Friday, March 23, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Review

Kevin Clash is a willful dreamer. He is the person behind the beloved red Muppet, Elmo. When an artist inspires someone, it is as if they are given a torch they must pass on. Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, passed the torch to an entire generation of artists and Kevin Clash is one of his offspring.

I myself have been given a torch from so many artists, but this review isn’t about me. Being Elmo is a wonderful account of the product of true artistry. What do I mean by this? Being Elmo is a brief biography of Kevin Clash's life as he journeyed upon the hero's journey. Kevin was inspired by Jim Henson to achieve a goal. He wished he could someday devote his life to puppetry. Kevin turned wishing dreaming into willful action by making puppets and performing wherever he could. The forces of antagonism fought against him. Kevin was ridiculed by his peers, but he persevered, and was rewarded for those who fight for a just cause attract allies. Kevin sought and found a mentor who gave him the resources he needed to continue his journey. Eventually Kevin accomplished his career ambition, and now is working towards his life ambition—passing on the torch of inspiration to others.

Kevin is a wonderful man brought up by loving, supportive parents. However, my only complaint about this documentary is little is mentioned regarding Kevin's issues. They mentioned Kevin's ex-wife and his struggle to spend time with his daughter, but mostly everything was made to look like lollypops and unicorns. Call me cynical, but no one who  makes it to the top is not without dirt under their nails. But there is still a hopeless romantic inside me so I don't care much to know about Kevin's problems.

Kevin discovered his calling at a very early age, and worked hard to accomplish his goals. He’s lived my dream of becoming an artist, and of course the fame is enticing. Actually, Kevin has lived many people’s dream and it’s wonderful. The world we live in has so much room for art. The world needs artists and we need them. We? Yes, me too. I am an aspiring artist. What do I have to offer? I’m working on it. (This is the part where this post becomes more about me.)

What separates Kevin Clash from most artists is he went out on his own. He didn’t wait for opportunities to present themselves, he made them. School is the safe route. School promises a future career. But school exists in a realm outside of the "real world". I have gone to school my entire life, and if I am to achieve my dream of becoming an artist, then I cannot keep going to school. In school I do exercises upon exercises hoping that someday I will be good enough for someone to hire me. Kevin Clash didn't go to college and look at him. Employers came to him and asked him to work for them!

What is my career goal? Kevin wanted to be a puppeteer. I want to be a screenwriter. Actually, see the problem is I cannot decide. All of these jobs exists under the umbrella of storytelling and I just want to create stories and tell them. The story artist position actually sounds pretty amazing, but I don't just want to develop my stories, I want to help bring them alive on the big screen.

I can’t go to school for another four years. I might die tonight for all I know, and never accomplish my dream What is my dream? My goal. I want to inspire people like Kevin has inspired me, or like Jim Henson or Charlie Chaplin or Lucianno Pavarottie or Walt Disney or Hayao Miyazaki or Jules Feiffer, Norton Juster, Joe Ranft, Pete Docter, Tim Burton, John Lasseter,  ore Andrew Stanton. These men DID! They dreamed enormously and committed their lives to making their dreams reality. I feel like my bubble has been popped. I feel like my path has been put into clear-cut perspective. The only way to achieve your dreams is to make them reality. It’s such a fantastic notion and the forces or antagonism raise all hell to stand in your way. But you have to beat these machines into submission." is the words of Jan Pinkava.

What a wonderful documentary—so inspiring! I’m so gullible. If you put someone on a movie screen I’ll believe anything. Such is my personality. Movies are more real to me than reality. I’m sick of school exercises. I'm sick of wishing I was good enough. I’ll never be "good enough" by my standards to do anything so I just gotta follow Walt Disney's advice and "dive into the water and learn to swim on the way down. But do I have the energy? Do I have the drive? I don’t know. Do I have the passion? If there’s one thing that is takes it’s persistence. Absolute dedication. Licking your wounds when beaten down and trying again and again and again. Being Elmo is a film that makes you look at your life and ask, "What do I want? What am I getting out of life? What am I fighting for? Why am I alive? Who inspires me?" This documentary is a call to action:

-Put aside wishful dreaming. Will your dreams into reality.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"The Greater Lust" a short skit by Sam Vest

Logline: Mark, a reformed peanut butter jelly addict encounters Stacy, his attractive former high school classmate, having a picnic with PB & J on the menu.

