Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Experimentation & Inspiration: The World of Wonder
It's funny how creative projects come about. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to do. You have a set plan. You have a killer idea, which begets a script, which begets storyboards and so on and so forth, down the line. Other times, ideas materialize in an unexpected way—various ideas are floating around your brain, waiting to come into alignment, waiting for a spark that allows you to see the connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
I just finished up a video for Alison Faith Levy’s beautiful new kid’s record World of Wonder. I’m pretty excited about it and it’s definitely an example of a film that materialized unexpectedly.
Thoughts of science, music and experimental film were buzzing around my brain, and in one moment they all fused together and the project was born.
I’ve been doing some corporate video work, as of late, and the company I’ve been working for developed a super electron microscope. Pretty awesome. As a result, I found myself with access to a library of images taken with the super electron microscope. Ants, spiders, pollen, metals, all blown up to 5,000 times their size. Beautiful stuff.
I’ve also spent the last several months prepping for an experimental film class. I’ve been wading knee-deep into the ephemeral and abstract world of those types of celluloid wonders. Because I had Brakhage and Baillie on the mind, as soon as I saw the super electron microscope footage, I immediately thought those images could be woven together in an interesting way. I looked at those images not as science, but as art.
When things got slow at work, I just grabbed those images and started playing around with them in After Effects. No set plan. No set design. Not even thinking I was going to make any film. I just wanted to see what could happen. What the possibilities could be. It was experimentation in it’s truest form.
When I sat down to play around with those images, I wasn’t setting out to make a music video at all. Now, to be fair, I should mention that Alison is my wife and I had been thinking about a video for Alison’s new record. But this song wasn’t on my radar, nor was this style of collage. But clearly, the notion of a music video was floating around my noggin.
As I began to dive into the After Effects project, I decided I wanted some music so I could have a rhythm to work with. I went to the iTunes library on my work computer, which has almost nothing on it. It did have World of Wonder on it.
I saw the World of Wonder track listed and, in a flash, realized that the song spoke about exploring the natural world with fresh eyes. Conceptually that resonated with what an electron microscope does—it looks straight into the heart of the natural world. And boom, just like that, in that instant, I knew what I was doing. I was making a music video for that particular song.
I hadn’t set out to do that, I just set out to experiment and mess around with some images, no end game in mind. And sometimes that’s how things work. You never know where inspiration is going to come from or what will pull your various ideas and thoughts into sharp focus.
As a teacher, I was thinking about experimental film. As someone interested in science, I was excited to get to check out an electron microscope. As a filmmaker, I was actually planning on making a music video for Alison in the very near future.
All those ideas were out there, floating around like dust motes, and in a specific moment in time, they all came together in my field of vision, and voila, a film got made.
Strangely, only one image, the frame that surrounds the video, remains from the electron microscope, but that's where the inspiration started.