Friday, October 31, 2008

Don Herzfelt @ the Music Box

The beautiful thing about animation is that there are so many ways of doing it, so many things you can do and say with it like any artform. I went to what was billed as "A Night With Don Herzfelt" at the Music Box here in Chicago last Friday night. I still have mostly mixed feelings about Don's work and Don himself but I will say that I appreciate all that he has set himself up for. The obvious reasons being that he continues to explore the visual possibilities of older techniques and technology. The one thing he said during the completely unnecessary Q & A after the screening that was refreshing to hear was his continued interest in those things. Reading through his blog about the thoughtfulness that has gone into the 2 Bill films I get the sense that he's fully engaged in the structuring of his stories but at first look the structure becomes fairly well played and old. I didn't feel like I went anywhere with Proud that I didn't already go with OK...and mention of perhaps a 3rd Bill film is something I'm not looking forward to.

Don is an interesting study in an artist who is fully aware of himself as a showman when he talks about his work. He plays meak, unwilling to be a "star" but he is more aware than anyone of his status among animation followers. He says the things you want to hear from an artist who has found his identity...things like "I try to stay true to what I'm saying or it doesn't work, isn't funny..." Of course if you're engaged in what you're doing creatively it's a given that sincerity is a big part of creation. But it's hard to tell if it's sincere coming from him or rhetoric that makes people fall in love with the persona of Don Herzfelt as an ARTIST/FILMMAKER. If it inspires up and coming animators, artists, filmmakers to look at their own work and decide to be sincere and make their indie short then that can't be all bad...but to be sure he's selling a brand...he's no different than your favorite indie band who ends up signing to a major label...the music is still mostly the same but the package is shinier and somewhat insincere (or can be)...

So he hasn't really done that but talk of a TV project is not that far off. I should note that I don't necessarily feel that that's "selling out" or whatever, in fact I think it can be a great opportunity if and ONLY if he can remain in full control over the content he provides...then he deserves it...his success will have afforded him a chance to challenge himself with another way of conveying what's on his mind. I would never deny long as it maintains the honesty, truthfulness and sincerity he appears to have.

It is clear that Bill is close to can see it in the drawings, the expressions, so I think for the most part he feels he is being truthful...but then comes the shiny, flashy "gimmick" that is the way he produces his work, which seems to be more of what's on his mind than anything. It should never matter HOW you achieve your end although process is so important to many artists, myself notwithstanding...But I feel like process shouldn't be the focal point of someone's work and at times with Don's work I feel like it has too much presence...

Mixed feelings all around but great respect and appreciation.