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Director / Crewhi it's don hertzfeldt (filmmaker) how are you? AMA

Jan 4th 2018 by donhertzfeldt • 16 Questions • 837 Points

I’m Ken Seeley and I’ve been involved professionally and personally in recovery since 1989. I’m honored to have the privilege to educate millions of people through the television show Intervention on AE since its 2nd season.

This season of Intervention premiering tonight, January 2nd at 9pm, is a special 8 part series. For the first time in series history, we follow interconnected stories of addicts and their families suffering at the hands of the national opioid crisis. Living in a cluster of communities within the affluent Atlanta suburbs known as the “Heroin Triangle,” the families chronicled highlight the desperate need for support and help during this national drug emergency. Each episode focuses on the journey of those plagued by their opioid addictions and their families who are left to pick up the pieces, as well as the city officials who are on the ground fighting as they attempt to intervene and save the lives of those affected while helping to heal the community. I’m joined by my fellow veteran interventionists Candy Finnigan and Donna Chavous. We’re partnering with interventionist and Georgia native, Heather Hayes, as well as new team member, Michael Gonzales. We’re attempting to help these victims of addiction as well as the community it’s impacting.

Watch this season’s trailer: https://youtu.be/cOabfikU2v8

Learn more about Intervention: http://www.aetv.com/shows/intervention

More about my expertise as an interventionist:

As an interventionist, I apply my experience to help transform the lives of those who suffer from the disease of addiction. I’ve changed the lives of thousands of people through my work performing interventions and working with families. I’m Certified Intervention Professional, Board Registered Interventionist Level II, Registered Addiction Specialist, and Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor. Today, I derive the greatest personal satisfaction from the hundreds of interventions I’ve conducted, organized, or facilitated through my private intervention service, Intervention 911. https://intervention911.com

Proof: https://i.redd.it/wuk0ksoq2p601.jpg

Q:

Are you happy?

A:

First of all, thank you so much for doing this very timely AMA. I have a few questions:

*How do you anticipate this will all shake out in the end? It seems like the tide of public opinion has shifted (and is still shifting) in favor of legalized recreational marijuana. However, I've seen various arguments from both sides that make at least some degree of sense. One of the more solid arguments from the "anti-marijuana" camp is that "technically it was always federally illegal" because federal law never changed, just shifted to a more laissez faire policy.

*How will this affect medical marijuana? Moreso than recreational marijuana, MMJ seems to enjoy relatively broad support (even among conservatives). Do you think Sessions & Co. will try to avoid the potential PR nightmare of denying epileptic children, those in palliative care, and cancer patients their medications? Or do they simply not care at this point?

*What would the timeline be for a change like this? How long after the directive is given to crack down on marijuana would it actually take for the justice system to start shutting down dispensaries and making arrests? Is this likely (or even feasible) if the states (and their police forces) refuse to cooperate?

I think that's all for now. Thank you so much! <3


Q:

How effective are the interventions, and in your opinion does the presence of cameras and being shown on TV seem to help, hinder, or have no effect on the addict's willingness to work on breaking their addiction?

A:

oh no, this is the highest voted question? i guess thanks for the thought. but look, depressed people usually can't get out of bed let alone animate something for years. i think i'm pretty happy. i think i have resting sad face. but yeah i am happy. i mean, i can make the films i want to make, whenever i want to, and i don't have to wear a tie most of the time


Q:

1) Our hope and goal is for Congress to take legislative action this year that establishes marijuana as a states' rights issue.

2) As of right now, the Justice Department is still restricted from interfering in medical marijuana laws at the state level. That has not changed as a result of today's announcement. We need Congress to renew that policy, so please call your Congressmen and Senators and urge them to protect state-level medical marijuana laws from federal interference.

3) That remains to be seen. In theory, federal prosecutors and agents could take immediate action against state-legal marijuana businesses.

A:

80-90% of people involved in interventions go to rehab the day of, so pretty successful. It depends on how strong the family in order for the addict is to stay in treatment and stay sober after treatment.


Q:

I feel a bit awkward kind of debunking what you said there but as it’s a mental health issue it’s too important to let pass so for the benefit of anyone reading: not at all true that “depressed people usually can’t get out of bed let alone x”.

In fact that is one of the reasons men in particular fail to get help before attempting suicide - the stigma and perception around depression is that if you’re getting up and going to work and doing stuff then you aren’t depressed. When of course ANYONE with any sort of lifestyle can be depressed or suicidal, and it doesn’t show until they try to take their own life. There are olympic athletes with depression, police officers with depression, politicians and electricians and yep animators all getting up every day and living with depression.

If anyone is reading this and needs help, reach out to your nearest hospital or mental health charity (in the UK Samaritans are very good).

A:

What effect will this have on the states that are currently considering legalizing in 2018? Will states like Vermont, where the legislature seems poised to act, slow down in response to this news? How will this affect marijuana on the 2018 ballot in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Utah?

Second, given Session's somewhat fraught relationship with the president, do you anticipate Trump will react negatively to his Attorney General's decision to move marijuana policy in the opposite direction of what Trump promised on the campaign trail (leave it up to the states)?


Q:

How effective are the interventions, and in your opinion does the presence of cameras and being shown on TV seem to help, hinder, or have no effect on the addict's willingness to work on breaking their addiction?

A:

you are, of course, correct.

what i was trying to say was, when i am depressed the last thing i want to do is go create something. because, to me, creating something takes a hell of a lot of optimism. but the same is definitely not true for everyone.


Q:

Vermont should move ahead. The law that the VT legislature is poised to approve would legalize limited possession and home cultivation. Even if Sessions launches a damaging crackdown on marijuana businesses, that VT law is still very beneficial because it protects individual rights and stops Vermont law enforcement from enforcing certain prohibition laws.

