Monday, September 15, 2008
Interview with Artist/Curator Mike Schneider of NOTLD: Reanimated
Mike Schneider is hard at work staging a collaborative effort between artists from all over the world to recreate, through different artistic mediums, The Night of the Living Dead. Every medium, from painting to stop motion to computer animation is being used to create a highly inventive version of Night of the Living Dead, called Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated.
Here at Fatally-Yours we were lucky enough to get a chance to interview the extremely busy and talented Schneider and ask him about this tremendously exciting undertaking.
Fatally Yours: Mike, why did you choose Night of the Living Dead as your subject for this project?
Mike Schneider: Well, reanimation is actually an animation process from way back in the days of film reels and magic chalkboards. It is, basically, the process of casting a new version of a clip to film after making some alteration to it. Being a horror fan, there was the obvious association between the word reanimation and the undead and so it was decided that the ‘dead process’ of reanimation should be resurrected through the subject of a zombie film.
Because traditional and experimental art processes are very slow, an individual artist would rarely even consider employing them towards a feature film. A page was taken from the zombies themselves and the film is being approached as a hoard of creative people ripping the film into pieces and infecting it with their own processes and aesthetics. (They don’t have to be fast… if there are enough of them.)
Night of the Living Dead seemed the perfect fit for this approach with an iconography strong enough to carry the viewers through various styles and approaches, scenes which cater to a wide array of aesthetics and a public domain status which grants the artists free use of the film as a source material.
Fatally Yours: Have you attempted other projects like this before? If so, tell us about them or any other previous experience you’ve had.
Mike Schneider: I’ve done other mass collaborative animations in the past by employing tools such as generic templates or prescribing specific criteria for each submission. Though I loved the visual that comes from a clip being made through so many hands, the results were all strictly visual.
The ‘Story Teller’ approach was considered, however this process would restrict the project to 1 artist working on a clip at a time and with some animation processes being quite time consuming, by the time the film went through the first few hands, the other artists who were initially interested would likely have moved on to other things.
Discovering the reanimation process satisfied the drive to have a film develop through numerous independent hands but still offers the narrative structure by simply building on top of a pre-existing film’s narrative.
[Story Teller: a literary game where a sheet of paper is passed around and each person it's passed to adds 1-3 sentences to the story before passing it along]
Fatally Yours: How many different artists have committed to the project? Are you still accepting submissions?
Mike Schneider: I avoid the term committed when working on mass collaborative projects because realistically only a small percent of people follow through on their commitments.
I instead use the terms ‘involved’, ‘interested’ and ‘considered’.
‘Involved’ means that they have already submitted work towards the project. [As of this point, there are a few dozen people who are 'involved'.]
‘Interested’ means that they have contacted me with questions and for information on how to become involved but have not yet submitted any completed materials. [As of this point, there are a few hundred people who are 'interested'.]
‘Considered’ means that they have looked at the site, discussed it on forums, but have not contacted me for information or to express their interest. I Google projects which I’m working on so I can see what chatter it is receiving on various forums and blogs. Armed with the opinions of the potential fan base, I can either cater to their suggestions (if I agree with them) or prepare a defense to justify my choices. Artists and film makers who do not embrace the 24/7 sounding board that is the internet are cutting themselves off of a valuable resource in the rough. [As of this point, there are a few thousand people who are 'considered'.]
As far as people getting involved, the film is being approached in rounds of submissions. The next round goes until Monday December 15th, 2008. Anyone who may be interested in becoming involved is encouraged to contact me (email@example.com) for more details. Even if you are not a visual artist, feel free to propose an alternative role for yourself that better suites your skills… if it’s something in line with the project that will either improve or facilitate the film then I likely will welcome the assistance.
Fatally Yours: Going back to discussing Night of the Living Dead, what is your favorite scene in the film and why?
Mike Schneider: As a fan of horror, one of the creepiest devices is ‘the perversion of innocence’. This is where something which seems safe later shows us that images can be deceiving. The film has a number of scenes which play with this story telling device but none as iconic as Karen attacking her mother. The ‘enhanced’ scream adds the surreal quality which grants the scene real staying power. Beyond that any use of children in a horror film plays to fears of our own nature. Children often just act and react so given the right circumstances they are capable of anything without even realizing that they are doing wrong. Wrong done without question, questions the society, in which even our most innocent are deadly.
When it came time to animate, my own aesthetic led me to Barbara freaking out because in a relatively short clip, the character goes through nearly every human expression and I had been recently playing with ideas in portraiture.
Fatally Yours: Have you tried contacting George A. Romero about the project? Do you have any hopes that he will get involved?
Mike Schneider: Romero has little net-presence outside of fan created content. Since his own website and chats were bombarded with obscene numbers of side conversations and off topics rants, he seems to have largely removed himself from that aspect of the contemporary culture. The effect of this can be inferred through Diary’s light pollution view of the internet though it is even clearer presented in the bonus features talk of faxed texts and phone recorded sound bites (processes which most net-minded people would transfer digitally).
There are however plans for him to be contacted by artists involved in NOTLD:R at upcoming events on October. With these artists acting as messagers, I am sending a package of printed images, information about the project and a letter of invitation. Hopefully approaching him on his terms (analog) will open up a line of dialog.
