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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.

  1. Blogger bllius | April 26, 2008 at 5:06 AM |  

    Brilliant. It mimics some of the responses I got when I asked Tom some questions. I'm both sad that I won't get to the premiere and happy that this was posted.

    Do not forget 4D!

  2. Blogger Ricky Grove | April 26, 2008 at 8:58 AM |  

    We'll miss you, bllius. I'll be sure to grill Tom on the 4D issue though. It's time his feet were held to the fire! He's tricky though. Using the persona/avatar of a little girl (I think it's a little girl) makes it harder to give him hell, but we'll manage.

    Thanks for posting!

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