Concept Q5

I found it difficult to create a story or have a point of view on bankers and portray that in an animation. I needed to find my own way to show the theme of this assignment. For my keuzevak I’ve been researching the Japanese ‘Ma’ which means ’emptiness’. The Japanese really appreciate emptiness in their lives, work, in their everything. Without this emptiness there is no value in things or life. I wanted to use this principle with this assignment and my concept.

I wanted to show the busy, chaotic world of someone working at the office of a bank, analyzing stocks or graphs of some kind. No one can function without some peace, or in this case, ‘ma’ in their life. I wanted to show people change because of ‘Ma’. With that in mind, I did some more research and then came up with two ideas.


Research: Ma

Ma is the emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled.

E.g.: a tea break in a busy day has to be in a quiet place, away from the routines of work — so that one can soak in the serenity of Ma before getting back to busy life.

Ma is what creates the peace of mind (called ‘heijoshin’ in Japanese) we all need, so that there is room for our thoughts to exist properly, and to thrive.

https://wawaza.com/pages/when-less-is-more-the-concept-of-japanese-ma.html

In nothingness, Ma enables. The empty boundary provides a place for everyone’s version of reality or imagination to exist. The further my text spreads out the more you wander away from my message and in fill with your own thoughts.

Ma reminds us that what isn’t there provides the ability for everyone’s story to co-exist. It is the boundaries of space that allow us, and all our ideas, to exist side by side.

http://www.mascontext.com/issues/17-boundary-spring-13/the-potential-in-nothing/

Everyone needs Ma in their life. It’s important to take breaks from work so you don’t stress. Without a moment of emptiness/nothingness you can reflect on other things, appreciate other things around you and let appreciate the work that you’ve done.

Ma gives meaning to things.  E.g.: where there is clutter, even valuable things lose their value. Where there is too much, nothing stands out.

Emptiness, Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.

We turn clay to make a vessel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house;

And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.

Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

Bankers need Ma just like everyone. Without it they might turn into psychopaths because of the horrible system in banks (Luyendijk/Het brein van de bankier). They need balance in their lives.



Ideas:

1.

There’s a banker who is having a tough time at work. There’s a lot to do, it’s loud, his boss keeps yelling at him, his pay is low, there are too many people, he’s always cranky at work… Everything’s chaotic at work and he doesn’t seem to calm down soon.

We see him waiting outside somewhere with his back to a building, looking across the road at the people and cars passing by. He has a cigarette in one hand and he’s pinching the bridge of his nose with his other hand. You can clearly see that he’s stressed and cranky. He probably also has a headache. People around him give him weird looks, avoiding his gaze, keeping their distance.

While he’s looking at the rushing cars and chattering people passing by, events of the day flash by: the stacks of paperwork/documents, the chaos on his desktop/table, the looks of co-workers, the many footsteps, the yelling, the spit flying out of his boss’ mouth and landing on his face… While these images flash by, his face twists and turns, his headache only seems to be getting worse, the sounds around him keep getting louder, his boss’ voice keeps on drumming on in his head. The image keeps switching from the banker’s face to the events playing on repeat in his head, building up.

It looks like he’s about to lose it but then we hear a soft, high voice that breaks through all the chaos in his head. Everything seems to slow around him. His mind is clear. He turns and sees his son/daughter standing next to him, looking up at him with a smile on their face.

He notices the smallest details of the child: the breeze moving their hair, their smile with missing teeth, every little detail in their eyes.

We see the banker’s face: his scowl is gone, we can see him relax, forgetting about the events of the day. (Maybe his eyes are even a little watery.) He sighs and smiles. He’s found his Ma.

(He takes his child’s hand and they go home/He kneels down, gives his kid a hug and the kid starts telling him about everything that happened at school…)


2. 

(Setting: Office building, part of bank, City park – Japan.)

(Time: early afternoon, Summer)

The main character’s a man at the (office of a) bank, working behind a crowded desk. The rest of the room is filled with other bankers/accountants/brokers and people working. There is no break in the phones ringing, the people walking back and forth, and the tapping on keyboards; there’s no peace. It’s visible that the main character is exhausted and has a lot of weight on his shoulders but he stills has a lot of work to do.

