Work In Progress: Anamnesia, An Animated Film By Producer Strangeloop
You know that old saying, it’s not the destination but the journey that matters most? The same can be said about the creative process. Some of the most revealing aspects of any project occur during the act of making it. So we say, forget your final version—we want to get into the nitty gritty of your piece in its rawest form. We want to get to know the Work In Progress.
Throughout his career, Strangeloop has progressed his audio and visual endeavors simultaneously. As a member of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder crew, he’s released his own productions, as well as created videos for the likes of Daedelus, Jonwayne, Mono/Poly, Lorn, and Austin Peralta, and he’s performed live visuals for an even more impressive roster: Amon Tobin, Kid Koala, Flying Lotus, Kode 9, Hudson Mohawke, Gaslamp Killer, Mary Anne Hobbs, Dorian Concept, Nosaj Thing, Araabmuzik… the list goes on and on.
Distinct as his style is, filled with alien landscapes, unidentifiable imaginary organs, and fractal patterns, his visuals are tailored to the sound of each musician. Lorn gets a looming army of menacing black dominoes, Gaslamp Killer a mystic Middle Eastern tapestry, and Daedelus a Victorian stroll on acid.
But there is a project which embodies Strangeloop’s energy in its purest form—not simply a song or a collection of music but a vision that has recurringly haunted his dreams for years. The world Strangeloop sees in his subconscious is a world in peril, where unexplained temporal and spatial phenomena plague the inhabitants and a sole being called Anam quests through its vast landscapes for answers. As Strangeloop explains it, “Anamnesia” is the loss of forgetfulness—the antithesis of amnesia. This presence, this knowing, manifests itself in Anam.
Anamnesia is based on Strangeloop’s dreams, but in order to bring it to life in a film, he enlisted the help of artists and musicians who have met him on his wavelength, assisting him in the conception of this world. Upon completion, the experience of Anamnesia will be a trip to another realm, and as we can see from the preliminary sketches and video, the proof is in the audiovisual pudding.
The Creators Project: Tell us about how you conceived the concept for Anamnesia. Initially, what did you want the finished product to look like?
Anamnesia is a story I’ve dreamt about for almost a decade. I used to tell my friends little bits and pieces, which would come to me in dreams, and all seemed to be a part of some larger story. I joked that it was like my Star Wars or Dune—some epic sci-fi piece that I would make when I had the resources. I felt very strongly about the story, as it wasn’t something I made up as much as something that had appeared to me over time: another world.
For the finished product, we’ve always been looking for something that had a lot of texture, a lot of detail—something that has more the feel of visionary art than a cartoon. In the vein of some of my other projects, we wanted to tackle Anamnesia as a multimedia project as well, something with many portals into the universe and mythology, a story told through many mediums, which is why we plan on showing the whole development of the project in a gallery show and presenting interactive versions of the narrative online, and in the form of a short film.
Describe the execution of the project. Who is working on what, and what processes or equipment are they using?
Micah Nelson has been designing all the characters and acting as an assistant director. His concept sketches are being translated to 3D models by myself and Brandon Tay, a Singapore-based graphic designer. These models will be animated in Cinema 4D using Mo-Cap data we acquired with the help of my buddies John King, Theo Jemison, Grace Oh, and a xBox Kinect. I have created a variety of 3D sets for the action to play out in, so at this point we are entering the process of animating through scenes and creating solid rigged characters that can act within them. All the artists working on this project are members of the collective known as TEACHINGMACHINE.
Leigh McCloskey has supplied some of his incredible Codex imagery for use creating details of the culture of Anamnesia, and my Brainfeeder label-mate Mono/Poly has provided us with an incredible soundtrack to support the visual madness. We are getting other designers involved to help with the whole animation process, and artists like Gavin Gamboa (creator of Fields-tv) to help with the interactive online portion of the narrative.
What have been the biggest challenges for you thus far in working on Anamnesia?
Ha! For me this one is extremely obvious. I was all set to go into production on Anamnesia when I got the incredible opportunity to start touring with the Skrillex crew and executing his visual shows. It was something I had to do, so much of the production (which initially was set to be completed at the end of March) had to pushed back. We had incredible support from the Kickstarter community, who raised funds for us, but the timeline we had initially proposed was not doable with an increasingly demanding touring schedule.
What have been your biggest victories during this process? Challenges overcome?
For a long time I was attending these philosophical discussion groups at Leigh McCloskey’s house, the artist behind Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma artwork, who acted as kind of a creative mentor to me. These groups were always very colorful, and full of wild-eyed ideas about ancient history, evolution, archetypal symbolism. I remember telling Leigh about these dreams I’d had and he was quickly able to connect them to a variety of myths in various cultures, as well as speculations from various mystics on cultures lost to recorded history, like Lemuria, Atlantis, etc. I was already hooked on the idea of developing these dreams into a story, and did some pre-production work with Leigh and E. Elias Merhige (director of Shadow of the Vampire, Marilyn Manson music videos etc.). We had all just made an avant-garde short film together called Din of Celestial Birds that had got us into Telluride, so we were riding high on that and thinking about what we could execute next.
But as I was set to get the film in motion, I had a falling out with Merhige after I felt he had taken credit for visual effects I had developed in an article in American Cinematographer. Though we have since worked out our differences and are on good terms, that was a significant set-back for the development of Anamnesia.
Years went by, and after developing the whole mythical universe behind it, it disappeared into my filing cabinets, seeming too difficult to execute. I started doing visuals for Flying Lotus and all the Brainfeeder cats, and except for a few shorts and A/V releases, focused all my energies on live-shows. Anamnesia, as a project, had for most part left my mind until I met Micah Nelson.
Has the end product you initially conceived changed during the creative process thus far? As a result of limitations? Or collaboration?
I think through collaboration, most prominently with Micah, the project has really evolved. We met a few years back in a coffee shop in Venice.
I was drawing these weird alien-landscapes and this dude walked in with a crew of very Venice-musician looking kids. They sat down and we started sharing sketchbooks. They were all incredible artists, but Micah’s work stood out to me because of our incredible similarities in style and content. In ways, we mirror one another’s work, and seeing the characters he was drawing made me excited again about Anamnesia.
I re-envisioned the first incarnation of the story as not a sprawling epic told in a million parts, but a lean, fast-paced version short, subliminally narrative in the way the early Æon Flux shorts were. Micah and I quickly became friends, and when I told him the idea, he got it immediately. It was like he had already been to the planet I was talking about. He saw the characters, he got the feel, and I really needed a friend like that who could help me execute it. In ways, the project has become less my project and more our project.
Give us a snapshot of what Anamnesia will look like upon completion. What do you want it to accomplish?
Anamnesia is a lot of my dreams rolled up into one hyper-real DMT trip. It has a lot of what I’d like to say about our culture, our evolution, where we’re going, where we come from. Its my myth, and hopefully a seed that will inspire people. It is a subliminal epic, and a narrative about the timeless play between order and chaos. When you see it, no matter what it looks like, I guarantee there will be little cultural analog. It will be more character-based and emotion-based than anything I’ve ever been involved with, and hopefully it will trigger some deep patterns of anamnesis (a loss of forgetfulness).