søndag den 22. januar 2012

Dmitri Shostakovich: Moving music

The artistic approach and structure of “Topaz Diary” will be much like that of a symphony.  The story divided into separate movements (or chapters) of different themes, with a slight pause between movements. Certain elements will be woven through all the movements tying them together as an overall piece. This not only emphasizes the structure, it gives a certain sense of poetry to the film. To me, music is the greatest emotional link a film maker can have to an audience, and it will play a major role in the storytelling of “Topaz Diary.” Sometimes the music will take the lead, driving the visuals. At other times, the narrative will take precedence with music taking a more supportive role. This melding of visuals and music to push emotion is what animation does more powerfully than any other visual medium. But unlike other animated films that have used musical structures in a similar way, such as Disney’s “Fantasia,” or Mike Smith’s “1001 Nights;” each movement will take definite role in revealing the story and character of Fred Hoshiyama. 

While researching great examples of moving symphonies, and musical structure, composer Bill Benson, who is writing music for "Topaz Diary," turned me onto his favorite; Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 in D minor. 

Bill wrote, "Amazing pieces not only musically but the circumstance they were written. He (Shostakovich) was being accused by the Russian authorities that he was not patriotic to mother Russia and was going to be shot. He was under severe watch and threats and so basically wrote these to save his own life. Not like a requiem, but a socialist anthem perhaps....yet they are DARK and full of strife and beauty. Rips your heart out kinda stuff!"

torsdag den 25. august 2011

San Francisco Sketches

Above: Coit Tower
I've decided to post a few of the San Francisco sketches that I've been working for "Topaz Diary."  Fred Hoshiyama spent many, many years of his life in the bay area, both before and after his camp experience at "Topaz." I've made a number of mood sketches that try to capture the personality of the city.

Above: Depression era San Francisco, top... the way most people saw it, in contrast with the bottom sketch, which is how Fred described the city. "It was like heaven!" He said... "For a nickel you could get in a street car and ride anywhere you wanted in the city. With the flick of an electric switch you had lights!"

 Above:  Two views of the "Golden Gate Bridge."

I'm still searching for the exact style of this section of the film. But I know that I want it to be light, and playful.  Dreamy and optimistic... saturated, and colorful... attempting to depict the way that many young people see the world. I've planned many of my sketches to be low angles looking up. Or  set from a lofty point of view to capture this optimism.

Above: A re-post of a bridge sketch to show the contrast of Fred's world after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The palette of the film will be more somber, and the angles more grounded. This was one of the low points in Fred's life, and I hope to depict that through the art. Fred's life took on a new direction because of the war. In spite of hardship, Fred always found a way to make the best of things, and because of this, discovered  his true calling.

fredag den 19. august 2011

Bridging the Gap

Above: The iconic "Golden Gate Bridge."

The "Golden Gate Bridge" in a way, has become THE symbol of San Francisco. It is difficult to imagine what the city was like before there were ribbons of concrete and steel connected the city to the rest of the world. "Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by boat across a section of San Francisco Bay."  The bridge symbolized San Francisco's step  into the modern age.

When Fred Hoshiyama first came to live in San Francisco in 1930, he was 16 years old; the "Golden Gate Bridge" existed only on paper.  By the time construction on the bridge was finished in 1937, Fred had become a man, and was entering college.  I would like to show this parallel of "growth and construction" in the "San Francisco" sequence of  "Topaz Diary."    With Fred working, learning, studying, all the while the bridge being built in the backdrop.

Below:  "The bridge-opening celebration began on May 27, 1937 and lasted for one week. The day before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed by foot and roller skate."

Fred, and all other Americans of Japanese descent were forced to leave San Francisco for concentration camps such as "Tanforan," and "Topaz" in early 1942. It was a dark time in American history.

Above: A concept sketch of the "Golden Gate," As imagined just before Fred was forced to re-locate to the concentration camps.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the "Golden Gate" was heavily guarded, and air ships would fly up and down the bay, looking for submarines, and any other enemy activity. 

The photos in this post are from the wonderful collection at the San Francisco Public Library.

tirsdag den 2. august 2011

Precisionism: Art of the inter-war period

Above: Paintings by Charles Demuth

Precisionism, also known as Cubist Realism,[1] was an artistic movement that emerged in the United Statesafter World War I and was at its height during the inter-War period. The term itself was first coined in the early 1920s.

 Above: Paintings by Charles Sheeler

Fred Hoshiyama moved to San Francisco from his farm at Yomato Colony in 1929. He said moving to the city "was like heaven."  His family had electricity, plumbing, paved roads; Fred could go anywhere he wanted in the city by streetcar.  San Francisco underwent major changes during the 1930's... both the Bay, and Golden Gate bridges were built. The famous Coit tower, and numerous other monuments and buildings that would define San Francisco were constructed between the time Fred moved to the bay area, and when he left for Topaz.

