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Don Hertzfeldt on “I Am So Proud of You”

Don Hertzfeldt on “I Am So Proud of You” (photo)

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The Oscar category of animated short film doesn’t tend to get a lot of attention, but in 2001 it was host to one of the most unlikely and awesome nominations in recent Academy Award history. Alongside a tasteful watercolor-based work about a father and daughter and a stop-motion drama set in plague-era Europe was Don Hertzfeldt’s “Rejected,” a profane, hilarious and brilliantly absurd short filled with non sequitur-spouting stick figures and fluffy creatures bleeding from lower orifices, one that imagined an animator driven mad by his hopeless attempts to please corporate sponsors.

The film didn’t win, but did fuel a devoted fan base that’s followed Hertzfeldt in his staunchly independent career of crafting totally distinctive animated shorts that have grown in ambition and sophistication even as he’s continued to hand-draw his work and avoid computer influence. His last title, “Everything Will Be OK,” won the short film prize at Sundance last year with its devastating tale of a sad stick figure of an everyman named Bill whose perception is crumbling due to a mental disorder that may also be killing him. The just-completed “I Am So Proud of You” continues Bill’s story in the second part of what’s now a planned trilogy. To premiere the film, Hertzfeldt’s taking it on a 16-city tour, with stops planned everywhere from Omaha to New York — as the co-founder, alongside Mike Judge, of “The Animation Show,” he’s well aware that to find a place for animated shorts in theaters, you pretty much have to do the booking yourself.

When you began work on “Everything Will Be Ok,” had you already planned on it being the first part of a trilogy?

Not right away… in the earliest drafts of “Everything Will Be Ok,” I think Bill died at the end — which I guess might have made for an interesting trilogy anyway. I write and rewrite as I go, and some point early in there I realized there was much more to his story. it was also the most fun I’d had animating a movie in a while and I wanted to carry on, so I started work on “Proud” almost immediately after finishing “Ok.” “Proud” just wrapped up a little while ago, but I’m not nearly as ready to plunge right into part three. I had some leftover film, so a few weeks ago I shot maybe the first minute, but that’ll probably sit under the bed for a while.

Why does it seem somehow extra sad to see a stick figure contemplate his mortality?

I think it’s easier to project yourself into a simpler looking character. Maybe it’s because the drawings seem more candid or honest somehow — as some artists like to say, you have to leave room in the frame for people to dream. It’s probably why audiences will always invest more in a simple character like Charlie Brown than one of those overproduced digital fake humans.

10022008_donherztfeldt2.jpgHow did you come up with the multiple window visual motif used throughout “Everything Will Be Ok” and “I Am So Proud of You”?

Bill first turned up in a few comic strips I did a long time ago, and as I was trying to figure out the movie I couldn’t stop visualizing him in those same sorts of panels and frames, it just wouldn’t go away. I was sketching around and suddenly had the idea of splitting up the screen into independent panels. I dropped everything and raced to the studio to play with the camera to see if I could figure out a way to composite the whole movie that way. (The camera is literally just shooting through little black holes that are framed and sometimes stop-motion animated an inch or so from the lens.) After that, all the rest of the writing fell into place — suddenly everything just clicked.

Are there any particular films or filmmakers you’d cite as influences? I’ve seen everything from David Lynch to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” thrown at you in reviews.

Wow, well I wouldn’t argue with those influences, at least not in spirit… I’m not sure if I deserve them but that’s great company to have thrown your way. David’s legendary and “The Diving Bell” was easily my favorite film from last year.

“I am so proud of you” is your longest film yet at 22 minutes — I suppose this depends on the ultimate length of the third chapter, but the three parts together would seem to approach feature length. Is that how you would ever want them shown or thought of?

Not really. I’m not sure if I even rewatched “Ok” once the whole time I was working on “Proud”… which I guess is kind of strange. They share a lot of common threads, but I’ve been approaching each of the chapters as their own standalone movies. I think they’ve got to be strong enough to sink or swim independent of each other, I don’t want you to have to have seen part one to understand part two or three. We’re playing both “Ok” and “Proud” on this tour, but I’ve no idea how well the two will complement each other. “Ok” is a pretty exhausting movie to watch, and “Proud” is even more so… there’s so much going on, each of them are stuffed with ideas…having them come out in episodes, I think, is a little easier dosage for an audience to take. I’m afraid if somebody eventually watches all three of them back-to-back they might crawl under a sofa and weep.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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