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Tom Jantol Interviews...er....Tom Jantol!

Dress rehearsal for the Premiere of "Wizard of Os: The Fish Incident"

Of course, nothing associated with Mr. Tom Jantol is traditional or even predictable. I think that's one of the main reasons why I like him and his work so much. So, while trying to follow up on the idea that maybe Tom would like to post some sort of "directors statement" to help viewers understand his new film; or perhaps a short interview that might give viewers a background on Tom and his work, he sent me the following interview....with himself.

Take it away, Tom!

F.A.Q. you, Tom

Q: Are you schizophrenic?

A: No, I am not. Tom Jantol is. Or maybe other way around, I am not sure. Any other movie related question?


Q: It is movie related. Very reason I am asking this is split personality of your movie. Split on any level I can think of. For beginning, story is confusing (probably something what your Europeans read as artistic); The Tin Win man in chase for flying fish!? Of course, fish is made of old geographic map. What the hell is this?

A: As you said, we European call that art. No explanation for art. By the way, I like "Tin Win" name. Not bad, almost European.

Q: Seriously, in movie you had every attention to be experimental, technically and story wise, and yet you build whole movie on oldest possible cliche - the chase. Good guy chasing bad guy. So, what is experimental in cliche?

A: It is experimental cliche. Another good term. You know, you sound as somebody which movie I will like to see. Are you a movie maker?


Q: I am the one with questions. And no, I don't making movies, have better things to do. Again, what so special about weird Tom chasing strange Jerry?

A: I like cliche. Because it is so easy to hate them. What I like the most about them is this infamous universal level of recognition. Hero against villain situations is part of our everyday life, of everything we think or do. Of course, we jump often from role to role but it is that kind of simplicity what drives us to make till another day without loosing sanity or to make another movie, book or song.


Q: Well, I am not sure this is what I was asking...

A: Yes, you do. But I am probably unable to answer you anything about movie without some some kind of framework. I live in Croatia, country small in everything except history. And just in the middle of my life, this country history had dramatic change of... everything. Socialistic country became capitalistic over night, culture oriented to east starts to run to opposite direction, and suddenly - childhood with Yuriy Norshteyn's movies was replaced with Schrek 8. Huge legacy of wonderful "Zagreb School of animation", at that time the stronger animation philosophy in whole universe, starts to fade away behind cheap Disney copycats. Everything changed in political, cultural, social, any possible way. And of course, war did the final job; anything and anybody with even resemblance to healthy brain was put on side, in shade where they still are, without chance to come out.


Q: Still waiting for point here...

A: I was young filmmaker then. Naive half brained artist went to war as camera man and came back with absolute certainty that there is no hope to human kind, that art of any kind is to weak to change anything. Helpless art. Without any use art.

Q: Art have no use, this is why is art.

A: Well, you are much smarter then me, I don't have a clue what is art and why. I can't think that way, I must have use. So, I found one.


Q: I smell conclusion larger then life. Can you just answer something normally? For example, your movies are quite dark, why is that? In "Fish incident", if I understand correctly, winning battle over Fish was for nothing because that river of human traffic is new, bigger threat? Same was in "Bridge" where you literary crashed child to a nothing, to dot behind a word "The End". Do you really believe that hopeless end is near? Why bother than? Why make movies or any kind of art?

A: If we are all on road to hell, and we are without any doubt, somebody must takes notes. I am film maker so my notes are movies. People are already characters in every possible way, so I will use animated ones. Simple as that. Making animation for me is watching apocalypse from front seat. Exchanging notes with other observers is just inherited curiosity from that old socialistic time of my country. Nobody is perfect.

Q: I always had problems with this "I am just observer" attitude. It is so comfortable place. Nothing constructive to offer, no seeking for a solution, just criticism. And than you have a nerve to unplug yourself from any responsibility because you are.. oh, what a glorious word - observer? If this is a case, why your movie is so likable? Why need for viewers, festivals, contests? Why are you trying to portrait ugliness with so pretty pictures? This is at least dishonest.