As he stares at his screen analyzing graphs e.g., a co-worker opens a window close to the main character’s desk. Being so close by, the light Summer breeze ruffles through some of his papers and touches his face. The breeze carries a light fragrance of flowers and grass. He instinctively looks outside.

Next to the office-building there’s a small garden in the heart of the city, like an oasis. He sees the different kinds of flowers and trees and notices someone sitting alone under a tree. It’s a woman, maybe in her 30s. Her eyes are closed, her legs stretched out, hands on her lap. She looks at peace. She’s not doing anything, just sitting there enjoying doing nothing and being away from the busy city and work life. The breeze lightly ruffles through her hair. It ruffles through the main character’s hair as well. He doesn’t feel like he’s in the office anymore. He feels like he’s in the garden, enjoying the breeze, the fragrant flowers, the sun shining through the branches and leaves of the trees touching his face. He forgets about the world around him. All the sounds of his surroundings fade away. He hears the leaves rustling in the wind, a wind chime, a gentle stream and birds singing in the distance. He closes his eyes. For a moment there’s nothing. Just peaceful emptiness and the distant sounds of the garden…

He slowly opens his eyes. His surroundings look different to him. Everything’s clearer. He looks rested. He sighs and smiles. Looks out the window one more time and gets back to work. We keep looking at the window, getting closer. All background noises fade away. We see the sky. There’s nothing but silence, peace…, Ma.


Out of the two ideas I have I like the second idea more because it portrays Ma more clearly. I want viewers to be able to understand Ma and it may not be as clear in the first idea as I feel it is in the second idea.

So, number 2 it is!

Les 1 Research: Sponge Session

The Great Depression:

Hooverville

The first thing I could think of when I thought of financial crises, was the Great Depression after the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Instead of focusing on the banks and the details of what happened during the Crash and who caused it, I thought of the people who were affected the most by it; people living in Hoovervilles e.g., like the famous picture of the woman and her children. I like to focus on people and their emotions, and how they cope in hard times, that’s probably why I chose these pictures and not any pictures of stock traders or business men during the Crash.


Hebert Logerie (poetry):

In This Financial Crisis, We All Need A Miracle (2009)

Wall Street stock prices have plummeted next to nothing,
Our 401k,403b and 457 plans have lost more that half of their values.
The wars have exhausted our resources; no more fancy menus.
Downtown is like a ghost town, everybody is scared; nobody is shopping.

Big banks, who have ingeniously robbed us, are not lending money
To businesses, and to potential customers with immaculate credit.
The real estate market is in shambles, the perpetrator of this insanity.
Decent people are threatened to become homeless for bad debt.

Wall Street and Main Street collide; Main Street cannot take it anymore.
In this financial crisis, amidst this man-made tsunami,
We all need a miracle; we all need help immediately;
The last administration really fouled up to the core.

Thank God, Brother Bama is at the helm; thank God,
He is doing a super job and is using all sorts of avenues
To stimulate the economy, to create different venues;
Those are going to invigorate the country, thank God.

Thank God, we are fighting like tigers, like winners.
We still have hope; through hard works and discipline,
We will see happier and better financial days again.
In this financial crisis, we all need the miracle of our prayers.

Wall Street And The 99 Percent (2011)

You can bet your bottom or your upper dollar
Where there is money, there is a lot crooks,
Unimaginable corruption, chefs cooking the books,
Accountants being zealously creative, Auditors stealing the jar,
And Managers looking the other way, away from the sun.

Wall Street ignores the facts that it exists because of Main Street.
It is about time that it shows more respect and compassion
By doing the following: Stop all unfair exploitation,
Give the middle class and the poor something neat,
Free of surprises and bed bugs that can destroy all fun.

The Hedge Fund Managers ought to receive a substantial pay cut,
They already have money set aside for their tenth generation,
They should give the maids, the babysitters better compensation,
So they can live comfortably not like some sorry nuts
Who need daily prayers from a pervert priest and a sad nun.

Oh! It is unfortunate that the Mayor and the Police
Are not too happy that the protesters occupy the park.
This is America, this is New York City; let the dogs bark,
Because Wall Street is infested with bears that love grease,
Gold, diamond, sausage, pepperoni on a monster bun.

