Concept

Using dance, film, music and computer imagery Memory Descent depicts the feeling of depersonalization, a condition in which the affected person feels divorced from their physicality. Understanding the space around you - its gravity, limitations, definitions and order - provides a necessarily self-referential experience. In a depersonalized state we navigate our world in a haze, experiencing something new in the old that belies tangible definition.

execution

Memory Descent follows our dancer protagonist as she plummets into the ocean depths. As she sinks, she interacts with fish and octopi, but never with a surface. Down becomes up- deep sea becomes deep space. From space, Earth’s gravity begins to pull her back toward its center. She completes her uncanny loop, rocketing through the earth’s atmosphere and into the ocean once again. In this serene aesthetic journey the viewer travels with the dancer as space seamlessly morphs and bends during oscillations between sinking and falling.

awards

2013 united film festival New York - Audience Choice Award: Best Short Film

2012 4Culture - Grant award winner

 

 

Film Poster


Conceptual

The Abyss

origin

When I was 9 I saw the film “The Abyss” by James Cameron.  One scene in this film has stuck with me my whole life.   A summary from IMDB:

A civilian diving team are enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.

There is this beautiful scene where Bud (Ed Harris) is diving deeper than anyone ever has.  The scene has him falling silently deeper and deeper into darkness. 

As a child I loved this scene as it struck a chord with a complex array of emotions.

Depersonalization

a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity.
— wikipedia

Memory Descent depicts the feeling of depersonalization, a condition in which the affected person feels divorced from their physicality. Understanding the space around you - its gravity, limitations, definitions and order - provides a necessarily self-referential experience. In a depersonalized state we navigate our world in a haze, experiencing something new in the old that belies tangible definition.

After losing my father to cancer i reacted by entering a depersonalized state, after overcoming it I felt compelled to raise awareness of the depersonalization condition by visualizing it, making it identifiable, recognizable, and an object that can be discussed, understood and dealt with. The phenomena is common enough, and by expressing it through different mediums of dance, animation, and music we wanted to create a reference point for those still in the midst of their depersonalization fall


Music - Projecting your ego into the abyss

Lay on your living room floor with a good pair of headphones and listen to the music this or this. The music is serene and alien, it creates a sense of foreign melancholy.  Music that makes me feel nostalgic for something I never knew.  This type of music is the closest I've ever come to recreating the feeling of depersonalization.  

music that inspires foreign melancholy or nostalgia for something you never knew

Music was critical to giving these feelings to Memory Descent.   A band in SF had a song that was perfect.  We used Constellations by Chambers as our soundtrack and it was the perfect piece of music for our visuals to push up against.

Our first step: The audio representation of Chambers marked with the different events in the film.


PRE-PRODUCTION

Storyboarding - One long gradient

Memory Descent was conceived as a film composed of a single shot and a single perspective that follows our protagonist through changing environments.

We decided to illustrate our narrative with a single storyboard frame. It started out as an empty gradient to signify the different environments our character would sink through.  Then this gradient was filled in bit by bit until it told the entire story of the woman’s descent.

Aesthetic - Visceral, rich and densly populated

Our goal with the film was to create an aesthetic experience that wouldn't conform to traditional narrative structures.  Since it is a more visceral experience we needed to rely more on the visuals than the storytelling.  

Our goal was to create rich, densely populated images.  We wanted to embrace the form-factor we were working in; a beautifully digital space.  The colors needed to be vibrant and the lighting needed to be dramatic to help create unique spaces around our journey.


Concept Illustrations


Zoe Scofield

Dance

Contemporary dance has a rich and engaging conversation with filmmaking and we were excited to contribute to that dialog.  We were lucky enough to collaborate with visionary dancer/choreographer Zoe Scofield.

From wikiepedia:

Zoe Scofield is a choreographer, dancer and Co-Artistic Director of Seattle-based dance and and visual art company, zoe|juniper. She has created a movement language that seamlessly integrates art forms, making works that are not easily categorized.  By continuously experimenting in multiple disciplines, she utilizes her primary mediums - dance and performance. Her works allow a space for the audience to imprint and overlay their own experience and feel like they're not alone.

The decision to collaborate with a dancer was a decision to allow another artist to interpret our narrative and the feeling translate the feeling of depersonalization through the expression of the physical body.


Production

Filming

secondary footage of Zoe during our shoot.

Animation and Modeling 

hypothermal vents were used to give a unique atmosphere to a section of the gradient

An animation test

 An animation test using noise to animate the limbs.

An animation test using noise to animate the limbs.

 A viper fish animation test

A viper fish animation test

 A demonstration of the FK animation rig which allows you to pull a limb of the character and have the rest of the skeleton respond.

A demonstration of the FK animation rig which allows you to pull a limb of the character and have the rest of the skeleton respond.

A depth pass used to render depth of field on the CG valley

 Modelling an asteroid

Modelling an asteroid

behind the scenes of falling back to earth

 Zoe's digital double, used for the weightless stunts.

Zoe's digital double, used for the weightless stunts.

 The mega octopus 

The mega octopus 

Compositing

screening and festivals

Initially screened at a local venue in Seattle where we curated an event with some of our favorite artists.  

From there we went on to screen Memory Descent at a handful of Oscar qualifying film festivals before converting it into a video installation and showing it in pop-up gallerys in the Seattle area.  Eventually it made its way to the internet where you are seeing it now!

Memory Descent was awarded a grant from 4Culture in Seattle.