A: Because I want to promote my animated observations to full time job. I want to earn enough money to attend any festival I want and there talk how I don't have money to attend every festival I want. Pretty pictures are for buyers, ugliness is for viewers. Sometimes this are the same people, sometimes not. This way I will never loose any artistic integrity - because I already was, I did it myself. I calculate all the time and this calculation, this integration of likability is framework important for me as any other. This makes me untouchable. There is nothing some producer or company can ask me to change in my movie I didn't calculate already. If they come up with some insane request, this is just because they didn't recognize that I already did it. This is their mistake and I am not here to correct other mistakes. So, I will not change anything. I've been there. Also, I worked in visual marketing for one very, very big company and I know how these things work. To hell with all of them.


Q: Responsibility part of my question you skipped? Or I didn't recognize your answer?

A: What do you want to hear? I am responsible only to myself and to my movie. First response I got after "Fish Incident" was that movie is eye candy and brain candy. This is exactly what I want to do with my movies. To make candies. Only responsibility I am willing to take.

And this is not just my case; very often from this part of the world contemporary animated shorts made by my generation are surrealistic and strange but crafty, thanks to Jury's. In same time visually impressive with readable simplicity easy to digest - thanks to Schrek's. Culture in my part of world is full of "we are going down, but we will look good doing that" philosophy.

Anyway, to use linearity of classic dramatic conflict or to use "frame in frame" (circus, toybox, browser) is imperative for me, it is only way I can think of to surround movie with some kind of inner logic and drive movie to the end. This is also reason why I need to obey any possible rule of craft, any known 180 degree or stage blocking rule, any camera angle must have reason why is chosen. My movies are very conservative made and it is quite strange that everybody talks about this movies as experimental. I even take couple awards in experimental categories on festivals. This is more surrealistic then my movies.

Look closer, there is nothing really experimental in this shorts; lost guy coming home to a girl, trapped toy reciting Poe, funeral of Pacman, broken toybox, child fighting to grow up ends crashed in process, rusted antivirus hardware chasing fishy virus. Business as usual.

What can look experimental is toying with 2D and 3D but this is another story...

Q: Oh no. Here we go...

A: Yes, but this also is not experimental, really. Maybe it can be in some other form of movie making, but in animation... I mean, everything is possible is animation, houses can fly, horses are talking, people are good and gentile... Animation is experiment and to declare experiment as experimental, well...

Using mixed 2D and 3D is simply my understanding that nothing is really 3D in movie. I am not sure what "3D" actually mean. We see everything in 2D, we have only two eyes laying on same axis. If we get third eye on top of the nose, which I seriously doubt we will, then it will be possible to see that third dimension. Till then it all comes down to nothing more then convention. This convention became really obsolete when software like AnimeStudio starts to pop up. Actually, every software where you can mimic 3D space using 2D planes makes this convention obsolete. AfterEffects are good example. Cubism artists was aware of that long time ago.

But what really makes this type of mixing possible isn't some new tool, or new definition of old one, but incredible power of human brain to - believe. This will never stop to amaze me. In the moment when art - in this case movie - start, all what we now about dimensions, physics, any kind of science, any possible knowledge simply stop to exist. Or, better yet, all this perception of reality becomes easy to shape material. That material then, shaped in any way author want, brings completely new set of knowledge. Very convincing rules are then born just to be alive between opening and closing titles.

That horse is still talking, but if he start to make sound of waterfall he will not be convincing. Because we know he just talk. We know that horse talk!?

Of course we do.

So, you see, there is no need to separate animation by how much axis it show, or animation as form by tools author use. CGI, real time, no time, pencil, clay, love - it isn't matter what technique author choose if he is capable to give audience key for reading his mind.


Q: Should I go puke now?

A: Not yet, ask me about "Anymation" first.


