“A producer from Al Jazeera had seen my short film Look-See – they were planning a series on animating essays about various philosophers so the timing was perfect,” explains Brooklyn-based Daniel Savage on getting the commission for the animated short. The broadcaster sent Daniel several scripts to choose from and the one about Canadian professor, philosopher and intellectual Marshall McLuhan spoke to him most. “[Al Jazeera] was pretty open about my approach, stating they wanted to clearly explain the message with smart unexpected moments and transitions,” says Daniel. “I pitched them the idea of using halftone patterns to abstractly represent content since the focus was the form.”
The black and white animation is seamless in its transitions and the fluidity brings about a sense of calm throughout the short. The project embodies Daniel’s work as a whole, where his “awkwardness is combined with restraint”. The animator works independently and has been working hard to “say more with less as a way to stand out against production companies who have unlimited resources”.
“I love having a script to work with because I can print it out and sketch thumbnails directly on it. After that it’s a combination of Photoshop, After Effects and banging my head against the desk,” explains Daniel. The main challenge for the animator was working with the pace of the voiceover. “I love that they went with activist Alex Chow – it’s very charming and stands out, but he wasn’t a professional actor so getting the timing right was tricky, which is no fault of his own,” says Daniel. “I was also using Flako’s track Gelis as a reference while I animated and became very attached to it. I had a bit of a panic attack when they told me we might have to use something else, but after reaching out to his label he let us license it.”
The concept behind the animation is to visualise McLuhan’s prophetic words that “the medium is the message” and Daniel feels its a “perfect time” for the philosopher’s work to get attention. “The fact that our insane president can have a hissy fit and send it to the world with the tap of a screen really says something. Taking a step back to look at the big picture is important.”