Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Adam Elliot

Adam Elliot. I'm guessing he's either a filmmaker, or a man who writes children's books. I say this based on where he stands on my list.

Well, Lord Wiki says he's a filmmaker. He's the clay animation man. He made Harvie Krumpet and Mary and Max. Yesterday, I spent time with Mad Max. Today I shall spend time with Aspie Max.

I've seen Harvie Krumpet. I haven't seen Mary and Max yet.

Elliot wasn't born in the 1940's like most of the other filmmakers I've researched lately. He was born in the same year as me...1972. I was born in November. Elliot was born on 2 January.

He was born in South Australia. His mother was a hairdresser. His dad was a retired acrobatic clown. How cool is that?! The family lived on a shrimp farm in the outback. That sounds weird to me. Shouldn't a shrimp farm be near the coast? I guess they had their own salt water tanks or something. Well, I guess there's aquariums in noncoastal cities. So why not shrimp farms?

Well anyway, Lord Wiki says the shrimp farm didn't work out. It went bankrupt. Daddy Elliot moved his wife and three kids to Melbourne. There he opened up a hardware store.

Elliot went to the Victorian College of the Arts to study animation. At the age of twenty-four, he made a short film called Uncle. Here it is on YouTube. The narrator of the film talks about his uncle being a hardware store owner. I wonder if he modeled the uncle character after his father.

You know what movie reminds me of Adam Elliot's stuff? Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It's slightly more upbeat than Elliot's stuff, but it has the same sort of....I don't know. Characters? Themes? The main character's father...the guy who owns the fish shop...especially reminds me of an Adam Elliot character.

I'm still watching the uncle video. It's well-done, but depressing. From what I've seen of Elliot's work, I'd say his themes are A) some people have really rotten luck and B) Even people with rotten luck still manage to have some moments of simple happiness.

He has the Aussie Battler thing going on.

Elliot made Cousin a few years later. Here's the video. The cousin has Cerebral Palsy.

Oh, I like this movie much more. So far, it's much less depressing. I felt pity for the uncle, and I hate feeling pity for people. It's one of the worst feelings. For the cousin, I feel admiration. He's strong and funny...maybe a little dangerous. But he makes me laugh. I'd rather laugh than feel pity.

The end is a bit sad.

The next animation short from Elliot was Brother. Here's the video. I wonder how biographical it is. The narrator says his father and uncle were acrobatic clowns. Oh. And he also mentions his mom being a hairdresser.

Well, that was pretty sad too.

Harvie Krumpet came out in 2003. I've already watched the video, so I'm not going to do that again. I'll read about it though.

It won an Oscar and AFI award for best animated short. It actually won a TON of awards, but I'm not going to list all of them. I'm looking at the previous animation shorts. He won stuff for those as well. As far as I can see, each movie in the family trilogy thing earned an AFI award for best animation short.

Lord Wiki says his films have won over a hundred awards. That's pretty damn impressive.

Elliot's first full-length animation project came out in 2009. That was Mary and Max. It's about a man in America, with Aspergers, who befriends a young girl in Australia. The man is voiced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The girl (when she grows up) is voiced by Toni Collette.

I'm reading the plot page on IMDb. They say the man is severely overweight. Aspergers isn't mentioned. Maybe I dreamed that. Or maybe it's the Melbourne girl who has Aspergers? Maybe the man is overweight AND has Aspergers.

The movie has won some awards, but no AFI or Oscars yet. I'm guessing maybe it just hasn't come to that yet. The awards for 2009 will be given out in 2010.

Here's the trailer for Mary and Max.

The falling air conditioning unit is very scary to me. I used to live in NYC, where many of us had one of those things. You do have to wonder if sometimes people install them improperly.

It looks like a beautiful movie. I definitely want to see it.

It's nice when lonely people can find friends.

Goodness. I just took a break to go to the grocery store with Jack. It's CRAZY in my neighborhood. Our street has been blocked for water work so I can't take the easy straightforward route to the grocery store. I have to take a right and go all the way around. Well, we headed that way, and that route was blocked as well. I had to find a third route. There's construction all over the place.

Anyway, here's an interview with Adam Elliot. It was done at the Sundance Film Festival. Oh, that's coming up in a few days! January 21-31. I didn't realize it took place in Utah. They have a movie there about cane toads. And here's yet another Australian film. Animal Kingdom. It's about Melbourne.