Michigan should move ahead in anticipation of a change in federal policy. Oklahoma and Utah are medical campaigns and less affected by today's news.

I think it's difficult for anyone to predict our President's behavior on any issue. He clearly stated on the campaign that marijuana should be a states' right issue. You can email the White House using this link to remind him of that: http://action.mpp.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=23874

A:

That's my time! Thank you all for your interest in making a difference in the epidemic that we're dealing with in this country. If you have a loved one, please reach out. There's no need to suffer any longer.

I'm really excited about this new season and hope to see you all tonight at 9pm on A&E!


Q:

Where do you do most of your thinking?

A:

hello matt,

The Obama-appointed head of the DEA, Michele Leonhart, was an avid prohibitionist. her replacement Chuck Rosenberg was only moderatly or slightly better. Is it hopeless to wait for the executive branch and Congress? Should we continue the strategy of legalizing state by state, given that Jeff Sessions is just the latest evidence of a lack of federal progress?


Q:

In my limited experience, addiction counselors/workers tend to be addicts themselves. Is it possible to be as effective without that personal experience and intimate knowledge? e.g. Could a 22 year old with no drug or alcohol experience be at all effective?

A:

i think it might be the shower


Q:

We should continue legalizing marijuana at the state level in anticipation of a change in federal policy. At the same time, we should increase pressure on Congress to take action to establish legalization as a states' rights issue. It's a two-pronged approach.

A:

With proper training, absolutely. If someone wants to go to school and learn about the process they could be just as effective at helping people.


Q:

There are dozens of us

A:

hello matt,

The Obama-appointed head of the DEA, Michele Leonhart, was an avid prohibitionist. her replacement Chuck Rosenberg was only moderatly or slightly better. Is it hopeless to wait for the executive branch and Congress? Should we continue the strategy of legalizing state by state, given that Jeff Sessions is just the latest evidence of a lack of federal progress?


Q:

Do you ever find that the addict isn't as "bad" as the request is depicted? How do you choose who to intervene?

A:

get out of my shower


Q:

That being said, we are excited by the medical research being done by organizations such as MAPS. Thanks for reaching out.

A:

Anyone that is asked to come in and intervene on someone, it’s that bad. If there’s a question at all, it’s that bad. It’s difficult to select who to intervene, because so many people need this help.


Q:

How do you manage to present the effects of mental illness and emotions so well in your work? I've never known someone who was able to represent things like sensory overload and dissociation so well. It's amazing how relatable your characters are.

A:

I just want to express my admiration and appreciation for what you and the MPP is doing.

I am an Army veteran, and painfully aware of the 23-a-day veteran suicide rate. I've been saved, and so have many of my brothers and sisters, by having access to nature.

How silly is this, that we're still debating the legitimacy of a plant? Anyway, I am doing what I can to help the fight, and have hand-held 4 of my fellow veterans in to getting their MM cards. NJ makes it overly obnoxious and not very approachable to do so, so someone who knows how helps. It's not much, but what else can a citizen do?

Thank you for you're doing, for what MAPS is doing with clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, for all of these forward-thinkers that are helping to usher in a brighter tomorrow. With love and admiration, SGT L., US Army 2001-2007


Q:

Do you ever find that the addict isn't as "bad" as the request is depicted? How do you choose who to intervene?

A:

thank you but i'm sorry i don't know if i have a very good answer. i try to move in directions that feel right on the screen... things don't always have to make sense or even have a logical explanation as they have to feel right. maybe writing a book is the same. you can't live the experiences and emotions of all your characters in a story to display them factually somehow, so instead you have to create the impression of them. and in a movie you can use movement and sound. i think if anything it just requires a lot of empathy


Q:

Thank you so much for your service, your kind message, and the help you've provided to other veterans in accessing the medicine they need. Suicide, among the general population and among veterans, is a tragic and urgent public health issue. Providing more treatment options for conditions like PTSD is part of the solution. Like you, we're also admirers of the work done by MAPS.

A:

and some of the difficult ones stick with me, like when family members lose loved ones.


Q:
  • Have you ever encountered any instances where someones finger became in part or totally severed?

  • What is your favorite line from the crowd of people all saying things in The Meaning of Life?

  • Why no merch? Im a consumer whore! I want t shirts! Even better: a holographic shirt of Emily Prime waving her arms back and forth, and stickers, and mugs, and an imessage app and and and lasers that shoot the world of tomorrow episode two directly into peoples brains!

A:

How can individuals help to stop this from happening?


Q:

Is treatment more difficult for those who don't have obvious underlying issues (trauma, abuse, neglect, broken home, addicted parent, etc.)?

A:

years ago we used to have merch, shirts and junk, but it was always such a nuisance to stock and create that we sort of shaved it all down to dvds and blu-rays. we made some special "i am so proud of you" snow globes that were my favorite. i've wanted to make weird toys but have never found the time to really investigate. who wants to make weird toys?


Q:

1) Call your Congressmen and Senators: tell them that you want Congress to pass legislation that establishes marijuana legalization as a states' rights issue.

2) Please call the White House at 202-456-1414 or reach out to President Trump on Twitter and tell the administration that you oppose any Justice Department crackdown on state-legal marijuana businesses.

3) Donate to MPP so we can increase pressure on Congress to end federal interference in state-level marijuana laws.

A:

I think every addict has some form of trauma that may not be unraveled at the time. Doing the work and digging in deep is what I recommend if you want long term recovery.

I had trauma and I wasn't aware until I dug in and got self awareness.


Q:

I'll just ask the obvious questions while I think of something better:

  • How's Antarctica going?

  • Do you have any plans in regards of future World of Tomorrow episodes? The 2nd one was incredible, somehow more poignant and even better developed than the first one. I read somewhere that you where planing on downplaying the Emily's in the future, is this still correct?