Above: Paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe

Precisionism  visually describes the inter-war period of "Topaz-Diary" well. It is light, playful, and describes the construction and industry that was happening in San Francisco. It also is heavy enough to describe the depression that was happening all over the world.  But again, to Fred, who had been literally starving on the farm, depression era San Francisco was "like Heaven."

søndag den 24. juli 2011

Fenced In

The internees were told they were being put into the camps for their own protection. While there may have been a small bit of truth in this, the question came up time and time again; "Why are the guns on the towers pointed in, not out."

The loss of freedom for many was humiliating and devastating to many. Fred Hoshiyama said that he became so depressed that he began thinking that perhaps he really had done something wrong... just by being Japanese-American. It must have been worse for many others, as Fred is one of the most upbeat positive people I have ever met. This feeling of depression became a kind of catalyst to help others in the camps by helping start hundreds of programs."

Some of the guards sympathized with the internees, and actually weeped. Others thought of the Japanese-Americans as "the enemy," and were hostile. Several internees were shot and killed for getting too close to the fence. Many soldiers fighting overseas were enraged by what was happening in the camps, and wrote letters to the gov't asking "Why the freedoms they were fighting and dying for were denied to their fellow Americans?"  Policies were changed and relaxed a bit as the war progressed, and Japanese-Americans could apply to live in work in other parts of the U.S., so long as it wasn't the west coast.

Above: Families that moved out of the camps would often visit relatives when they could.

onsdag den 13. juli 2011

WPA- Coit tower murals

The Coit Tower murals were done under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal federal employment programs for artists. Ralph Stackpole and Bernard Zakheim successfully sought the commission in 1933, and supervised the muralists, who were mainly faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), including Maxine Albro, Victor Arnautoff, Ray Bertrand, Rinaldo Cuneo, Mallette Harold Dean, Clifford Wight, Edith Hamlin, George Harris, Robert B. Howard, Otis Oldfield, Suzanne Scheuer, Hebe Daum and Frede Vidar.[4]

These Diego Rivera-inspired murals, many depicting the struggles of working class Americans, were completed in 1933-34. Rivera had recently completed two frescos in San Francisco—oneMaking a Fresco, at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) and another at the San Francisco Stock Exchange. Several of the Coit Tower artists had worked with or assisted Rivera. Another Rivera Mural,Pan American Unity a 22 by 74-foot masterpiece produced on Treasure Island for the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition, is on display at City College of San Francisco.

After Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads mural was destroyed by its Rockefeller Center patrons for the inclusion of an image of Lenin, the Coit Tower muralists protested, picketing the tower. Sympathy for Rivera led some artists to incorporate leftist ideas and composition elements in their works. Bernard Zakheim's "Library" depicts fellow artist John Langley Howard crumpling a newspaper in his left hand as he reaches for a shelved copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital with his right, and Stackpole is painted reading a newspaper headline announcing the destruction of Rivera's mural; Victor Arnautoff's "City Life" includes The New Masses and The Daily Worker periodicals in the scene's news stand rack; John Langley Howard's mural depicts an ethnically diverse Labor March as well as showing a destitute family panning for gold while a rich family observes; and Stackpole's Industries of California was composed along the same lines as an early study of the destroyed Man at the Crossroads.[5]

 The simple, stylized approach to the figures and lighting might be a good one to take for segments of "Topaz." I like the organic, "compressed" feel of the compositions as well; giving a real feel for the hustle and bustle of San Francisco in the 1930's.

Poster art of the WPA

In  the early 1930's, America was deep in the middle of the "Great Depression." To help stimulate the economy, in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (the name was changed to Work Projects Administration in September of 1939), as part of his New Deal program to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work. In July of 1935, Federal Project Number One (Federal One) was established within the WPA as a central administration for the arts-related projects. Federal One provided funds specifically for artists, musicians, actors, and writers through the Federal Art Project (FAP), the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, and the Federal Writer's Project. FAP employed more than five thousand artists in various art projects including the many poster divisions that were created throughout the United States.

Though originally hand painted, one by one; the art, and posters created by the WPA were eventually designed to be massed produced by way of silkscreen printing. This created a unique graphic style which became associated with American design and art of the late 1930's/ early 1940's. I have always envisioned certain portions of "Topaz" to make use of this style.

The images shown on this post are from the Library of Congress collection By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943. The collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection of more than 900 is the largest. These striking silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. The posters were made possible by one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts and were added to the Library's holdings in the 1940s.

Here are some highlights from the library of Congress collection: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaposters/highlights.html