journal page 15

march 3, 2001
i'll give you a dollar if
you stop taking my picture
wow a difficult week. everybody needs meetings, interviews, photos, promotional materials, now! now! now! and i am finally learning the value in just saying no. you'd think this would be obvious but it took a little practice. it's a natural instinct to try and please everyone and be polite and say yes to any number of ridiculous things. case in point. i was the keynote speaker yesterday morning at this animation creative conference thing in los angeles, sort of a spur of the moment invitation thanks to the nomination i guess. i was scheduled to show "rejected" in this big hotel ballroom and then talk for half an hour. i guess i didn't realize beforehand how much of a corporate/industry event this was, and the panel onstage before me discussed nothing but character rights, happy meal deals, back-end percentages, making it big, distribution contracts, money, the best ways to sell product, representation contracts, and more money, to the audience of about a hundred or so businessmen, agents, licensors, and retailers in gray suits and animal print dresses. suddenly realizing this is very much not my thing. unable to crawl under a table, i go up on stage in my radiohead tshirt and wrinkled jeans with my hair in my face, just rolled out of bed to drive down to LA so early, and introduce the film... "rejected" begins to play on the video screen and if you had read our accounts of the wild shows a couple of weekends back, now imagine the exact opposite. silence... stony faces... awkward chuckles and bewildered glances... the film reaches the second act... dropped jaws, much frowning... a few "heh, hehs." then it all goes downhill real fast. you could actually hear the fidgeting during the total silence through the final half... finally, strained applause. for some reason, anti-corporate and "consumer whore" jokes just didn't seem to go over very well with these guys. the most worst-received screening of the film i've seen and now i have to give a lecture for a half hour. i just realize i am the youngest person in the room. so i get back on stage and figure there's not much left to lose and maybe i can still do some good so i spend the time pacing around talking about the state of animation, mixed-up corporate priorities, the pushing of technology over basic storytelling, film theory, blah, blah, blah. that everyone needs to stop thinking of animation as its own genre, but just a film medium that requires all the same forgotten elements of story, character, writing, editing, that any live action film does... that it doesn't matter how amazing something looks if it have nothing to say in the first place. by the time i'm done half of the people have left. a few nodding heads, a few glares, mostly puzzled expressions. my time's up and i'm off... that did not go over well. a handful of nice artists say hi afterwards. many ask what software i use to make the cartoons. i tell them we don't use computers for much, it's all been drawn and photographed traditionally. many don't understand what that means. you mean with... cameras? yes, i say, the same sort of cameras that cartoons were shot on since the beginning. oh, they say... polite frown. i am reminded of meeting with some animation executives in los angeles a little while ago. the same exchange took place. when one of the executives learned i animate traditionally he frowned and asked, "so does that mean you draw really small on every frame of the film strip?"

luckily i couldn't stay very long and headed back to santa barbara in time for the film festival there that evening... on the drive back i wondered how much i probably ruined their conference and felt kind of guilty. in santa barbara i met berke breathed, whose bloom county i had read every single day through high school, with no exception. it had been part of a sort of holy trinity of newspaper comics for me, with the far side and calvin and hobbes.

february 19, 2001
(clock goes back on wall)
it was pouring rain this morning but is sunny now. had four screenings all weekend with spike's show at the arlington. thank you friends old and new who made the trip to support "rejected" want to give a big thank you to everyone who has been sending us congratulatory wines, champagnes, flowers, and chocolates. i think i had about 30-40 friends in town thru this weekend so rest assured the bottles are in very good use. am plugging away with the thank-you notes as fast as i can... have been losing my voice again very badly from talking since last tuesday and near the end of the week i was quite close to recruiting someone to introduce himself as "don" to everybody so that i could go take a nap.

friday night was a pretty good show and probably had our most inebriated audience of the weekend. i rephrase: most everyone in there was blitzed out of their skulls. i bought a giant stuffed rabbit in a frilly bonnet and pattern dress, and threw it out to the audience thinking it would get crowd-surfed but lasted about fifteen seconds before it was torn to absolute shreds. the theater wouldn't allow the emcee to use any of their union sound equipment, so he had to shout the introductions to the program from the stage at the top of his lungs which didn't work out very well because pretty much everyone just screamed back at him. brian reports hearing completely nonsensical drug-related chants during "billy's balloon." when "rejected" began, everyone in the theater was laughing along quite well except for this one sweaty fellow sitting right in front of me. sort of just motionless in his chair with a blank expression on his face. wow, this guy must not like the film very much, everyone else is laughing and he's just sort of staring at it sternly. then the eye-exploding-blood-screaming scene comes up, and i see this guy's head and shoulders finally start to bob and up and down, and i'm happy he finally found a scene he enjoys. he continues bobbing and turns to his right and blaaarrrrrgh, vomit blasts out of his mouth all over himself and the adjacent chair. so friday was the very first time i saw one of my films induce somebody to puke but probably it was just the fast cutting and whatever he was on. we escaped the show alive, retiring to the irish pub the moment intermission was over. the theater had the santa barbara symphony booked in there the following evening.

spike arrived for the weekend on saturday and it all began again. this audience was easily our friendliest of the weekend and nothing was thrown at the screen. many of the theater seats were now suspiciously draped with plastic sheets. i climbed onto the empty chairs in the front row with another giant rabbit to sacrifice and it actually surfed around for a good few minutes (which, from the back of the theater, pretty much just looks like a boneless flopping child flying through the air), before its head was torn off. i believe the head was still being hurled around the theater well through the first couple of films. "rejected" played really well that night and some in the audience said it was "even funnier than last night" because they were trying out new drugs. then spike put a box on his head and wrote his name on topless women.

in other news, brian has almost entirely completed his dialogue-breakdown chores for the current production. three cheers for brian. although this puts me in a more serious zone to break out of pencil tests and actually begin animating the new film. i don't think i will have the time until after the academy awards and people decide i'm not worth calling up anymore. my agents have amassed a bunch of scripts to direct or rewrite for people. they are all awful teen sex comedies. i also haven't directed live action since beginning courses in film school. what an awful alternate reality i could choose for myself right now.

february 14, 2001
rock star
the phone has stopped ringing for the time being so i'm hoping to get in a journal entry before the little demon starts up again. it has been quite a dizzy 24 hours. we learned a week ago that the film had made the academy's short list, the final 7 films from which the voters would choose the nominations. this made for an awkward week of waiting around, topped off with some vague guilt of worrying about it in the first place. i went to a movie on sunday to take my mind off it all and paced around and cleaned the apartment on monday. fell out of bed the next morning and saw the nominee listings. stuck on phone for rest of day with a thousand new things to take care of. somebody sent this in:

thank you todd s!

it's been very cool hearing from everyone, the e-mail was flooded immediately after the announcements and has not let up. i am doing my best to write back to everybody but as soon as i begin i get twelve more and the phone starts ringing again. i spent most of tuesday wandering around in a sleepless daze hugging everybody and saying 'thank you' many times. finally got away tuesday night to take tim and rob out for dinner and share a bottle of champagne as well as our bemusement over all the events transpired. tragically, i'm going to have to break my habit of never shaving during a production in order to look presentable now. have more interviews than i can coherently remember lined up for tomorrow, including an hourlong live radio thing with spike on the phone from san diego. i guarantee this will be good radio, simply because he cannot possibly refrain from using profanities for a full hour. our vegas odds of winning the oscar are at 5-1 which is a little disappointing considering there are only three nominees in our category.

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