A:

Will your organization continue to support efforts of legalizing medical cannabis in Missouri (New Approach Missouri ballot initiative) while all this craziness with Sessions is going on?


Q:

Any advice on how to help someone who is clearly struggling with addiction but otherwise has their life together as far as finances, family and a career?

A:

"antarctica" is sort of in limbo right now. about a year ago we were funded for a series of visual tests - the animation i had in my head for the project is sort of something i had never really seen before - and we set up shop for those animation tests with phil tippett in berkeley. usually you work with somebody who's very good with character animation or who's very good with visual effects and with phil you get both, he's a hero. also the last time i was in the studio i spotted this guy: http://www.bitterfilms.com/phil.jpeg

so his studio delivered wonderful work, the tests look cool and interesting and are a good first step but we realized pretty quickly that going in this direction with the visuals would mean a $70 million movie. which is quite a bit more than our producer or anyone was planning on. so there's still a lot to talk about and figure out..


Q:

Yes, we support the campaign in Missouri. And we are helping to lead a medical marijuana ballot initiative campaign in Utah and a full legalization ballot initiative campaign in Michigan. It's full steam ahead for the 2018 ballot initiatives.

A:

Absolutely, surrender to the recovery process. Those people are the hardest people to convince that they need to surrender, because everything on the outside is functional.


Q:

IT'S A WRAP

A:

are there any interesting tactics discussed in terms of finding ways to stymie Sessions or remove him from office rather than fighting on a purely judicial/legislative approach?


Q:

I have heard that opioid addiction is very hard to break, and that full recovery rates are low, is that true?

A:

haaaa


Q:

That would be difficult. We really need Congress to take action so that Sessions no longer has the authority to decide whether or not the federal government should interfere in state level marijuana laws.

A:

Yes, unfortunately. But if you do an intervention, and get the family on the same page, the success rate jumps 50% according to recent studies. That’s our job as interventionists is to help the family learn to move forward appropriately.


Q:

With the ease of online distribution, would you recommend a no-budget animator starting out try to enter some major festivals to kickstart their career?

A:

Greetings from the Philippines! The Philippine' Government is on the move of reviewing the Bill which would legalize marijuana in the country. if you're given the chance to be heard by the government, what will you say/ how will you convince them to approve the bill?


Q:

How do you handle someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem? Do they need to hit a lower bottom?

A:

yes, absolutely i would recommend that. and don't just submit to major festivals. an audience in mudtown is just as good as an audience at cannes. don't discriminate. ANY captive audience these days is a blessing. but yes no-budget filmmakers of all shapes and sizes should still be submitting to festivals. for one thing, if you're able to attend there's no substitute for seeing your work on the big screen, with an audience (particularly if it's a comedy). you are going to learn so much. (even though it's on-demand now, i still wish more people can have the chance to see WOT2 on the big screen... it is an entirely different experience for both them and me). beyond that the festivals are still valuable for publicity... winning a big award or getting legitimate reviews from critics at festival screenings will bring more eyeballs to your work when it appears elsewhere. sorry if this answer feels a bit clipped but i'm typing as fast as i can think :)


Q:

We focus on United States policy, but please feel free to use our website as a resource (mpp.org) and contact us with questions. President Duterte's drug policies are despicable and some of the most inhumane on the planet, so we very much hope that advocates in the Philippines are successful in bringing about more sensible marijuana laws.

A:

Most people I do interventions on don’t believe they have a problem, that’s why we’re called in. What they mean by hitting a lower bottom is that they haven’t hit discomfort, finding where the discomfort lies for each individual is creating that awareness that they need help.


Q:

Hey I just wanted to say that bought your book, The End of the World, and it is now apparently on Amazon worth $10,000. Should I sell it and also would you potenially sign it if I ship it to ya or something? Thanks for being the best guy in the whole filmmaking world.

A:

Overall, do you think the Trump administration being against legal marijuana will help in the long run? People seem to be against anything he is for.


Q:

Thanks for doing this, Ken. Love the show. Which intervention from the show were you most proud of facilitating, and are there any that you wish you could do over?

A:

yeah i saw that too. at one point the book was $14,999 so i guess now it is on sale. we're planning on finally printing more copies of those, maybe in a couple of months


Q:

We would prefer if the Trump administration supported sensible public policies on medical marijuana and legalization.

A:

One of the ones that I’m proudest of is the episode where he fought us really hard and refused to go to treatment to the bitter end. But when he surrendered he was able to spend his last few days before passing away from cancer with his loved ones clean and sober. Regarding the ones that I would do over, are the ones that may not have been successful and didn’t go to treatment. I would like to go back and see what more I could’ve done to get the families to get their loved ones to surrender and into recovery.


Q:

What are your thoughts about online financial supports for artists like patreon or kickstarter?

A:

What is different about the new season and What can we expect?


Q:

for independents you usually have to go with whatever works. if audiences and artists can find each other on those platforms and everyone's happy then that's great.

i've been a little curious if platforms like kickstarter are feeding into something more interesting about an audience's psychology. i kickstarted a blu-ray, mainly to gauge if there was enough interest in releasing one in the first place. i assumed most people were turning away from physical media and was proven to be super wrong... the kickstarter went incredibly well. but i am also convinced that if i had just went and made the blu-ray the traditional way and tried to sell it, we definitely would not have sold so many so fast. kickstarter seems to take that rush people get from ordering something online (is there a word for that?) and really amplify it.

A:

The new season is really exciting. We’re going into a community and showing people that there is a solution in communities. We’re helping communities along with law enforcement, elected officials, and people that lost loved ones and working as a treatment team.


Q:

hello don. thanks for making beautiful art.

what is a song that you have been listening to a lot as of late?

A:

Which drug's addiction carries with it the worst side effects? (As in, what is the overall worst drug to be addicted to in how it affects your day to day life).