The 99 percent can peacefully change the course,
Stimulate the economy and improve the discourse.
There is going to be a party, only coffee will be served,
No toxic tea will be allowed; the Activists deserve
Compassion and admiration when all is said and done.

The protesters are right: no more foreclosures,
No more layoff of teachers and other dedicated workers.
We all want peace and respect; love and decent perks
Will solve all problems. Let’s talk and quit behaving like jerks.
Let’s all strive to make tomorrow a better place for our children

I happened to find two poems by Hebert Logerie about the financial crisis and Wall Street. I like how these poems talk about the hard times that the people must live in, and that the financial world is a hard and cruel place, but that even though there are tough times we should all strive to survive, live on, take care of our children, and peacefully change the course of everything.


Literature

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/books/review/capital-a-novel-by-john-lanchester.html?_r=0

http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/books/capital-a-financial-crisis-satire

I like the idea of a satire of the financial crisis and that’s why John Lanchester’s book Capital seemed interesting to me.


Games

Last of Us, (2013) (post-apocalyptic, survivors)

While I was immersed in the world of the 99% and everyone who suffered the most from financial crises, I thought of pure survival and of course of The Last of Us. It may have nothing to do with banks or finance, but it does have to do we survival and perseverance which was important for many during the financial crises.


TV Series & Movies

Mad Men, (2007 – 2015)

Mad Men poster, season 5

From survivors and ‘normal’ people to the world of the business man and the corporate world. The first thing I thought of was a suit, and then the TV series Mad Men. This series basically shows the highs and lows of powerful business men and companies and how they are also psychologically affected. I think the psychological part of this is the most interesting. I also really like the poster of Don Draper sitting in a chair with a cigarette in his hand while his office is filling with water. I can make connections between this one poster and the bank world and bankers: putting on a strong façade, but ultimately succumbing to the pressure of the financial world and the crises.

Mr. Robot (2015), TV series

Mr. Robot is an American TV Series that tells the story of a hacker who joins an underground group that aspires to take down the corporate America. The rebellion is what I find extremely interesting. And again, it’s kind of about survivors trying to change the world and set things right.

American Psycho, (2000)

Focusing more on the psychological effect the corporate/business/banker’s world can have on someone, I thought of American Psycho. I really liked this shot of Patrick Bateman. It has so much emotion in it. To show the emotion of a banker would be interesting: the build-up and break-down of someone, shown through facial expressions.

Goodbye Shanghai, (2010)

This short film was pretty interesting. It tells the story of two Western bankers who have embezzled a lot of money from a Chinese bank for the US government, and take 15 million of this embezzled cash for themselves. The two now have to wait until morning to leave Shanghai. One of the bankers is really relaxed and persuades the other to go to a night club (with all the money hidden in a bass case), the other is stressed and extremely nervous. The contrast between these two men was interesting.

It also explored the negative effects of Western imperialism on modern Chinese culture, which was also pretty interesting.


Molly Crabapple, Debt and Her Debtors (2013)

This illustration seemed extremely interesting to me. It shows cats as wealthy business men and basically the rulers of the world. Mice are the poorer and climbing the latter set up by the cats leading to a ‘better world’, only to be deceived, fall, and get turned into money by the cats. It stood out to me.

TSB poster, Keep A Good Balance (1951)

Ah.. How nice everything looks in this poster. It would be interesting to show a contrast between this happiness and carefreeness, and the world after a financial crisis.


Sleepy Duo, Hulton Archive, children oblivious to the world

Embed from Getty Images

I started to think about how children were affected during a financial crisis. Were they even aware of what was going on? Or were they oblivious to their surrounding world like these two children are, fast asleep?

Nobody Knows (2004), King of the Hill (1993)

Focusing on children, I thought these two movies had interesting stories. They show the lives of children who have to fend for themselves in hard times with no one to really rely on, and not much money to survive on. They start out pretty carefree, not really understanding the situation that they were in, but ultimately having to face reality. In King of the Hill, the boy is faced with the reality of the Great Depression.


