Production Story

I suppose this is technically also a director's statement, but I want to speak at length about the production of this little short without worrying whether or not it will fit on a program. So here it comes. Aherm.

'Juxtaposer' began as a school project. Here's how it worked at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design): you had at most four classes to work on your final thesis. These classes were Concept Development, Final Project I, Final Project II, and Portfolio. In spring of 2004, I found myself in Concept Development without any concept to develop, but I did have several goals in mind. I knew that I wanted my film to a) Be light and amusing, with a dash of "meaning". I wasn't out to make my epic masterwork, but I wanted the film to at least be worth watching. b) Be simple enough to complete within the allotted time budget. Too many student films end up as perpetual work-in-progress, especially 2D films. As a rabid traditional animator with a computer chip on her shoulder, I was adamant about proving...something about...something..to the world..? Well, I just wanted to finish the damn thing. c) Be a good showcase of my character animation skills for my reel. And lastly, d) Fetch a big fat juicy "A" in all of my classes because I was, and forever will remain, a huge nerd. So then- I needed a story.

I doodled a sketch one day of a girl with a cat on her head. It amused me greatly. So I made up a little story about it. Simple enough, huh? I called the girl as "Jane" but I later decided that was too specific. I now call her "EveryGirl" (kind of like "EveryMan", but with her own line of teeny-bopper clothing and accessories!) She is an introverted, sensitive soul who realizes that no one is going to hand her an invitation to join life's party. At first, she is angered at this reality, and tries to isolate herself with "who needs 'em!"s and "I'm better off alone"s. But she has an epiphany, finally gets over her tragic self, and allows herself to seek out the beauty in life. All with a cat on her head. The idea is admittedly a bit self-indulgent (yes, I am shy, and yes, I have a cat like that), but EveryGirl is by no means autobiographical or a caricature. At least- not consciously. After settling the story issue, I was also at a loss for a title, toying with brilliant ideas like "The Bench" or "The Cat and the Bench" or "The Girl Sitting on the Bench Reading A Newspaper Until A Cat Walks Into Frame..". On a whim, I asked my friend Gillian what was the coolest word she could think of, and she promptly answered "juxtapose". I dug it, and instantly fashioned a drawn-out and pretentious justification has to how the word perfectly applied to EveryGirl's state of being, and I was ready.

I slapped together storyboards, animatics, and a nice fat production book for my Concept class, got a good grade, and went on to summer vacation with the sincere intent of beginning production right away- which of course didn't happen. What did happen was a glorious internship at Primal Screen in Atlanta, where, among other things, I met the wonderful Nate Foster who has since become my collaborator. He's brilliant in his "evil genius" way, with emphasis on the evil. Without him, Juxtaposer would probably have ended up as another sad perpetual work-in-progress.

I came back to school in fall of 2004 as a senior, frightened to death to begin production in my Final Project I class. That first blank sheet of paper quite intimidating. I would just stare at it, and it would stare right back, and I swear I could hear it say "don't even bother." I got into the project bit by bit, testing the waters with my smallest toe, until I got used to the temperature and dived in- only to realize after I completed the first few scenes that I was a terrible animator. I needed to redo all the animation as well as character designs. And still now when I watch the film, I wish I could go back and reanimate the entire damn thing start to finish, but then I wouldn't have the time to sit down and type this. Anyway, one quarter melted into another (with a brief stint freelancing at Primal again inbetween) and I completed all the pencils to my film. Once I locked down the timing, I rushed to my friend Marc Femenella screaming something about "sound design". I then proceeded to lasso some of my talented friends into providing vocalizations. After Marc (who has the patience of a saint) and I (the patience of a Saint Bernard) had several intense sessions of nit-pickiness and improvised sound effects, he had given the film a new dimension through audio.

As the rest of the year sped by, I stopped caring about my grades. Juxtaposer simply had to be completed. That's all that mattered. Nate introduced a coloring technique that even one so allergic to computers as I could handle, and he began the painful process of scanning, processing, and coloring each frame of the film as I wrapped up the inking process. Later when we realized that he had to actually show up at work, I quarantined myself to finish the last of the coloring while Nate composited the film and put that last shining touch on it- the titles graciously designed by another awesome Primate, Rob Shepps. And then, after the whirlwind months of worry, anxiety, and self-loathing- it was done.

I almost didn't believe it. I still don't. There are so many things I wish I could change now in the awkward animation and gutless design, because after all, 'Juxtaposer' basically a time capsule of my skills from Fall of 2004, and I like to think I've gotten better since then. But you know what? Its done. Leave it be. Best to save all my criticism for the next film I do. Because even if it doesn't sweep the festival circuit or land me a dream job, 'Juxtaposer' introduced me to the joys of filmmaking, and thats enough for me right now. This film is by no means going to be an only child.

-Joanna Davidovich, Oct. 10 2005

last updated January 15, 2006 - All content © copyright 2005 by Joanna Davidovich. No reproduction without prior permission.