Q:

the soundtrack to "phantom thread"

A:

I think the worst ones to detox from are Suboxone and Methadone they have the most painful detox physically.


Q:

Hi Don! Thank you for all that you do. It's a real privilege getting to watch the work you share.

What's your favorite quote or scene that didn't make it into World of Tomorrow ep 2? Why did you cut it? Every line was so sharp and felt important. So watching made me realize that you probably had to do quite a bit of trimming, some of which didn't come easily (especially when you have the cutest voice actor around, Winona Mae!)

A:

What’s the best way to talk to preteens and teens about this serious epidemic? I’m afraid they’re not too young at age 9 or 10 to start watching intervention and see how the disease affects not only the person but the family. Thoughts?


Q:

yes there were loads of things cut from WOT2. it is probably the most rewritten thing i've ever had to wrangle with because my sort-of cowriter was a five year old and in the beginning, none of the audio i was getting out of her was fitting. there's one sequence i began animating and abandoned early on, and there's loads of things i wrote and recorded julia saying that i ended up not needing... entire monologues.

i began writing WOT2 the summer "inside out" came out and when i heard about its premise i sort of panicked and refused to see it until i had finished writing because both things spend time in someone's head. i didn't want "inside out" to color or poison any of the ideas i was working on. i was also kind of concerned that "inside out" would come out first and if my thing was similar people would think i was doing a satire or something. luckily they're pretty different movies. but the following december i saw my niece again and recorded her some more to get try some supplementary material and she had seen "inside out" by then and wouldn't stop talking about it. so i did have audio of her talking about that movie... and for maybe five minutes i thought it would be kind of funny if emily prime just straight up says mid-film, "this is a lot like inside out". so anyway as difficult as her audio was to work with and write around, i would say my favorite bits that were cut were things winona said.

A:

Teens are already effected and aware of the disease. The more information you can give them about the epidemic can educate them and hopefully help them not go down that road.


Q:

Don, what started your fascination with Airport carpet patterns? Love WoT and WoT II, favorite shorts of all time alongside La Jetée!

A:

Do you think that public image of alcohol should change, the same way it changed for cigarettes over the years?


Q:

i have to travel a lot to different theaters and stuff around the country and i started to pay close attention to airport carpet patterns. it's kind of fascinating. sometimes you see little subliminal arrows in the designs or pointy aircraft, to inspire movement. i've always wondered if they are designed specifically for that one airport or if there is a big airport carpet catalog somewhere that the people maintaining the terminal have to thumb through and choose.

A:

Yes, especially since so many people die from alcoholism every year. It needs to have that same type of awareness.


Q:

first of all, you're my hero, so there's that.

second, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A:

What do you think is #1 cause of people relapsing with addiction such as alkoholism?


Q:

as your enemy

A:

I think it’s a hard disease to recover from so relapse is normal since there isn’t enough consequences in front of the addiction for the addict to stop long term. Families could really help by creating the rock bottom.


Q:

Any chance of reprinting End of the World?

A:

Why do you intervene on TV, and not just privately?
edit:+just


Q:

yep i just answered that elsewhere actually but yep. a resounding yep.

A:

I’ve been doing Intervention since 1999 and I’ve been doing them privately for all of these years.


Q:

Hi Don, first of all, congrats on World of Tomorrow Episode 2. It is a fantastic sequel and both parts make up an incredible series.

When you first started making movies, was it a conscious decision to do shorts? Like, was it your preference? Or was that mostly a function of budget constraints (or some other constraints)? Do you ever worry about the 'prestige' of doing shorts vs. doing full length films? Much like authorship, it seems shorter movies aren't taken nearly as seriously as feature length films.

I hope 2018 is good to you and I look forward to whatever you make next.

A:

it was not an original preference, no, but i guess it grew into one. i made four student films in the 90s that all found distribution and made money, which was really unusual. i seemed to have hit upon something that worked so i kept on in that direction because they were profitable... but i quickly realized i also had everything i wanted as a filmmaker... i didn't have to pitch, i didn't have to spend months trying to raise money or find a crew, i didn't have to spend all day in meetings, i could just start writing a project on my own and then go make it. because the audience was there. i didn't realize for quite some time how unusual and lucky that is.

and i think now we're in a space where audiences no longer really care about running times. "world of tomorrow" was the first short film to ever stream on netflix by itself and it was sort of a non-event... nobody really said anything about it being a short, people just recommended it to each other like it was anything else. i think streaming has become a great equalizer... people don't care anymore if something is 12 hours of binge-watching or a great 2 minute short, they just want to see something good.

think about the average running time of a feature film... not so long ago, in order to see a movie, everyone had to leave the house, park the car, have dinner with your date, stand in line and watch a movie in a theater. if they only screened a short it wouldn't be worth all the effort... but they also couldn't screen 5 hour epics or the exhibitors would be upset because they wouldn't be able to run it as many times in a day. we really only settled on this 90-120 minute running time for a movie as a compromise. it had nothing really to do with any artistic reason: it was just long enough, but not too long. and so often movies get crammed into this running time. i've seen plenty of features that would have made great short films but were super padded and i've seen plenty of features that should have been much longer but were chopped down to meet an arbitrary requirement.


Q:

What does your niece think about some of the existential-crises-inducing sci-fi ideas explored in the World of Tomorrow films?

A:

she liked the first one but preferred "frozen"

the saw the second one only a couple of weeks ago and i haven't had a chance to pick her brain about it yet.

she's eight years old now and she's definitely aware of their popularity, it's just hard to know how much she processes it all from scotland. she sent me a really nice good luck note before i went to the oscars.

when she was five or six she had to write a sentence about herself in school and she wrote, "i am beautiful. and famous."


Q:

Ah, forgot to include this question: What are some books you read in the past three years that had an impact on you, good or bad?