I'd say Australia is doing very well in the film least in terms of independent type films.

Here we go. This page has all the Australian films that will be at the festival. Bran Nue Dae is one of them. I want to see that.

Let me get back to that interview. It's actually a video on YouTube.

Elliot is with the producer of the movie, Melanie Coombs. He says it took nineteen months to make Mary and Max. On top of that, it took a year to write the script. And it took around a year to raise the money. They say they started the project right after winning the Oscars. After the big win, they struggled a bit regarding what to do next.

Coombs says that in Australia, films aren't a for-profit business. It's a cultural expression type thing. I guess this refers to Aussie films getting government money. Elliot says he doesn't think the film could be made in least not with the studios. I think it COULD have been made as an independent film.

Elliot and Coombs are asked how they dealt with the stress and pressure of making the film. Elliot replies that they did a lot of drinking. He says they also had behind the scenes romances and divorces to entertain themselves. There were about fifty total people working in the studio. That's pretty tight-knit, I'd imagine. I wonder how many people work on an average movie.

They talk about the development of the characters. Elliot says he based the New Yorker on a penpal he had. I wonder if the penpal knows about that. Oh okay. They do mention Aspergers here. They say this penpal was very much like Max...Jewish, atheist, overweight, Aspergers, etc. Mary, on the other hand, was more fictional.

Elliot seems incredibly sweet. He's very soft-spoken, but talkative. He reminds me of someone. Also, he seems humble, but not in a phony obnoxious way.

He talks about working with the actors. He's asked if they wanted to change the script at all. Elliot said not at all; but he had told them they're welcome to improvise a little bit. He says that he didn't give them much direction. He just pressed record and they did their lines. I think I'd prefer to work with a director like that...well, if I was an actor. I mean I think it's fine if a director gives SOME direction. But I wouldn't want to work with someone who never invited my input, or treated me like some kind of puppet.

This surprised me. Out of the nineteen months of production work, guess how long the voice-actors worked.....

Two days! Wow. That shocked me.

Here's Adam Elliot's official website. It has more information about Mary and Max. It took a total of 120 people to make the film. The fifty I mentioned before, I think, are the ones who were together on a regular basis. The others are probably the ones who work outside the studio/set...whatever.

The budget for the film was eight million dollars.

The site says Elliot is working on his next film. I wonder what that will be about.

Here's an article from Urban Cinefile. I love how Coombs and Elliot describe making the film. Great analogies here! Elliot says, it's like making love and being stabbed to death at the same time. Coombs says it's like running a marathon with two screaming vomiting children.
Those are very colorful analogies. I think a lot of big projects feel that way. I feel that way when I write really long blog posts. I definitely felt that way when I made my sister's wedding video. Sometimes, it was wonderful. Other times, it was incredibly stressful.

This is ironic. The site says that in the movie, Mary uses her gained knowledge to write a book about Aspergers. This makes Max angry, and he ends the friendship. Isn't this a bit like what Adam Elliot did? He took his penpal friendship, and turned it into a movie. Although maybe he and his penpal aren't friends anymore. I don't know whether or not I'd be offended if someone wrote a movie based on me. I'd probably be flattered. Maybe? Maybe not.

Here, they say it took about five years from conception to screen. I thought in the interview, they said it took three years. Maybe I miscounted.

It took about one week to make each two and half minutes of film. Wow.

Elliot was inspired by the photography of Diane Arbus. I think I've mentioned her before. She's the one who took the photograph that inspired the creepy twin thing in The Shining.

There were 212 puppets made for the movie, and 133 sets.

I'm looking back at IMDb to get a better sense of the time it took to make the movie. They said in the interview that it took one year to write, one year to find the money, and nineteen months to make the film. Well, I guess that would be about four years. But they also said they started on it pretty much after they won the Oscar for Harvie Krumpet. That came out in 2003. So that would be five-six years, not four. There's one mysterious year there. Maybe they took a year to decide to write it.

Who knows.

Time Out Sydney has an interview with Elliot. He says the Oscars will help open some doors to them. Why? They can use that fact in advertising posters for their films. Elliot says.... so it will hopefully help get bums on seats. But if the film’s crap the film’s crap, and it won’t make any difference.
Elliot believes that the Oscar for animation short has more artistic integrity. The other prize categories involve way too much lobbying. I agree with him there. In many ways, it's a popularity contest. And it's about who has the connections and money to get their movie seen by those that will be voting. I guess there's less of that with the short stuff.

