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John Fadeff

"I've worked as an artist, printer, sign maker, digital assets artist, and repairer of fishing poles and music boxes. Most recently I make mutoscopes and short films. I live in San Francisco with my partner and collaborator Beca Lafore.

I came across a box of old postcards: flaming dirigibles, Neanderthal caves, impressive highway projects, the excavations around Pompeii. A mosaic with two figures—one figure watches the other flying—caught my eye. Against a backdrop of desperate news of the planet, I wondered, can we still get out of this mess alive? A box of colored pencils caught my other eye. A siren blasted by. A miasma of smoke, fumes and dust filled my mind."

John Fadeff had his film "Things In Between Other Things" selected for Experimental Brasil.

1. What led you down the path of experimental filmmaking, and how do you perceive its role in the broader landscape of cinema?


     Novelty prizes dispensed from gum machines, it's a colored wax version of the bloated behemoth, no less tricky or immune to delusion, but a way in. 

2. When crafting a film, what is your approach to storytelling and how do you balance it with experimentation?


    There's the old one about Charybdis and Scylla; it describes navigating a dialectical relationship of opposing forces. To avoid the monster you sail in the current towards the rocks, to avoid hitting the rocks you tempt the attraction of the monster.

3. Can you provide insight into your creative process, from the initial idea to the final product?


    It was a hunch. Could a stencil-cutting machine draw animation frames; with the on-screen elements moving at different speeds from one another, realized in pigments fused together in each frame? And how would they look in sequence?


    As with traditional drawing, different effects are realized by varying the pencil sharpness, pressure, the number of layers, and the relative hardness, transparency, and color intensity of the pencils. For example, a layer made with a sharply pointed, transparent pencil, will coat and blend with the pigments beneath, modulating and unifying the layers. Alternatively, a layer applied with a dully pointed, opaque pencil, will scuff the high points, but leave the nooks untouched. The crumbling pigment, animated, gives a dimensional random physicalness to a cut-out pantomime.


    The on-screen elements for Things In Between Other Things were made using a variety of traditional and digital methods, e.g. drawing in photoshop, and hand cutting rubber stamps. The animation was a combination of frame-to-frame, and 2D digital manipulations of static elements. The completed scenes, composited and flattened, were exported as image sequences. Each frame was then converted into vector graphics and arranged in multiples of eight to run on the stencil cutting machine. After the frames were drawn, they were scanned, placed back into a timeline, and rendered into a digital film.


4. What obstacles have you encountered as a filmmaker, and how have you overcome them?


    Pencils leads grind down fast. They become thicker and change the amount of machine pressure needed for a uniform layer of pigment - requiring freshly sharpened pencils frequently. The solution: a Mitsubishi ES-10 manually adjustable electric pencil sharpener. Each facet of the process is a crisis and an opportunity.


5. How do you balance the technical aspects of filmmaking with artistic expression in your films?


    They become somewhat indistinguishable, the response, the sensibility at work are the same.


6. What guidance would you offer to those seeking to enter the world of filmmaking?


    Get Beca Lafore to write it and Seth Quittner for sound and music.


7. How do you define success in your films, and what metrics do you use to measure it?


    If I stay engaged while watching, if energy increases.


8. What are some of the recurring themes or topics that you explore in your films, and what motivates you to delve into these subjects?


    When you make a mess you're stuck cleaning up a mess. 


9. What are your five favorite films and filmmakers?


    Quasi At The Quackadero by Sally Cruikshank

    The Masks directed by Ida Lupino, written by Rod Serling

    Yellow Cab Event by Joe Hawley, Mel Henderson, and Al Young

    The Sixty-nine Post Stations of the Kisokaido Road, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    The Overcoat by Francheska Yarbusova and Yuri Norstein (40 years in production - still unfinished)

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