A:

i've been in production or traveling for so much of the last few years i haven't been able to get through any of the books i've been hoping to, i have a big dumb pile that has just been staring at me with a really disappointed expression its book-pile-face. i'm finally in a space now where i haven't started work on something new and all-encompassing yet and can sort of drift around and finally read again and watch things... and also go to the dentist the eye doctor and all the other normal life things i've been missing


Q:

How did you wind up doing a Simpsons couch gag?

A:

they asked me, really out of the blue. it was odd, when i first started drawing homer for it, well that squid version of him, it came out really perfect on my first try and i was sort of proud and impressed with myself and then it dawned on me that i used to draw the simpsons endlessly when i was 13 and it was all just muscle memory.


Q:

Hi Don, I'm a huge fan of your work. I was counting the days to finally watch Episode 2, and expectations were exceeded. I hope that in the future there will be an opportunity to watch a movie of yours on the big screen. I think we live in a good time of animation, with great series and movies, either on the big screen or in communities such as vimeo. Can you tell us what has excited you the most? I loved your movies choices for The Criterion Collection, I didn't know Koyaanisqatsi and blow my mind.

A:

hello and thank you

i am usually real out of the loop but somewhat-recent animated shorts i've really liked lately...

"manoman"

"wednesday with goddard"

"i am alone and my head is on fire"

"pineapple calamari"

"snowfall"

"pussy" by renata gasiorowska

anything by reka bucsi

"fox and the whale"


Q:

how do you keep track of all of your ideas, inspirations, jokes, drawings, etc.?

A:

i used to scribble everything down on post-it notes that littered the house but i'd lose them so now i jot them down in my ipad. i have a really bad memory and i can't tell you how many ideas and scenes have been lost because i don't write it down in the moment. you always assume you'll remember something later. when it comes time to write the movie i'm not really writing at that point as much as i'm just gathering up all of those notes


Q:

Do you have financially lean periods as a self-sufficient artist? Do you ever teach or consult to keep flush? What were the years leading up to being self-sufficient like for you, in practical terms?

A:

things aren't as financially lean anymore but yes that used to be a constant thing. i never took a side job because i wouldn't have the time to do both my thing and their thing... it just wasn't an option. back when i was shooting on film i worked so slow a short would take on average 18-24 months to complete. so instead i just scrabbled through the mud until i'd have something new to finish, release, and use that money to finance the next thing. if any of those early projects failed i'm not sure what i would have done about it.

i did teach one time at my alma mater, a single summer class about 15 years ago but i was pretty bad at it. i remember running into the department chair in a post office and she said, "hey have you ever considered coming back and teaching? it could just be for a quarter, you can do whatever you like. unfortunately we can't pay much, only low 5 figures" and i thought, low 5 figures for one quarter, hey that's pretty good maybe i should try that. and i wrote a class on animation from the ground up and got to work that quarter and when i went to get my only paycheck i realized she had misspoke, it was low 4 figures.


Q:

Have you seen the homage to World of Tomorrow in season 3 of Fargo? Curious to hear what you think about it and whether you find it a strange sensation to have inspired such specific stylistic mimicry.

A:

i did see it. i had a nice conversation with noah a while back, he seems like a good guy, they asked if i could write and animate it but at the time their idea for the sequence was like 23 minutes of animation that would span the entire season. and i said i wish i could do it but just wouldn't be able to do it quickly enough. and that was the last i heard about it until the episode came out. i haven't seen the rest of fargo so i don't really know the context but i do kind of wish they'd gone in a different direction... it just seems to have confused and upset a lot of people who assumed i did do it.


Q:

Hi. I'm a fan.

I especially admire your taste in music. When you hear a piece that particularly grabs you, do you already "see" a scene in a potential film to go along with it? Or do you more or less complete your projects before taking music into consideration?

love you

A:

a little of both... the best is when i have the music for a scene in my head ahead of time... or even if the music can flavor and inspire a scene as i'm writing it. i play piano, all of the piano music in the WOT films, even the thing i did for the simpsons, is me playing, which is a great help because i can try out new music that way and as i practice maybe file away pieces that might work someday for this thing or that. other times if i have no luck early on i'll need to figure out the music sort of last minute and in those moments it's really just tearing through CD collections until i finally can find something that works. the beethoven in WOT2 was one of those last minute situations, it's in the middle of the movie where things could start to sag a little bit (the guy with the haircut), and i really desperately needed to find something energetic for that scene to keep us speeding along to the final third.


Q:

Hey, was your niece any more aware that you were recording her for WoT 2 than she was the first time around?

A:

no i don't think she was. i've recorded her annually now between the ages of 4 and 8. there's a lot of audio in the bank. i think she's a little more aware now when the ipad is around that it's possibly recording, but she likes the films so she either forgets about it or is letting me think she does.


Q:

As an aspiring filmmaker what is the ultimate advice you would give to anyone who wants to make movies? How much are your dreams involve in your work? What is your life for and what do you think your doing with it?

A:

"What is your life for and what do you think your doing with it?"

fuuuuuck


Q:

What's your favourite film of 2017?

Loved WOT2 btw, beautiful work!

A:

i enjoyed "the killing of a sacred deer"


Q:

Hi Don,

I went to see World Of Tomorrow Vol. 2 in NYC at the IFC center a few weeks ago, and I'm almost positive I saw you out on the street maybe a block or so from the theatre maybe an hour/hour and half before the show. The show itself was fantastic!! Seeing your films on the big screen, in an actual theater was beyond words! Thank you for taking the time to do another tour!

Afterwards, I REALLY had to use the restroom - sure enough it was located downstairs right by backstage entrance/exit was, and I ran into you again. I didn't want you to think I was some crazed fan, so I just said 'great show' while passing you in the hallway. Pretty sure that's the closest I'll come to meeting any of my personal heroes.

