive by their home... and I just feel safe there... BUT I also know that I can't ever go back there...it's gone...gone with the ghosts...

Some unexpressed purpose.

An onion. Layers of refined defense mechanisms, pain suppressors of past mistakes.

Everything is found out at last. Murder will out.

I – I – I live without looking at myself, I just live what I feel is happening inside of me. I live this out I carry this out and every now and then I stop… and look at myself and it is pretty bad what I see, really you know it gives me a bloody shock. I see it’s time to have a cleansing.

I don’t have any feeling or idea of purpose of existence beyond the existence itself.

A continuous shifting, whispering thing, full of strange meanings and impulses.

Someday I will be free?

Arthur Finds Freedom

Time will be.

Time has been.

Time is.

What do you think I’m going to do jump or not jump?

Ha ha.

Have mercy upon my soul. I throw up my hands.

Beliefs.

It’s too late.

Repeat.

It’s too late.

Good.

It’s too late.

I am leaving to a find new place to dance.

Keep going boy... just walk out, that's all... will you? That's it... that's it.

Keep moving right ahead please!

The bus passes then there’s nothing, just darkness.

What do you want?

To dare to be.

What you do, is.

What do you intend to be?

The density of choice confounds the mind.

It's not necessary too...

That's right.

I want...

That’s right.

What shall I say? Shall I say: Father, save me?

You had a choice. You chose your Mother instead of…

She ate my energy.

What would you like to do about it?

Let’s get out of here. We’ll hit the road again.

Which way, which way we go?

I know, come on, we’re getting out of here. Some will get it.

I have enjoyed leaving.

The landscape never looks so enchanting as in the hour when you view it for the last time.

Now I can control life absolutely.

Now I can deliver a message.

Warmth and brightness will return... and renewal of the hopes of man.

Hand claps.

Bravo.

"Very nice, very nice."

Any questions?

Out of the quiet, and darkness, happy voices are heard singing lines from The Kinks’ song, Arthur.

Arthur, could be
That the world was wrong
Don't ya know it, don't ya know it
Arthur, could be
You were right all along
Don't ya know it, I hope ya know it
Now we know and we sympathize
We'd like to help you and understand you
Don't ya know it, don't ya know it
Somebody loves you, don't ya know it
Don't ya know it, don't ya know it

Arthur the world's gone and passed you by
Don't ya know it, don't ya know it
You can cry, cry all night
But it won't make it right
Don't ya know it, don't ya know it
Arthur we read you and understand you
Arthur we like you and want to help you
Oh! we love you and want to help you

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

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