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SHORTS COLUMN | Don Hertzfeldt Tours the Nation with his Most Ambitious Short Ever

SHORTS COLUMN | Don Hertzfeldt Tours the Nation with his Most Ambitious Short Ever

Don Hertzfeldt is hitting the road. Having won the 2007 Sundance Film Festival‘s Grand Jury Award in Short Filmmaking for his epic short film “Everything will be ok,” the 32-year-old animator of such instant-classic shorts as “Rejected,” “The Meaning of Life,” and “Billy’s Balloon” is spending October and November 2008 touring North America in a rare series of one-night-only screenings to premiere his longest piece ever, the 22-minute “I am so proud of you.” With ten more cities on his schedule, Hertzfeldt updates indieWIRE on his touring experiences to date.

Nearly two years in the making, I am so proud of you is Don Hertzfeldt’s most ambitious work yet. Advance word indicates that Hertzfeldt has taken his game to a whole new level in terms of storytelling and craft. The short is the second in an anticipated trilogy of shorts that began with the 17-minute “Everything will be ok.” It continues to the saga of Bill, a stick figure with a woeful life. Like all of Hertzfeldt’s work, this latest piece was single-handedly animated and shot entirely on his antique 35mm animation stand, one of the last remaining cameras of its kind left in America. The piece’s extensive special effects were all crafted without the use of computers and meticulously created directly on film, using traditional double exposures, in-camera mattes, and innovative experimental techniques.

“The tour has been going fantastic, we’ve sold out every venue so far…,” Hertzfeldt reported shortly after his Alamo Drafthouse gig in Austin, Texas and before departing for the Ragtag Cinema screening in Columbia, Missouri. The UC Santa Barbara grad, who received a nomination for the Short Film Palm D’Or at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for “Billy’s Balloon” and an Academy Award nomination in 2001 for “Rejected,: has built up a loyal cult of followers eager to view his latest masterpiece. Hertzfeldt’s work was last seen on the big screen touring as part of “The Animation Show,” a touring theatrical program of international shorts which he co-created with Mike Judge and programmed for its first three seasons.

Hertzfeldt, who is excessively fond of lower case typing, checked in with indieWIRE mid-tour, via email.

iW: What films are you showing during “An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt,” and how did you decide on which ones to show?

Hertzfeldt: the reason for touring is i am so proud of you, which only just wrapped up last month and is still very new for me to see with audiences. it’s also the longest thing i’ve done at 22 minutes, so it wasn’t hard to fill out the rest of the program… shorts like the meaning of life, rejected, and naturally everything will be ok are also in the mix, and of course it’s great to see them on the big screen again in 35mm and the works, but the main headliner of the evening is proud. it all comes out to about 70 min of films + 40 or so minutes of embarrassing interview and audience chat afterwards. sometimes they don’t let me leave though and we keep talking for a while longer than that.

iW: Why are you touring with a body of work rather than sending this new film on the festival circuit by itself?

Hertzfeldt: proud will still hit the festival circuit by itself throughout 2009; i don’t usually travel with the films to festivals though and seeing it with audiences and talking with them and being there every night to watch it all unfold is really important to me. the movie took about two years of production in more or less solitary confinement, so i’ve been really eager to get out on the road with it and get that interaction again. you’ll always have much bigger audiences when your movie later goes to dvd or tv, but you can’t actually be there in people’s living rooms to watch those connections happen, and that’s probably one of the main reasons i think anyone makes movies. i’ve never done a tour of my own stuff like this before either so the timing just seemed right. we’ve only just wrapped up the first leg of the tourdates last week, but i’ve already had a better time traveling with this movie than any other… the audiences have been through the roof and the adrenaline has really started to kick in.

iW: Are you signing your DVDs etc. after the screenings?

Hertzfeldt: sure, usually

iW: Has anyone brought you something unusual to sign?

Hertzfeldt: sometimes clothing is removed for me to write my name on it and we’ve had to impose a “pants stay on” rule

iW: What can we look forward to from you in the near future? Are you working on a new film?

Hertzfeldt: i think chapter 3 is probably next in line, though i’ve been developing a thing for tv which might spring up first, i’m not sure yet. i started work on proud very soon after finishing ok, but i’m not feeling nearly as ready this time to jump into the next one… i’ve got a few things written for chapter 3 but the tour will keep me busy through the end of november so i’ll come home then and see how i’m feeling, and also figure out where the TV thing’s at.

iW: Are you going to do The Animation Show again soon?

Hertzfeldt: i actually quit the animation show earlier this year, before their fourth volume came out… so i guess the answer there would be no :)

If you live in Columbia (MO), Chicago, Omaha, Calgary, Atlanta, Allentown, Rochester, New York City, Denver or Los Angeles, don’t miss your opportunity to catch Hertzfeldt and his films in person. Tour details, Don’s blog about his tour, and DVDs of previous work can be found on his website, www.bitterfilms.com.

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