Tegenlicht: Het brein van de bankier (2013)

http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/afleveringen/2012-2013/Joris.html

Tegenlicht: De biecht van de bankier, (2014)

http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/afleveringen/2013-2014/de-biecht-van-de-bankier.html

The New York Times, John Coates, 2012, The Biology of Bubble and Crash:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/opinion/sunday/the-biology-of-bubble-and-crash.html?pagewanted=all

The mind and psychological well-being of a banker seems really interesting to me, so these Tegenlicht episodes and New York Times article stood out to me.

Background

Eventually I decided to choose an extravagant theater/stage as my background and setting. When I thought about my character the only thing that really suited him was a setting that was as extravagant as he is. Maybe he is older and fatter than he was 20 years ago, but that doesn’t stop him from believing that he has changed.

I first didn’t want to go for the cliché red curtained-theater. I wanted something fresh. However, cliché would accentuate the clichéness of my character. The viewer should immediately understand where it could be taking place, see how Lockhart has presented himself and therefore already understand what his character is.

Screenshots of the scene:

At first I thought of putting my character on a dark stage, maube in like a small cafe. I added a neon sign, but it didn’t seem to suit his character. Lockhart would never accept being in a place like that. With the lighting and all it almost looked like a TedTalk as well. So I decided to change it.

Lockhart_Marv.183 Lockhart_Marv.387 Lockhart_Marv.336

Final:

This final one suits his character way more! As extravagant as he is. His way to show off his ‘magnificence’.

Lockhart_Marv.729

Research: Annecy

Annecy was a week of inspiration. Everyday there was something different, a different style, different animation, different story, and different kind of inspiration. It was an overwhelming amount of animation. It’s difficult to name all the things that inspired me as in probably every film there was something – sometimes small, sometimes big – that inspired me to start creating my own stories and animating, and sometimes even inspiring me to just make something better than what I was watching. Yes, there were films that were not to my liking, but they also inspired me, but in a different way.

If I had to name the films and/or people that inspired me the most or the ones I could relate to and loved, then I would have to name Pixar’s presentation of The Good Dinosaur and Sanjay’s Super Team presented by Peter Sohn and Sanjay Patel, Cartoon Network’s From Short to Series with Elizabeth Ito, George Gendi and Daniel Chong, Long Way North, and the Commissioned Films. Of course there were many other films and people who inspired me, but these are the ones I immediately think of and the ones I’m so happy I saw.

Pixar’s presentation of the Good Dinosaur and Sanjay’s Super Team was the first screening I saw in Annecy and it made my day and week. It was so inspiring to see how Peter Sohn and Sanjay Patel created such touching stories and kept it close to themselves by using elements from their own lives. That’s something I also believe I will want to do. I love making my work personal. Maybe this is why I find commissioned projects less fun to work on. However, as I will mention later commissioned projects can also be fun and personal.

Not only were Peter Sohn and Sanjay Patel’s inspiring and touching, the work they produced was amazing, especially Sanjay’s Super Team! The colors used, the movements of the characters, the camera positions, everything was amazing. It was especially cool to see the research that Sanjay and his team did for this project. He really went deep into his story and the reason why he’s telling this story which is also how I like to do research: I like to really go in deep into my story and character and figure out why I’m making this film/story, why my character is the way they are etc.

Pixar works with 3D animation. I couldn’t see myself working with 3D, but after seeing this presentation and working with 3D some more, and doing some research on 3D, there is so much possible with 3D. I’m not saying that 3D is what I want to work with from now on, I only know that 3D is also an option. (At the festival 2D animations were visually the most inspiring for me anyway.)

Cartoon Network’s From Short to Series was amazing! At this presentation were three amazing artists who made/are making shorts for Cartoon Network. After hearing about how they came to work in the animation industry and at Cartoon Network we got to see their work and there motivation behind it, and it was so awesome. I really, really loved Elizabeth Ito and Daniel Chong’s style, story, and motivation. They both spoke of stories they way I think of them as well, as the most important part of a project, and strong if you keep it personal. Of course the one thing that really made me love their shorts and almost want to immediately strive to work at Cartoon Network was humor. Humor plays a role in everything Cartoon Network does and Ito, Gendi and Chong always want in their stories. This is exactly how I feel about humor as well. I want humor to always be a part in my work. I could relate to everything that was said at the Cartoon Network presentation, and everything shown was so beautiful. After the presentation I also started thinking about storyboards and if being a storyboard artist and focusing on the story is more for me than animating… I’ll still be thinking about it in the future.

