I`ve been making a short film titled “Judgment and Justice” for a while (9 years actually) and it`s finally almost finished … so I thought I`d make a blog post about the film and my motivations for making it.
I`ll just be right up front about this: I made this for myself, more like a piece of fine-art that made me (as an artist) happy and didn`t take “what the viewers would like to see” into account at all. That`s what I do at work: Think about what the viewers would like, what would be most enjoyable for them, etc. I feel like sometimes artists just need to do a project for themselves though, and not allow influences like producers/deadlines/what-is-socially-acceptable-subject-matter/etc hold them back. They just need to “make what they want to make.” That being said, I`m really happy that I`m seeing the project through to its completion and am looking forward to finally showing it to people. I will warn you all right now, this short film is going to be *really* violent, so if that`s something that turns you off I`ll be blunt: DO NOT WATCH IT. For everyone else, I think you`ll enjoy it a lot!
Motivation: I think most people who know about me (and this blog) know that although I`m working on anime in Japan (which I love!), I don`t like the working conditions at all and regularly speak out against the industry. While that`s true, the first industry that *really* pissed me off was the American industry. I`ll avoid ranting about that for now… the point is, right after graduating college it became immediately clear to me that I was not going to be making kick-ass TV series and feature films as I had been hoping while studying animation in school. This upset me. I was so sure that, because of the growing popularity of Japanese anime in America, we (America) would definitely start producing our own anime-esc series. (I loved Vampire Hunter D, Battle Angel, Lodoss War, Demon City Shinjuku, Genocyber, Ninja Scroll, Yoma, Violence Jack, etc … and couldn`t wait to get into an animation studio and start making something similar which … while not “Japanese” … would still fit right next to those other series on the store shelves! ) Maybe something like the HBO “Spawn” series? (Which I was also a fan of) “Yea! I`m sure we`ll start making more series like that soon … so I`ll get involved in those!” (Is what I though. Ha!)
Obviously I was utterly ignorant to reality, which I can now look back on and laugh at … but at the time I was furious. “What?? I studied this hard and all that’s available to me are little flash-animation jobs for websites and commercials? And even those jobs are super competitive and I`m barely getting any work!? WTF??” (I would eventually get to work on Adult-Swim`s Superjail … which was amazing. So the industry didn`t betray me entirely. Though there`s still an embarrassing lack of genuinely good/cool/high-quality productions being produced in America. )
During college I made a thesis film I`m pretty proud of. Here it is:
While I`m glad I actually completed the thesis on time and in the way I wanted to, from the very beginning of the project I was censoring myself. I`ve always been into horror movies, violent anime/games/etc. and that`s what I *really* wanted to make. I wanted the characters to all use absolutely obscene language and rip each other to pieces. I thought doing that would hurt my chances of getting a job at a studio though … so I decided to keep it PG13.
By this point some of you are probably thinking “What is wrong with this guy?! Why`s he so into violent cartoons??” … and that’s fair enough. I don`t really have a comeback for that. All I`ll say is that some people get into animation because they`re charmed by Disney/Pixar films. Some people get into it because they see an artsy independent short film and are drawn to the Indy scene. …I personally got into it because I saw *this* and though “Yup. That`s awesome. I need more! And I need to be involved!” :
In the end it turned out that censoring myself was meaningless. That thesis didn`t directly lead to me getting any of my first jobs, nor was it accepted into any film festivals, and so I thought to myself “Just once I should make a piece of animation that is *100%* the kind of psycho violence I really want to make but will obviously *never* get a chance to unless I make it as an independent personal project.”
So I took my frustrations, all the imaginative imagery I could muster up, researched “the most controversial/unsettling films of all time” and got started. (Among the films I researched btw were the Japanese “Guinea pig saga” underground horror/torture films, and Pier Paolo Pasolini`s “Salò.” I can`t recommend them as “great entertainment” but if you`re a sick fuck you might want to check them out.)
I`d work on the film for a few weeks, then get freelance work (or distracted) and not touch it for a month … then go back and work on it again. There were a few months that went by where I didn`t touch it at all, but eventually something would inspire me to start working on it again. (Hearing stories about artists like Mike Diana, and more recently Megumi Igarashi, who were both arrested on obscenity charges for simply making art would outrage me and get me back working on the film immediately. I feel like, similarly to those artists, I`m also pushing the boundaries of “what is acceptable to show” with this short film … so I feel a sort of personal connection with their struggle.)
Anyway, slowly but surely I completed each one of the animation sequences, backgrounds and post production … and now, 9 years later, this side project that I`ve kept going back to (and will clock in at around 4 minutes and 50 seconds) is finally about to be finished. I only have 2 sequences left and then a handful of backgrounds. Because I`ve worked on it for so long, and cut and cropped it along the way, the quality fluctuates quite a bit. (Some of the drawings were done 7 years ago, and some I drew just last week.)
In any case, please look forward to it!