Q: My god. When I came back. You can wait. As long as you want.

Mr. Jantol in his Second Life persona.


Tom will Premiere his new film "Wizard of OS: The Fish Incident" this Sunday, April 27th at 12PM (Pacific Time) in Second Life at Hathead's famous Tower Lounge. Tom will come all the way from Zagreb, Croatia, to attend a screening of his film and to answer questions from himself...uh...the audience.







Fun at the Ivy Film Festival

Now that I have recovered from a sleepless but very exciting trip to Providence, RI for the Ivy Film Festival, I finally have the mental faculty to tell you a little about it. I believe it is the largest student-run festival in the world and its purpose is to recognize the artistic achievements of student filmmakers and writers.

First, let me thank "Nefarious Guy" (Harrison Heller), currently a Freshman at Brown University, for his hard work getting a machinima category added to the festival, organizing a contest through Machinima.com, and organizing and promoting a panel on machinima among the many other exciting events at the Festival. Right up to the moment when he nervously went on stage to announce the winner of the machinima category - and did a great job without missing a beat - the festival was a success and an exciting experience for me and everyone in attendance.
Here's Harrison's machinima video promoting the machinima category and contest.

Despite some technical difficulties getting started, I presented a pretty broad introduction to machinima to a small but very interested audience of students of film and digital media. Harrison's wonderful parents were also in attendance, and for them it was an opportunity to learn about this strange hobby that had become a driving force for their son's creativity.

I spoke primarily of the use of built-in features of game engines and other means of "cheating" to raise the production value of a machinima movie, showing a clip from my Roadshow library as an example for each. For example, I explained (generally speaking, as I'm not a technical guru) how Andre Pesch used environmental effects to create the surreal, washed-out, medically sterile look to The Days After. For another example I explained how Jason Choi used the model viewer and a lot of green-screening to achieve a particular visual quality in Edge of Remorse. We also discussed techniques used to get around the lip-sync issue, both in terms of story design and film composition. Everyone was impressed to realize that in Bill et John you never really see any "people" in the film - the "characters" are expressed through action and acting, and the "on-screen actors" are jets.

Near the end I demonstrated the difference between "puppeteering" and "script-based" machinima, explaining the concepts and challenges with each method. I had footage from last year's Festival Arcadia workshops and the end results of two of the movies (SWA1SWA2) (we had used Jedi Knight II: Jedi Academy on an 11-computer LAN with an overhead screen). I also had the most current update from MovieStorm, which is always fun to demo (but difficult without a mouse plugged in).

After the talk, Harrison and I went to the Master Class with Martin Scorcese (exerpt & link below). I had a third-row-center VIP seat surrounded by professional filmmakers and writers and actor Ben Kingsley. I had a fantastic view of the talk and everything he said reminded me of why I went to film school so many eons ago, and all that I had learned but haven't taken the opportunity to apply, and so much more that I had never learned or even thought about... it was enlightening and humbling and entertaining all at once.

Excerpt:

Martin Scorsese revisited some of his most iconic films Saturday in a master class at Brown U, reflecting with Paramount prexy John Lesher on his signature style, the spirit of improvisation with Robert De Niro, some of his early studio encounters and his efforts to preserve film history.

The line for Scorsese’s master class, part of Brown’s seventh-anniversary Ivy Film Festival, snaked a thick S over the university’s manicured lawns, with many attendees filing in from an earlier campus screening of Scorsese’s Rolling Stones doc “Shine a Light.”

Read the full article at Variety.com

("Shine a Light," by the way, was screened at the same time as my machinima talk, which is unfortunate in that respect but I'm still very happy with those who did come.)

Later, at the awards, I met Tom Rothman, Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, whose amiability and charm belies his power and strategic mind. Rothman gave the keynote address in which he delivered an uproarious depiction of the realities of the "Industry" without the least hint of discouragement or intimidation.

