Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dan Scanlon's Indie Film "Tracy"

Before Dan Scanlon directed Monsters University, he did a mockumentary called Tracy.  He talked to FLIP about it back in 2008, when it was still a work-in-progress.  He described it as, "a fictional documentary about Tracy Knapp the host of a 1970's children show called The Imagination Train Station. The film is about his life, his resentful son, his alcoholic ex-wife, and his mysterious death in 1995.  It's a comedy."

Dan has posted the entire film on Vimeo.  

Dan talked to FLIP about the film:

"The idea for the film came in 2003. Fellow story artist Brian Fee and I were trying to think of a short film idea to work on in our (then) endless spare time. We started talking about all the creepy 1970's children's shows we loved as kids, and how a lot of the hosts looked like porn stars. We thought it would be great if Brian played one of those host, with a porn afro and matching bushy mustache.  I've been making short 8mm films and videos since I was a kid, begging my friends and parents to dress up as robots and clowns for my movies. It was kind of cute then, it's not as cute when I'm asking them to do the same at 31".

"I like real documentaries. I wish I were making an actual documentary but I don't have the time to devote to something like that. I love the idea of having to find the story within the footage you're stuck with. I like things that appear to be found, or captured naturally, or captured accidently. I guess because it's such a nice contrast to working in animation. I also loved sketch comedy growing up, The Kids in the HallMonty PythonThe Upright Citizens Brigade. Not sure what all that adds up to."

"Almost every early decision on this film came out of how to use something I had, or covering up something I didn't have. It's a mocumentary because I couldn't afford to light every scene, and I don't know how to record sound well, so I needed the excuse to subtitle if I had to. We bought a cheap camera rather than renting an expensive one because I knew there would be situations when we'd have to shoot at a moments notice and I wanted to be ready at all times. The cast and crew are mostly non-actor friends of mine. Most of them are my age, so I wrote a film about someone who affected that specific generation."

"My advice to anyone working on a long project like this would be to keep someone you know and admire in the dark about the project the whole time; in other words, make it for someone. It will help you stay interested and it will help remind you that you are telling a story that needs to be properly set up for someone who knows nothing about it."

"I find a lot of professionals artist are afraid to make something on their own because they fear it won't live up to the standard of the projects they contribute to at work. They're afraid when people see what they create without the company behind them. Afraid it will appear that they're the one who's been pretending to help lift the couch. But remember, the projects you work on professionally are made by many, many, extremely talented people, but that doesn't mean each one of them should be able to take the reins and knock it out of the park on their own. Give it a shot, and if you fail - so what? Revel in it, and most importantly, learn from it and do it again. Besides, even if your peers say your project sucks, take comfort in knowing they're still secretly jealous that you made something."

I'm proud to say I knew Dan when he was just an upstart newbie at Character Builders Studio in Ohio, listening to our boring old industry stories over pints at the Bag O' Nails Pub in Worthington.  He is one of the coolest cats in the business, and a super talented guy truly worthy of his success.  I hope Pixar knows how lucky they are to have him on their crew.

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