Long Way North was my favorite feature film I saw at Annecy. Visually the movie was amazing, the story was okay, not amazing, but after the story-based presentations I saw of Pixar and Cartoon Network, I didn’t mind. Music is also something I find extremely important and the soundtrack of Long Way North was really nice, apart from a random song that popped up near the beginning.  Visually this movie really inspired me: the colors were amazing, the movements, the style. Everything was really nice and soft, and that got me thinking about my own style and how I’d want my style to be. I love soft colors and soft images, so it was really nice to see this movie that had a style and color-scheme that I really love. I know it’ll be a couple years before I find a style that suits me. Until then I can be inspired by movies like Long Way North.

The final thing that I loved from Annecy were the Commissioned Films. It was really nice to see these films and the different ways you can approach a commercial project. I’ve been shying away from anything commercial, because I have the feeling that my own style and input gets drowned out by the client’s wishes. I had this feeling with the Metropolis assignment. We were bound to certain things from Metropolis, and it felt like we couldn’t really get our own input into the project for a while. However, after seeing these commissioned films, I see that you can approach a commercial project in so many ways – if the client is willing to let you do that. It seemed that ever commissioned film had a personal touch from the artist and had an autonomous approach to it. It made me think that for any commissioned project you receive certain building blocks that you need to use, but you can use them in any way you want and add to them. If I think about Metropolis again, we weren’t bound to anything. We had building blocks to work with and we had the opportunity to add to them as freely as we wanted. I think differently about commercial animation now. Maybe commercial is a path for me? Who knows?

Annecy. Such an incredible week. It has inspired me so much. I want to start my own projects and create worlds, stories and characters. I want to experiment with colors and styles. I want to do so much and Peter Sohn, Sanjay Patel, Elizabeth Ito, Daniel Chong, Long Way North, and all the Commissioned Films have inspired me to do so. Of course there were many others, but these were my favorites. They may actually have an effect on my future path. We’ll see…

3D animation, rig, character

When looking for a rig I stumbled across one of a slightly overweight man. This sparked a new idea in me about my character. I already wanted to have a cocky character showing off his magnificence, but I couldn’t think of why. I needed a backstory also to be able to create the surroundings for my scene. With the overweight rig and an Elvis clip as inspiration I came up with ideas for a backstory that could help me with his surroundings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj0Rz-uP4Mk

The first thing I thought of was making my character like a fat, retired Elvis who was still popular among some people. Maybe he still tried to show off his moves. For a surroundings I then thought I could have him come out on stage somewhere and have a couple fans screaming as he blows kisses and shows off his ‘handsome’ self. I also thought of making him a retired actor who used to play a superhero. Kind of like a Birdman-Incredibles combination. I would therefore give my character a cape that doesn’t look good anymore, maybe it’s too small, and have him jump onto stage with a huge grin on his face – still thinking he’s as young as he was 20 or so years ago.

I’m still not certain which one of these backstories I’m going to use, possibly a combination of them both. It all depends on the poses I use and how the animation works out. I’m already thinking of making a stage for my retired ‘celebrity’ to show himself off on. I would like to have a crowd as well, that you don’t see, that you hear cheering. A stage as a setting seems like a great idea.

When you look up ‘stage’ the most common thing you see is a stage with red curtains. I don’t want to make a cliché stage like that. I want to use different colors than the standard red, and different shapes. I would also like to use lights. I want it to really look like this guy’s a big shot. He may be old and fat, but he is still loved by some people. Of course, I could choose to make the stage cliché and lame, signifying how old my character has become and how he doesn’t want to accept that he’s older and not (as) popular anymore. Only a couple of people know him. I’ll have to decide between these two ideas.

My rig also has no face, so I can focus more on the movements rather than the face. I first really wanted to animate the face and show all the emotions and smiles my character would’ve had, but I think it’s better to focus on the body. That’s what this entire assignment is about. I should be able to get his character across with only the body movements. Now, I can try to do that.