Winners are posted on the Ivy Film Festival site. Congratulations to Xanatos for his winning film, "Halflife 2 Anxiety" in both the judged and popular categories.

One of the highlights of my trip, I must add, was my driver, Bob (not depicted above). Ever-available with a car or limo, he made me feel like a VIP at every turn, and with my Harrison-family entourage in tow, I was certainly in good company all the way back to Boston Logan airport.

The End. Hugh, you missed a good one :)

Machinma Premiere: Tom Jantol's "Wizard of OS: the Fish Incident" (4/27)


This Sunday, April 27th at 12PM (Pacific Time), machiniplex will host experimental filmmaker Tom Jantol's new film "The Wizard of OS: the Fish Incident" based on a fragment of writing by renowned inventor/eccentric Nicola Tesla. The event will be held in the virtual world, Second Life, in Hathead's Tower Lounge. We will screen the film and afterwards Tom will be present to answer questions and discuss the making of this action-packed potboiler.


A still from the beginning of "Wizard of Os: the Fish Incident"

Tom is one of our most interesting and, to my mind, important machinima filmmakers. There is not a single machinima film like what Tom creates. His concept of "Anymation", meaning to use whatever tools help you create your projects/films with, has been taking hold in the community and among animation filmmakers for the last few years. His films are also filled with ideas and concepts that only start to become clear after repeated viewings.

I'm delighted that Tom is allowing us to Premiere "The Fish Film" (as he calls it) since I consider it his finest work to date. The mixing of form and content is just right. And while Tom has been experimenting/playing with the "Wizard of OS" figure for a while, it seems to me that in this film, the character (if you could call it that) has matured and grown into a kind of crippled super hero. The scope of the film is wider and the clear conflict presented is both funny and strange at the same time.

Our "protagonist" is watching a drunken Santa stagger across the snow

Of course, I could be full of shit and not even know it (most likely), but that's the beauty of poetic films like Tom's "Fish Film", it can support many different interpretations and they all work (some more and some less). Which is why having Tom present at the Premiere to discuss his films is such a cool situation. Unlike, say, David Lynch, who likes to play the Cheshire Cat when asked about his films, Tom wants to discuss them. I'd say he's even eager to ask questions of the viewer himself.

Tom is Croatian and lives in Zagreb, Croatia (my god, I wrote him recently and asked if he lived in Belgrade...he politely told me to **** myself since Belgrade is the capitol of Serbia, a country Croatia is at war with....Christ, I'm sorry Tom!) and is worried about his "mangled english", but I have a feeling he's going to do just fine. Let's all try to make him comfortable by using as much American and English slang as we can. Like let's make him cheesed off a bit so we can give him a bit of the habdabs..yeah, bobs yer uncle, mate! I'm sure Tom will love it.

Still trying to find that damn fish!


Some details on how to attend the Premiere:

Second Life slurl (web address to take you to Hathead's Lounge):

http://slurl.com/secondlife/HatHead/85/148/607

If you have never used Second Life, you can download their FREE software and give it a try. There will be plenty of people on hand at the event to help you figure out the interface and move around.
http://www.secondlife.com

We will be communicating primarily via voice chat, so if you want to talk you'll need a mic/headphone combination. They are pretty cheap now and you can find them at most electronics/computer stores. My favorite brand is Sennheiser.

Oh, and if you think of it, drop a few linden dollars in the cup for Hathead. In fact, drop a couple hundred.

See you there!

"Voices" by Katy Fosk to Premiere Today (4/20)

Here I am standing next to the new Interview Table

As previously announced, the experimental machinima "Voices", co-created by Katy Fosk and Michael R. Joyce, will Premiere today (Sunday, April 20th) at 12PM (Pacific Time) or 8PM (GMT) in Second Life at Hat Head's Tower Lounge. As you can see from the snap above, Hathead has made us a nice interview table & chairs for the Q&A, which will come right after we show the film "live" in Second Life. "Voices" is currently showing at Machiniplex.com exclusively. You can stream the film there or download it via the link under the video screen.

