Wrapped in chains, a worm languishes in prison.
Interview with Writer/Director Becky James
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I made this animation for the former Brooklyn music venue Death By Audio. I was an associate of the space, which I loved most of all for the atmosphere of bizarre play, friendship, and DIY possibility. Many of the people who helped me with this animation were founders and leaders of Death By Audio.
The video was supposed to run on a loop outside the bathrooms of Death by Audio, for the people waiting in line. To relate to this placement, I decided to make a film that took place after or beside the real action--in my animation, the worm seems to have been captured and is held for questioning, but the audience can’t fully tell why. The real conflict, the real war, the real show, is elsewhere. We are just waiting in the wings.
Very sadly, after a fight with Vice Media, the venue was forced to close before we finished the film, so I set about releasing it through other means.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
If you like worms. If you don’t like worms.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I was trying to make a movie that deals with boredom in as short a time as possible. There are a lot of movies that address boredom and anticipation in 2 hours; mine is 3 minutes. The first half is very plain and stark animation, no color, little background, many scenes of a worm sitting. The second half is lush and surreal live action, one long shot leading to a climax. Both sections have a “background” logic of a war between birds and worms, showing a resistant worm who is executed, but you have to sort of figure this out and suspend all your assumptions about hierarchies of meaning—the humans are only mechanical executioners working for the birds.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Well, with animation you move very very slowly, as everyone knows. This means that decisions about plot can develop as animating goes along. You have a lot of time before the next scene to go over ideas and changes. I think this animation just got shorter and shorter. I think now it’s maybe too short, I sometimes wish I had gone the other way and made it incredibly long and boring but that was not the idea for the movie.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It’s been good but about what we expected. The film was designed to be on a loop in the background of a room, not a screening venue, so people like the animation best when it is displayed in art shows. It wasn’t my first choice to release it to festivals, but it has shown some great places like New Orleans and Fantastic Fest, Newport Beach, Slamdance, Florida, etc. I think ‘Worm’ is a particular movie in that it’s more about creating a sort of lost feeling than a driving plot.
I have learned a lot from showing it with other animation. Mostly just that I like junky animation. ‘Worm’ is actually a bit fancy for me, if you can believe it.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I don’t see each of my animations as needing to answer every question or make a statement about my feelings about all of life. I am glad I finished ‘Worm’ but it was a remnant of an earlier set of interests, so now it’s a bit hard for me to think of it as representing my point of view. I had made a number of films about repetition and liminal narrative, and I think when I finished this one I was like, ok now I am over that for a bit. Which is great! A lot of the point of animating for me is actually working out ideas and trying things that I am not sure will work. It’s so nice to feel like I have digested whatever set of circumstances was confusing me or preoccupying me.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I would like people to see it! This is the most important thing to me at this stage.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I am not looking for anything in particular with this movie. I am slowly building a point of view as an animator, for myself as well as to establish an audience. I am trying not to get too precious with myself and my thoughts, just to keep moving forward and working through ideas.
One of my former professors told me a lot of getting people to like your work is getting them used to your perspective. I do think I make kind of unusual things and so I am just putting them out there and slowly trying to adjust people’s expectations of how to watch animation, of what is expected in a cartoon.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Generally, I want people to be more aware of the constructedness of stories. In this movie, you as a viewer really have to figure it out. You have to be active (a lot more than the worm) to understand the story.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What are different ways to get involved in watching a movie BESIDES relating to a character or situation? On a different track: What are the kinds of dramas that go on for creatures totally different than us?
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I’m working on a really fun animation about a bug who reads a magazine called Legs Magazine which is about how it’s sooooo fun to have a lot of legs. The bug also likes pizza.
Interview: November 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Wrapped in chains, a worm languishes in prison.
Length: 3 minutes
Director: Becky James
Producer: Matt Conboy
Writer: Becky James
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer/Director: Becky James uses humor, violence, and fragmentation to explore the fringes of narrative. She has exhibited animation in dozens of film festivals including SXSW, Slamdance, Sidewalk, Rooftop Films, Animation Block Party and IFF Rotterdam. A native New Yorker, James graduated from Harvard and received her MFA from Bard.
Producer: Matt Conboy is a writer/director whose work includes narrative, documentary and advertising films. In 2007 he was the co-founder of Death By Audio. He has directed two short fiction films, as well as the short documentary “Checking in At Twenty” for Pitchfork Media. His commissioned work includes commercials for ad agencies and music videos for Grooms and A Place to Bury Strangers.
Key cast: Amanda Salane, Holden Miller
Release date: March 2015