Mark, a fit looking college student JOGS by STACY, also an attractive college student who is having a picnic complete with a BLANKET and BASKET.



Stacy? Stacy Taylors? Is that you? My gosh I have not seen you since high school!

Yeah, it's been a while. Hey! Would you like to join me?

Sure! Yeah I'll join you!

Mark sits down on blanket across from Stacy.

Gosh Mark, you're really looking fit.

Thanks! If I told you today marks the one year anniversary of conquering my addiction to peanut butter and jelly would you believe me?

Ha ha ha! Mark, you always were so funny.

Well you were always the pretty one.

Do you mind if I actually have my lunch while we chat? I haven't eaten all day and I'm starving.

Stacy OPENS basket and REACHES inside.

No! No it's fine. You go right ahead.

Stacy PULLS out SUPPLIES to make a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Mark's eyes widen.

So tell me about yourself Mark. What do you do these days for fun?

Stacy UNTWISTS the BAG of bread and REMOVES out two SLICES and PLACES them on her lap. Mark GLANCES from slices to Stacy's face.

Well I— work out.

I can see that silly. Do you go out at night?

She TWISTS off the peanut butter LID and SCOOPS out its contents with a plastic KNIFE. Mark is transfixed with the loaded knife.

I- I- I- go see movies.

Movies! Is there someone special you go with?

Stacy SPREADS the peanut butter on the bread. Mark goes CROSS-EYED.


Mark LOOKS back at Stacy.

No! No one special.

Stacy REMOVES the LID from the JELLY CONTAINER and SCOOPS out JELLY with the knife. Mark is again ENTRANCED.


Would you like to go with someone special?

She SPREADS the jelly over the peanut butter. Mark BITES his lower LIP.

Uh huh—

Stacy COMPLETES the sandwich with the second slice of bread and BRINGS it toward her mouth to take a bite. She NOTICES Mark staring passionately.

Mark, answer my question.

Mark continues staring. Stacy HOLDS the sandwich near her face and LEANS toward Mark. Mark also LEANS closer.

Would you like to go— out— with—

Their faces slowly INCH closer. Stacy CLOSES her eyes and PUCKERS UP to kiss. Mark STEERS his face away just before impact, GRABS the sandwich, and SHOVES it violently into his mouth.


Stacy PUSHES Mark over and JUMPS to her feet.


Stacy STORMS away leaving Mark ROLLING in peanut butter jelly euphoria.


Premise: Man's appetite for food is great than his lust for women.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Subway Sketching

I participated in the Toronto Subway Sketch group this past Sunday and had a blast.

It's pretty rare that you find a place to draw people going about their daily business instead of posing on a stand. I was thoroughly impressed by the welcome from Thierry and Peter who maintain the group. They made it a point to introduce me to everyone, which was so cool because most groups I find aren't so accepting of newcomers. I also met Nicho Hong, a third year animation student at Sheridan and we shared a terrific conversation as we rode the GoTrain all the way to the end of the line in the wrong direction. Oops! Check out his blog here.

If you are free Sunday at 3:45pm then I highly recommend attending subway sketching for a unique drawing experience, and to meet some really cool people too! Here is a link to the sketch group blog for more information.

Like my instructor Faz said, "You see some real characters."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2011 Sheridan Animation Portfolio

At long last I present my portfolio to Sheridan's Animation program.

Roughly one year ago I set a goal to gain acceptance into one of best animation schools in the world. My two choices were CalArts and Sheridan. For the past six months my life has revolved around preparing this portfolio. I attended over a hundred figure drawing sessions (roughly 5 sessions per week). Whenever I had free time I would work on portfolio drawings, day and night for six months. 

The hardest part by far was the character section. I saved it for last because I thought it would be the easiest. Boy was I wrong! Thank God I did the room drawings first because they are definitely the most daunting, but once you get into them they fly by. I used mostly extra figure drawings for my personal work because I spent so much time figure drawing. I figured that if I went to as many figure drawing sessions as I could then those skills would translate into the other drawings, and I think I was right.

If you have any questions, comments or critiques, feel free to let me know!