Elliot is gay. He shocked the people at Oscar night by thanking his boyfriend. Really? In Hollywood? That's shocking? People come out of the closet left and right these days.

Elliot talks about how there are all these rules about the Oscar statue thingie. You can't sell it. You can't melt it. Elliot says, It comes with a lot of conditions – unfortunately about the only thing it doesn’t come with is a cheque. That's pretty funny.

Here's an interview in a Jewish museum website.

Elliot is not too nice when it comes to CGI. He says, CGI is so robotic and seamless. Its only motivation is one of self-interest. I think that's kind of bullshit, and snobby of him to say that. I think the important thing is the STORY, and not the medium that's used. Yeah, it's cool and impressive that he worked nineteen months and built all these puppets and sets. But it doesn't mean he has a better product.

I've seen a lot of very good CGI movies.... Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Shrek, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Up, The Bee Movie, etc.

Yeah. Maybe they aren't as daring as Max and Mary, in terms of tackling controversial difficult subjects. But I think there's room in the world for both kinds of movies.

Elliot talks about the use of color in Max and Mary. That's interesting. He says he remembers brown in Australia, so those scenes in the movie have that color. He pictured NYC as having a lot of concrete. The colors in those scenes reflect that.

Here's another interview.

Elliot talks about being shy. He says he's always been that way. But after winning an Oscar, he learned to be able to do interviews.

He says after he won the Oscar for Harvie Krumpet, he was offered work in other people's movies. He didn't want to do it. He felt he'd lose too much creative control. I can sympathize with that. I much prefer working on my own projects, than helping someone else with theirs.

Elliot says despite his cabinet full of awards, he doesn't have a lot of money. I guess his work doesn't bring in a lot of cash. He pretty much has a choice between selling out to Hollywood, or doing only the type of movies he loves to do. Personally, if I was in that situation, I'd sell out to Hollywood. I'd suffer through it, make some money, and then go back to doing my own stuff. When I said I prefer working on my projects above....Well, it's not like I've been frequently offered other jobs. Tim did ask me to write some blog posts for the nonprofit organization he works for. And this wasn't even for money. He wanted me to do it for free. He thought it would be a huge honor for me. Well, I moaned. I complained. I said I can't work that way. Blah, blah, blah, blah. But I still did it. Although it was never used. I think Tim realized it's probably best if I DO just write for myself.

Doing the video for my sister's wedding was much more stressful than making my own videos for fun. I had other people down my my sister. Although I did have some creative control.

I prefer working on my own. No outside rules or deadlines. I can do what I want. But if someone offered me a LOT of money to do something for them, I'd seriously consider doing it. Sometimes the suffering is worth the money. Of course, I wouldn't want to do something against my morals and integrity. I'm fairly lose when it comes to that least in terms of art. Elliot seems a bit more uptight. I mean he thinks CGI stuff is all crap. I think he's a film snob. And a person like that is destined to be the type who has many awards and very little money. But as long as he has enough money to eat; cloth and shelter himself; and make the movies he loves to make.....then all should be fine. All I'm saying is that if he WANTS a lot of money, he'll probably need to sell out a little bit.


  1. I LOVE Harvie Krumpet- Mary and Max not so much but it's nice too. I love Claymation...I am so glad he does them cos I wouldn't have the patience to make them myself!

    Oh and the other claymations:


  2. As you say, he seems humble and thoroughly sweet. He also has a good sense of humour.

  3. Zhen: My in-laws liked Wallace and Gromit. I couldn't really get into it.

    Does Rudolph count as claymation?

    Andrew: Well, by the time I finished the research, I no longer stood by the humble bit. But I do still think he's sweet and has a good sense of humor.

    Ah, who needs humble anyway. It's way overrated.

  4. eeeeww, claymation =D


    we love Pingu. C loves Wallace and Gromit.

    Did you like Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs, Dina? We just saw that this week. Didn't appeal to me at all, but the kids liked it. I guess I liked it ok.. seems like it had an original premise. Not like the million and one remakes coming out now.

  5. HappyOrganist,

    I did like it, but Tim and Jack didn't like it much.

    What can I say? I like seeing food falling on people's head.

    What is the deal with all the remakes?