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Amsel, animated!

I've regularly credited filmmaker Kevin Burke, and his documentary 24x36, with helping to inspire me in setting out to make a film on Richard Amsel. When I first heard of Kevin's project -- which was also about movie posters -- I reached out to him about Amsel's work, and provided him with THE EMERALD CITY video interview featuring Amsel and David Edward Byrd.

When Kevin interviewed me in my Glendale apartment, he had a film crew of two -- including himself. He also had a spiffy Red digital camera. It got me thinking... While I didn't have several thousand dollars at the time to afford such a camera, I did have enough money for a cheaper HD alternative. (In this case, an HD Panasonic camcorder.) And while most of the 50+ interviews I've done thus far had a film crew of one (yours truly, camera, light kit, wired microphones, and all), I've occasionally recruited available friends to help, when possible.

When I saw Kevin's film in it's final form a few years later, one of the highlights was its use of fanciful, lively animations of many, many different movie posters. It made the static images come alive, and presented in a way I'd never seen before.

I talked to Kevin about it, and with his blessing, I began to create my own animations from Amsel's work for my documentary. The process was rather time-consuming, and often done through extensive trial and error. You first have to clean up the image as best you can, break the elements apart in Photoshop, then animate them in After Effects.

I created dozens of animations in the months that followed. It was addictive, exhausting, and a heck of a lot of fun. But I knew I was in over my head. Amsel's work was so prolific, I knew I couldn't animate everything on my own. So an opportunity presented itself. I put out ads seeking volunteers and interns -- not to do all the work for me, but to help and learn something valuable along the way.

My very first intern was a young man named Steve Horton, who began working for me in late 2016. We had weekly remote Zoom meetings (before such things became fashionable), and through our collaboration, I realized just how much I loved teaching! It was exciting, inspiring, and motivated me into being a better animator.

In the years since, I've worked with at least nine other people on these animations. All of them started as interns and relative beginners...yet now, many have professional skills that exceed my own. I'm their student, now!

I took a long hiatus from creating animations to focus on other things. (Namely, shooting the damn film, buying a house, getting married, day jobs, a yearlong animation program with Don Bluth, etc....) When I returned from my trip back east earlier this month, I reconnected with many members of the animation team and, to my amazement and eternal gratitude, I learned that they were still willing and able to help.

And so, allow me to present to you the animation team (so far) behind our documentary. In addition to myself, they are: Erin Cherniss, Morgan Strahorn, Stephanie Mann, Michael Merlino, Nastasya Thibodeaux, Austin Aguilar, Steve Horton, Brian Kobrin, and Jonathan Monroy.

Here are some examples of their work:


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