Anyway, I did want to ask you this though: Do you ever struggle with motivation or a lack of energy when making your films? If so, do you have any advice for self motivating and finding a way to keep pursuing a dream? How do you tell yourself to keep going when it's tough and impossible?

Thank you!

A:

hey thanks

and thank you also for not asking me that in the restroom hallway

when things are seeming tough and impossible, try to identify what's so tough and impossible about it. that sounds pretty dumb and simple but very often we are too close to a project to actually see it. step away from it for a few days and look at it from another angle. maybe the drama needs to be a comedy. maybe it should take place 2000 years in the future. do whatever you need to do to make it exciting to work on again. writing is 99% rewriting. don't stop until it clicks again.

animating is terribly dull, at least for me, and it is the least spontaneous way to make a movie. you're grinding it out one frame at a time. finding ways to get that rare feeling of surprise and spontaneity in something that's made so slowly - whether it's my niece saying something unexpected, or suddenly rewriting something i'm already halfway done with - is really helpful for me to stay plugged in.


Q:

What do you do for a living? Does being an independent animator really gives you enough for a living?

A:

it does! until people stop buying tickets or renting the titles i guess


Q:

What are your thoughts on your old shorts?

A:

they are kind of hard to watch, maybe like re-reading your old diary. not YOUR old diary, my old diary. your old diary is great. the old films are OK but i've noticed how none of my student films ever seem to go away. which is maybe a unique thing about animation, i don't know. but you never hear about a live action filmmaker's student films. like, never. even if they're real famous directors the student films are just sort of forgotten and maybe pushed to one side as a footnote. but for better or worse i can't seem to escape my student films. people still like to rank them and discuss them alongside the other ones. i guess maybe because they're all shorts? but it's funny... someone will ask a deep question about one of them maybe not realizing that i was 19 and barely knew how to make my hair look right let alone operate the camera


Q:

Now that you're digital, what tools are you using? I'm specifically interested in what you're using for the fun 3D background things you're making, like the rotating "flowers."

A:

the effect of the rotating flowers is so dumb that i'm afraid to tell another animator because they'd be so unimpressed


Q:

hi don, thank you for doing another ama. i have been following your work since the early 00s when i was in high school. in a lot of ways, your work has had a huge impact on my life. i have an "everything will be ok" tattoo. i really don't think that young me watching 'rejected' in poor quality in someone's basement would have believed that if i told her. thank you for continuing to create.

kinda in that vein, my question for you is what is something in your life that you would never have anticipated the effect it would have on you?

thanks again, even if you don't answer, and i hope you have a good day despite the head cold.

A:

you know, more interesting to me than the big things having an effect, like deciding to go here for school or deciding to rent this apartment over that one, are the little things we rarely pay attention to. if i hadn't gone to the supermarket on this one day at this specific time, i wouldn't have run into this person who asked me to do this one thing, which is how i met this other person and X, Y, Z and your entire life has a new path. why did i need to go to the supermarket that day? what was it i needed? what parking space did i find to sync it perfectly for me to meet that one person? the flow of it all seems so tenuous and weirdly easy to screw up. which i guess is life. when i do screenings and a few hundred people show up i wonder what they all would have been doing that night instead, if i wasn't doing a show - and if any of their lives might be that much different now one way or another


Q:

world of tomorrow episode two is so beautiful in so many ways. thank you for making it.

there was so much depth in the visuals. everything was eye candy. can you walk us through how you went about creating the worlds and all of the layers involved? the "images of gardens in our heads" was stunning.

A:

thanks! i touched on this briefly somewhere else around here, explaining a cloud tank we built and almost all the other effects came from practical or even live action sources because i'm just not that well versed in 3D animation and i had better results banging elements of shots together from all sorts of different sources rather than building something from the ground up. and from there they were heavily manipulated and composited until it formed something i liked. some shots are so heavy with intentional rendering glitches that i couldn't actually tell you how they were made... often the most interesting things couldn't be reproduced or reverse engineered which reminded me a lot of the weird optical effects and things i used to try on film for stuff like "it's such a beautiful day." sorry this is probably not very helpful since it was more or less "a little bit of everything". but i tried not to storyboard very much in favor of plowing through every shot fresh every day, which is how the first one was made. i tried not to fuss over details until i was able to look at things again from a distance.


Q:

Thanks for doing this AMA! I just want to say that It's such a Beautiful Day is one of my favorite films ever. Something about the story just hits home for me.

I've enjoyed your World of Tomorrow films as well.

How did you go about making the dialogue for Emily in the newest film? Was it a different process than before? Did you recycle any unused audio from the first World of Tomorrow?

Also do you plan to make any more World of Tomorrow episode?

A:

my niece was 5 in the newest film and believe it or not she actually sounded quite different than when she was 4, in the first one. not just in the pitch of her voice but a big leap forward in expressiveness.

so using leftover stuff from age 4 for her character in the new one wasn't really an option because it wouldn't match.

i only found the older recordings useful for one thing... (spoiler alert?) .... when the three young emily clones are chatting in the facility, there's a young emily 10 there who's getting updated and says, "do you hear the cars outside..?" that bit was my niece at age 4 again


Q:

1) Any unique sources where you found inspiration for World of Tomorrow? (More broadly, where does your inspiration come from?)

2) If Kathleen Kennedy suddenly had a wild streak and gave you a Star Wars film to do anything your heart desired with, what would you do?

Love your work so much Don! Keep it up!

A:

2) nice try, kathleen kennedy


Q:

How often do you run your creative ideas by other people in your life before finishing them? I've been conceptualizing my first post-college film and deciding when to ask for feedback from friends and loved ones or if it's a good idea in the first place has been kind of a challenge.

Loved your stuff for like half my life now and you're a big part of why I decided to try to be an animator, thanks for the AMA!

