Filmmaker Focus: Jodie Mack

Her film "Yard Work Is Hard Work" delighted audiences at the 47th AAFF with colorful cut-out animation, indie folk narrated musical approach and prescient sub-prime mortgage subplot. Here we hear from Chicago-based Jodie Mack about her upcoming project:

AAFF: What's your newest project about and what motivated you to make it?
JM: My newest animation project will document the rise and fall of Lindsey’s Colour Service (1993-present)—my mother’s nearly-defunct wholesale music, film, and misc. poster, postcard, and sticker business, where I worked as a data entry clerk and poster-roller throughout while growing up in suburban Florida. My mother is slowly closing the business down, so I want to create moving images with the thousands of postcards, posters, programs, and objects she has in her warehouse as well as the warehouse itself before she closes the doors for good.

AAFF: What's your approach and process for making this film?
JM: This project will include animations made from the detritus of Lindsey’s Colour Service: multiple identical postcards (whole and cut up), poster tubes, shipping boxes, inventory lists, handwritten bookkeeping, Xeroxed catalogs, customer records, order forms, etc. To sounds of keys typing each product’s number and lists read aloud, animated objects will move around the LCS warehouse and animations shot under the camera will experiment with a series of image/sequence constructions: organizing images by color, most-least popular, foreground subjects, etc. My approach felt slightly haphazard. I reserved some equipment and purchased a plane ticket down to Florida for ten days. But, I only had a rough idea of seemingly important things: what I would shoot it, when I would shoot it, whether or not I would to need lights, and much, much more. I got the lights upon arriving to Florida and the shot roughly from noon til 3-5am for ten days. I have not seen the footage yet.

AAFF: Is there anything unusual or different to how you've approached previous work?
JM: Usually, I shoot flat artwork underneath a down-facing animation camera, but I moved around the space of the warehouse quite a bit during the shoot in addition to some flat shots. This presented new and exciting challenges for, say, working with light for certain subjects, making decisions on whether or not or how to move the camera, tidying spaces and pseudo art-directing, etc. Another difference from previous projects is the timeframe I used to generate material for this film. Usually, I generate and build my bank of images and sounds for months and months. But, here I collected all the images and most of the sounds within a ten-day period. This is also the first project that I've traveled somewhere to shoot and the first project where I've received intensive help shooting from someone else (thanks Basia Goszczynska). My basic process feels similar to previous projects I try to work out a set of visual rules/pretty pictures to tell a story or communicate ideas. Then, I make tons and tons of lists for shots (re-prioritizing as I go), and then do what I can.

For this shoot, I did not make a schedule. I wanted to remain flexible because many variables helped the progression of shots (where the camera was, where the lights were, how much film remained on the roll, etc. So, we just decided which sequence to shoot as we went along. Generally, I often don't really give myself enough time to think about or make things. No matter how many logistics I secure in advance, I feel pretty frazzled and nervous during production for this reason. I want to gogogo until it is donedonedone and lose sleep and get delirious and embark on what I call animation "binges". Thwart all my energy into the project at once works for me because animating takes a lot of concentration, so I try to create and stay within a "zone" for days at a time. For the most part, I am usually combining pre-visualized ideas with under-the-camera improvisations and constantly battling with strategies to capture the sequence as nicest but fastest way possible.

AAFF: What are the objectives of your project, both internally (for yourself) and externally (for the world)?
JM: For me: I want to make something with the images that fueled my livelihood growing up. I want to examine this family business of pop culture products and my own relationship to the things people hang on walls. For the world: I just want this little document that thinks about: - the simultaneous rapid decline of independent record stores and incline of MP3 technology in the United States between 2004 and 2009. - the consumer trends of image purchasing between 1993-2009/ how bestsellers correlate with cultural codes/the pop culture industry -a little tiny business that ran itself in pencil I'm not sure whether or not the world needs to experience this story or not, as it's pretty well-known that record stores, the record industry, and everything in general is possibly declining and heading to the web. And, I also don't think this change truly alters our fascination with pop-culture. It's still the same fascination, though the avenues for people's simultaneous reflection on this fascination have definitely changed a lot (comments under videos; comments under album review; internet posts on new music or movies or celebrity obsessions; individually-made videos/mash-ups, tributes posted on the web, etc. ) Still, however, I hope the piece might offer a calm reflection on this shift, a portrait of small business artifacts, and a documentation of many, many, many pop-culture images that include eternal and ephemeral pop culture interests. (One thing I found extremely interesting during shooting was the multitude of one-hit-wonder pop non-legends that may have seemed like a potential goldmine but actually never moved off the shelf.)

AAFF: What are the most challenging aspects of your project content, structure and/or story-wise?
JM: Before my trip, it was hard to visualize anything without actually being in the space and looking through the images, talking with my mother, etc. I'm tried to schedule and think ahead for the shoot, but I also knew that I just needed to be prepared for spontaneity of image construction. Now that I've returned and will get the film back this afternoon, I anticipate my main challenges revolving around structure. I collected 3 types of images: sequences of the space, sequences of business-related objects, and sequences of multi-postcard composition (9-12 per frame) animations. And, now I need to weave them together in time and with sound to illustrate my varying goals.

AAFF: Have you discovered anything unexpected or surprising so far on this film?
JM: Uuuggghhhh- 50lb limit on the airline?

Posted on December 11th, 2008