Efforts have also been made to contact other members of the original crew about the project. Judith O’Dea (Barbara; http://www.odeacommunications.com/ ) and Kyra Schon (Karen; http://www.ghoulnextdoor.com/) being emailed.
So far, Kyra responded that ‘it looks really interesting’ and since she is an artist herself, she has been sent the information about how to become involved and is being kept updated as the film progresses.
Any involvement from original staff is still in the air, however, they will all be accredited as without their work this project couldn’t exist, and hopefully they will be brought in the loop shortly if they haven’t already heard about it already.
Fatally Yours: What are some of the different mediums of art that will be used?
Mike Schneider: Puppets, Sock Puppets, Shadow Puppets, Finger Puppets, Oil Paint, Water Color, Acrylic Paint, Ink, Markers, Conte, Charcoal, Pastels, Pencils, Cels, Sand, Cut Outs, Comic Panels, Machinma, In-Game, Flash, Power Point, After Effects, 3D Models, Step Motion, Stop Motion, Photography, Silhouettes, Dolls, Clay, Metal, Wood,… Basically any art, animation or film process you can think of likely has someone who is working it into their approach. It’s a chance to do something small which is part of something big. That breeds experimentation and variety.
Fatally Yours: Do you have any early favorite art pieces from the project?
Mike Schneider: Yes, though none which I like more then seeing them all coming together.
Fatally Yours: Can you tell us about the process you go through to pick the art featured in the project? What criteria are you looking for?
Mike Schneider: I set as few criteria as needed for the film to be assembled (original black and white work which can be synced to the ’68 film’s audio track). Besides that, the scene should cover any key points from the original scene but that can either be done by working from the on-screen visual or rethinking the scene to provide a new visual.
As far as selecting work, all works are accepted which meet those basic criteria. If an alternative version of a scene is submitted, both versions are posted on forums such as Zombie Nation and All Things Zombie to let the fans vote on their preferred version of the scene. The favorite version goes into the film and the other versions goes onto the DVD as the Bonus Feature “Alternative Footage” (All artists will be accredited and all work will have a place on the DVD either way). This approach allows for fan involvement and opens the opportunity for anyone to participate (no matter their process, aesthetic, training etc) while still having a safeguard (alternative versions of the scene can be submitted to challenge any scene/ put it to a vote) which will act to keep the overall quality of the film high.
Fatally Yours: After the project is finished, what are your plans on distributing it? Will people be able to see it at festivals and/or purchase it on DVD?
Mike Schneider: The film will actually have its first ‘Draft Screenings’ next month. Venues such as Agni Gallery in Manhattan and Tampa Museum of Art in Florida along with numerous smaller spaces around the world have expressed interest in showing the film in-progress. This will give the audience a chance to see the film while there is still time for them to also get involved in completing it.
After the next round of submissions, the film will have a more formal screening held at Bellwether Gallery in Chelsea with full press releases and the typical fan faire.
There will be additional challenging/review before the master DVD is set into production. Along with the DVD release, there will also be an extremely limited theater releasing. The film has also been invited to numerous film festivals, including Revenant Film Festival, numerous punk festivals, art shows, and screening venues… so there will be numerous places to attend a screening of the film.
As far as release, Wild Eye Releasing (wildeyereleasing.com) has signed on to give the film an in-store DVD release. The terms set with them are no profit over the production costs and overhead so that the DVD is available as cheap as possible to the fans of the genre. This contract is non-exclusive so a number of artists are also working out logistics of releases in other languages and regional codes around the world.
The non-exclusive contract also allows for additional releasing formats and venues. We are happy to announce that Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated will be the first film to ever be released in affiliation with Demonoid (demonoid.com). With their heavy traffic and seeding community, the film will also be freely available through them as Digital Copy.
Because the film is creative commons licensing, artists retain all rights to their work as it exists outside of the movie. However using on-depend production, many have taken their art and reformatted it into T-Shirt and Product Designs. It should be noted that all prices are set by the artists themselves and they receive any profit from sales of items with their work featured on it. (http://www.neoflux-animator.com/notldr/merch.html ).
There are also gallery/ art space curators who are involved with the project and are currently shipping around prospectus to various gallery spaces in hopes of them hosting shows featuring the film along with works which went into the making of it.
So the release is being approached from many fronts and there will be numerous varied opportunities to see the film once completed.
Fatally Yours: After this, do you have any future projects lined up?
Mike Schneider: Skot of Lost Zombie (lostzombies.com), Pat and Mike of Nation Undead (nationundead.com) and myself have forged a fellowship of sorts (which Geoff of Revenant Magazine (revenantmagazine.com) has dubbed the ‘Axis of the Undead’) to cross facilitate each others projects as all projects are mass collaborative films within the genre (though taking very different approaches.) Since NOTLD:R will be the first completed, I will also be working with them to facilitate their films.
The next project I will be heading is a similar process of mass collaborative animation/illustration only it will be granting a visual track to old time horror radio shows. Though these classics of yester-year are well written and voiced, they lack the visual stimulation which would help to bring their appeal to a wider audience. Again the audio will be unaltered to remain true to the original however they will also be able to see different artistic interpretations of that radio show presented as animated visual materials.
Unlike the barrage of Hollywood remakes, I don’t want to corrupt or even challenge the original media because it has earned its respect. My goal is simply to use the processes available to extend that media to new audiences. Anyone who would be interested in working with me in this process is encouraged to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.