A:

if i run into an issue with timing or have a question about clarity i'll drag my best friend or girlfriend into the room and show them a scene and quiz them, but i try to only do this very rarely. when i'm nearly finished with a project i want the people closest to me to be the first to see it so they can offer me notes then, totally fresh to it. but if you're stuck it's never a bad idea to ask for help. sometimes you're so close to a project you really miss obvious stuff


Q:

Hello Don,

Could you share thoughts of your creative process from when you did the simpsons couch gag?

Any plans for future simpsons collaborations or ideas for theme park rides?

A:

i was always sort of weirded out by cartoon time and how that worked. for long-running comic strips too, long before the simpsons. some newspaper comics have been around for half a century. but the characters don't age. how does time work for them? and then the simpsons became like the longest running show on television and i started thinking about it again. bart is supposed to be like 10 or so, but does he have memories from episodes 20 years ago? how is it all reconciled? it makes me really uncomfortable. also, they don't age but they do sort of evolve. they look a lot different now than they did in the late 80s. so that just got me thinking about what if this longest running show just never ends, ever, and all the original talent is long dead and it just keeps on going forever and evolving alongside humanity. (and also what is comedy like in the deep future?)

i'd be happy to do another thing for them but they haven't asked


Q:

Are you ok? After long cycles of work, what do you go to just get the fuck away from everything?

A:

i murder


Q:

One thing that really interested me from your most recent AMA/your online journal is that you said (something along the lines of) you don't watch many animations, they just are the form that best suits the stories you want to tell in the way you want to tell them.

Do you or would you ever have a place online where you chronicle some of the art/movies/music/anything that have inspired you most? Would be very interested in that.

Also, since I mentioned the online journal, do you plan to sporadically keep that up or has twitter become your go to?

Thank you for making what you have made, It's Such A Beautiful Day just might be the single most important piece of artwork to me and I still can't quite believe how great WoT2 is.

A:

i really truly have to train myself to get back to writing in my journal. twitter should not be anyone's go-to for anything. i just get so busy the journal gets washed out of my mind. but i can say without a doubt that the one thing i'm most proud of writing, ever, is that journal. it's just years of nonsense but it's the only catalog i have of every single production since the late 90s.

when you animate, the days and weeks go by in a very blurry fashion. you don't remember much, at least i don't. i think the brain only forms new memories when something unusual happens in your life. i couldn't tell you what happened at thanksgiving in 2009 because most thanksgivings are sort of the same. but i do remember the one thanksgiving when the toilet broke and everyone had to drive to the jack and the box to use the restroom. and when you're working on a weird project like this for a long time you settle into this sort of routine where not much unusual happens day to day and all of your time sort of smears together. that journal has been the only thing that helps me unsmear it and remember where all that time went


Q:

What kind of software did you use to create The World of Tomorrow?

(I know it's kind of a weird question, but the visuals of it are so wacky I can't help but wonder)

A:

it's just a real old version of photoshop and a real old version of final cut. that's all. i mix sound in protools. i haven't learned aftereffects. i tried out some animation software in the beginning of WOT but i didn't like any of the brushes. photoshop is real clunky and crashy for animation, well this version of it at least, but they had the best brushes i could find.


Q:

Don, what is the secret code in the front pages of your book The End of the World for?

A:

it wouldn't be a secret code if that wasn't a secret, now would it?


Q:

Hi Don,

I love your work. World of Tomorrow is my favorite world. Will you please make many more?

Thank you, no further questions.

A:

hello and thanks. i've been writing down ideas for a 3rd one but i haven't started writing anything. i'm not ready to commit yet... i'm not sure if it's what i want to do next. i have maybe 1/3 of the story and so far emily is barely involved, which i think is what's most interesting to me right now. this could all change overnight. but the first two shorts mirror each other in such a nice way that if there's going to be more and it's going to stay interesting, we're gonna need to go off into some other directions


Q:

What was the process with making the final scene in "It's such a beautiful day"? How did you feel making it?

A:

the final sequence of "beautiful day" was originally an idea for an entirely different movie. what if someone just can't die? through no fault of their own, for unknown reasons, he just can't die? it was just an interesting half-baked thing in my head for a while and i don't think i realized it made sense to be the ending for the 3rd movie until i was already many months in production on it. the original idea for the ending of the 3rd one had already been stolen by me to use as the ending for the 2nd one... i had very little leftover when i started writing the 3rd one. i don't remember if i had even decided on an ending for the 3rd one when i started animating it (probably not).

so i was excited to use it for the ending because it really opened up the movie... but i was tired. i was so tired by that point. i don't think i felt much of anything after finishing it other than just being really tired.


Q:

Hey Don, how do you like your coffee?

A:

i've never been a coffee drinker


Q:

hi don!!

even if you don't end up answering all of the questions I just want to say how much your work has meant to me. I must've watched world of tomorrow ep 1 at least 20 times in one week, not counting all of the times I (occasionally forcibly) sat people down to watch it, and I think about it's such a beautiful day and the end of the world a lot.

question: how did you accomplish some of the effects that you pulled off in WoT ep 2? there were some visuals, especially those trees, that just left my jaw on the floor. are you a wizard?