With Hathead & Michael watching, Voices plays on the screen

You can reach Hathead's Tower Lounge by following this slurl (if you already have Second Life
installed):


If you have never used Second Life, it's free and easy to use. There will be plenty of people on hand to help you out if you have never tried SL before. Here is a link to download the software. You don't need a beefy computer to get it to work. It's built for the PC, Mac's and Linux.


We'll be using voice chat primarily while we are in Second Life, so you need a headset and a microphone, but there is also a text chat that will be happening at roughly the same time so you can keep up with what's being said.

Here is a world clock that will help you convert the 12PM Pacific Time to the correct time in your area/country:



- ALSO -

Next Sunday (April 27th) we will feature Tom Jantol's new machinima "Wizard of OS: The Fish Incident". Tom will be attending the Premiere and will be answering questions afterwards. The Premiere for "Wizard of OS" will also start at 12pm (Pacific Time, 8PM GMT). I'll be sending out invites via Facebook on Monday.

The enigmatic central figure in "Wizard of OS: the Fish Incident"

Two Machinima Films Premiering in April

A clip from "Voices", directed by Katy Fosk.

Machiniplex will be featuring two new films at the end of April. On Saturday, April 20th at 12PM (Pacific Time) we will be presenting "Voices", a Machinima film by Katy Fosk. Once again, we'll be having the premiere at Hathead's Tower Lounge in Second Life. We plan on showing the film a bit after 1pm and then Katy and Micheal R. Joyce (who co-created the film) will be on hand for a Q&A.

A scene from "The Wizard of OS: the Fish Incident"

And then on April 27th (Sunday) at 12PM (Pacific Time) we will be premiering Tom Jantol's "The Wizard of OS: the Fish Incident", also at Hathead's Tower Lounge in Second Life. Tom won the European Machinima award for best experimental film last year. This film is even better, in my opinion.

I'm very grateful to Katy and Tom for allowing Machiniplex to premiere their films. We are particularly pleased to present both films since they are experimental in nature. This type of film is not often seen in machinima, a medium dominated by realism and genre. Both films experiment with form and content, and yet tell interesting stories that are filled with ideas as well as poetic imagery.

Katy has created a blog entry discussing the film here. It's the April 7th entry (2nd one down). And Tom's blog has most of his previous films, including previous "Wizard of OS" entries.

The address (slurl) of Hathead's Tower Lounge is:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/HatHead/85/148/607

Second Life is free and easy to sign up. We use a combination of voice chat and text chat for our premiere events. So if you have a mic/headphone set up come early to make sure you are ready to go.

http://www.secondlife.com

We will be streaming the films on a large screen in the Tower Lounge. Be sure to update your Quick Time version, since Second Life uses QT (.mov) as the video stream of choice.

You can use this time converter to find out when 12pm Pacific Time is for your time zone

And, as always, both films will be available at our Machiniplex.com film site a few days before the premiere. We hope you can find the time to see these exceptional films and to come by our Second Life premiere and chat with the directors.

More on Peter Rasmussen

Jackie Tenure, Peter's friend and collaborator, has written about Peter Rasmussen's recent death at her Rockpool blog. In addition to her comments about his death, she includes her moving and surprising speech at his funeral.

How painful his death must have been for her; for all of his friends and acquaintances. That he chose to walk away from his life (in Jackie's words) is just so very hard to understand considering how admired and respected he was as a filmmaker. That he suffered from a degenerative eye disease explains much, but we will never really know what was in his heart. Jackie mentions "pride" in her speech and I'm sure that is a good part of it, but I wonder if loneliness wasn't a factor as well. Loneliness and a deep feeling that somehow life is just not worth living. I know what that feels like and it is a terrible place. One that not everyone comes back from. I was lucky.

Thank you, Jackie. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about Peter and for sharing your speech at his funeral. I think Peter would have been proud.