A:

hey, thanks!

so i'd always wanted to make a cloud tank. i grew up in love with ILM and would buy a ticket to any movie that they did the special effects for. and i realized recently how much i miss cloud tanks. these days you have digital matte paintings and digital spaceships and a digital version of just about every other classic special effect - except for cloud tanks, which were always such a unique and incredibly surreal effect (see: "poltergeist," "close encounters" etc)

so anyway while i was working on WOT2 my girlfriend was working with terrence malick doing compositing on "voyage of time" and their crew were doing all sorts of amazing practical effects with planets and giant cloud/ink tanks and we were both sort of fired up enough to make a cloud tank of our own for WOT2. so we did: http://www.bitterfilms.com/cloudtank.jpeg

basically, it's half salt water and half fresh water and where those two divide in the tank is where interesting stuff happens and inks and things spread out.

so most of those big swirly backgrounds and skies in WOT2 are organic, coming from this cloud tank we experimented with... sometimes further messed around with by me digitally.

for anyone who caught the little theatrical tour i was just on, there was a surprise animated intro in the beginning... we dragged the cloud tank back out for that to create this purple nebula thing, along with a bunch of cool model planets.

so anyway 99% of the time the special effects are going to be practical like this or coming from some sort of organic background because honestly it's the only way i know how to do it... have really animated 3D.


Q:

Hey Don, I was a huge fan of Temporary Anesthetics back in it's day, so much that I have a tattoo of one of the panels from "Wisdom Teeth." Any plans to do short web comics again?

A:

nah i didn't really know what i was doing and i probably still wouldn't. i don't feel real comfortable doing graphic design type stuff or layout. like just having to design a poster for the new movie feels like the biggest most impossible nuisance. i did the "end of the world" comic book and really missed the immediacy of being able to use sound and movement.


Q:

Were there any major ideas that were scrapped for It's Such a Beautiful Day?

A:

hmmmmmm not that i can remember, no. there were a few deleted scenes from the first two chapters, i think they can be found in the galleries of the "single" DVDs of those, but nothing real substantial. the last thing you want to do in animation is cut a finished scene because it all takes so much long to make.

i think there was only one deleted scene in all of the third chapter, it's very short, a dream about a strange creature on a beach. because it was cut from the movie before the narration and audio work began, when i put the scene on the "volume 2" DVD in 2012 as a bonus feature i dug up the original script for it and found myself narrating again for the first (and last) time since the movie was finished.


Q:

Do It's Such a Beautiful Day and World of Tomorrow happen in the same universe? Is this some sort of Hertzfeldt Cinematic Universe? If that's the case, in which phase are we right now?

A:

ok who is good at fan fiction? get to work


Q:

my internet speed doesn't really allow me to watch World of Tomorrow part 2 in one go when i rented it, it stops every minute or so even when i watch at 360p, so i was wondering if you're gonna put it for download at some point?

A:

yes it will be available for download but i'm not sure when. it may be a few more weeks still. we need it to perform well enough before everyone steals it and torrents it. but seriously though don't watch it at 360p


Q:

Here's something I was wondering: your work is often sad and tragic, but always seems to have a dash of dark humor peaking through all of it.

Do you see the funny things in life as tragic or is it more the other way around, where you see the humor in the sad things around you?

PS love all your stuff <3

A:

i think the moment you lose your sense of humor in the face of sad things all around you is when you start to lose everything. i've read memoirs by people who spent years in concentration camps but were still able to wake up with a sense of humor about their situation and i think that's beautiful.


Q:

Just wanted to say I really appreciate your work and am a huge fan of the craft of animation.

In your opinion, are advancements in computer technology helping or hurting creativity?

A:

helping. they're all just tools, what matters is how you use it.


Q:

Hi Don, I'm an absolutely massive fan of your work. I saw you at the LACMA for World of Tomorrow 2, I've got a signed Blu-ray of your collected work, and I actually have a tattoo of Bill on my arm. I'll go ahead and circumvent the paragraphs where I gush about how much your stuff means to me and get right to my questions.

  1. What is your feedback process like? Do you have people who you go to regularly when you're writing or developing your projects?

  2. The first World of Tomorrow felt much like your earlier work, stylistically speaking, but World of Tomorrow 2 seemed to utilize the digital animation and 3d space in a more pronounced way. Was this a conscious choice going into it, or did it happen naturally? Is it something you'd like to continue to push with your work?

  3. At LACMA, you talked about how earlier this year you were doing development tests in Berkley(?) for a feature concept, but didn't go into any more detail. Is there anything more you can share about that?

Thanks again for doing the AMA. I look eagerly forward to whatever you release next!

A:

hello (again)

i think 1 and 3 were answered elsewhere here but here is 2. i think it was probably as simple as "hey i sort of know what i'm doing now a little bit more." the first WOT was literally the first thing i had ever drawn on a tablet before. i am still really naive to all the digital tools now at my fingertips but in 2015 i was relatively clueless.

the only problem the second time around was the old software i was using kept crashing and exploding beyond its limits because while i was learning new tricks and trying new things, i also didn't want to upgrade anything and do something to make the two films look drastically different from each other. but now that i'm between projects i will get software that was made in this decade.


Q:

I have to know

do you watch anime? what is your favorite anime? best waifu? possible anus-bleeding cloud body pillows to look forward to in the near future?

A:

i haven't seen hardly any anime. i'd like to but i've never known where to start. i remember seeing "voices from a distant star" though and loving it.


Q:

H Mr. Hertzfeldt, your stories are so unique, I was just wondering if you had any directorial advice? Thank you! :~)

A:

think about all the things in other people's movies that really bother you and then don't do them


Q:

Are you happy with doing short films for the moment or do you plan on making another feature length soon?

A:

i don't have a plan yet for what's next and that's maybe the best feeling of all. i'm going to spend some time floating around until something pulls me one way or another


Q:

Your fan-fiction comment to another question reminded me: do you harbor some secret truth about which of Bill's memories were invented? Thinking specifically of the Wyoming folks and their inheritance of faith, hallucinations, etc. Bill's family's genogram--taking all of his knowledge at face value--is beautiful.

A:

yes sort of. along with the specific medical details of bill's illness. just general stuff that is never meant to be in the story but helps you write because you know where the walls are


Q:

Are you aiming for haunting and stumbling into hilarious or vice versa?

I'll take my answer off the air.

A:

lately i feel like i'm stumbling everywhere