Abandoned Masterpiece: “Mine”
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Here are two of the more discouraging animation tests:
Did I mention I was the protagonist of the original short story? Well, someone with my name and biography. Travis had based it off of something I said in high school, that mine is a word meant to be screamed. The story and script were thematically centered around this idea, that people want so badly to possess things, ideas, objects, and people.
In the story, my girlfriend cheats on me with another man. Well, other men.
Here are the last few paragraphs of the story, which the author kindly (and begrudgingly) allowed me to post:
Ben and I were in our hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Christine had come up for the holiday because she didn’t have much of a family. It’s a tradition to go out to the local bars on Thanksgiving night, and we found ourselves in a scaled-down high school reunion at The Hamilton tavern. We stayed until close, and somehow Ben had lost track of Christine. We stumbled outside with the rest of the remaining patrons, and found Christine stood up against the broad side of a Chrysler minivan, getting fucked by a former football star from my older sister’s class.
You can imagine what followed. It wasn’t pretty, and I won’t paint it for you. Months later, Ben revealed that it wasn’t the first time he had caught her. She had been sleeping with the proprietor of the arts and crafts store in which she worked, and Ben told me that he himself had once been a guilty party of an affair behind the back of Christine’s ex-boyfriend. But even after the humiliation of Thanksgiving, Ben stayed with Christine. And as the months went by, he caught her again and again. Each time, she apologized and convinced Ben that she loved him, and each time, a little less than the man he had been, he forgave her.
I was studying abroad in Galway, Ireland in the fall of 2008 when Ben killed himself, and I didn’t find out about it until two days before his funeral. A mutual friend emailed me. That’s how I got the news.
I later found out that Christine had left Ben the month before he did it, and that the police had found a suicide note in his pocket. Ben had walked off a seven-story building into an otherwise normal Chicago afternoon with a post-it note that read: ‘Mine’ is a word that was meant to be screamed.
And it’s bullshit. I miss my friend, but I hate him, too. I hate him for wasting his life, and I hate him for mistaking infatuation for love and a shattered ego for a broken heart, but I’d give everything I have to have him back.”
Yes. I was making an animated movie about me killing myself. Of course, for the film I changed Benjamin to Christopher. I also changed the story a bit to justify using such a visual medium.
In the script, Christopher starts losing it, attaching post-it notes to everything he believes is his. Read the very end of the script below.
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I wish so bad that I could remember walking away from this thing. It’s like an ancient Mayan city, where the inhabitants just mysteriously vanished. Except I was the inhabitant, and I don’t remember leaving.
I do remember frustration. I wasn’t able to properly explain what I wanted from the artists. So the character design languished. The closest reference I could come up with was a “self-portrait” I’d seen my friend Sean use as a profile picture on Facebook. I asked him about it. He said he drew it in Microsoft paint.
I showed it to my artists/friends. The look I wanted was so simple in my head, yet I couldn’t get them to re-create it. The inability to see a single character drawn the way I wanted made the whole project seem even further behind than it was. Suddenly my life was a mess of backgrounds, animation glitches, technical problems, half-rendered scenery and stick-figure storyboards. There was nothing human about it.
I visited Columbia’s student showcases for animation and design, collecting business cards, looking over portfolios. I needed someone who could help me create what I was seeing, and who would do it on the cheap. I never found them.
By taking on this project, by creating this thing, I was really just inventing a mountain of problems for myself, each solution sprouting a dozen more problems that I wasn’t equipped to solve. I learned a lot, and I accomplished very little.
What possessed me to this? In a lot of ways, it was the natural progression of things. I had been experimenting with animation for a while. A good portion of my college years were centered around animating. “Centered around,” inasmuch as that time was also “centered around” producing a radio show, recording an album, writing several novels, several screenplays, and countless other projects, big and small. Yes, it was a time ripe for abandoned masterpieces. And I took advantage of it again and again. Mine is just a blip on the attention deficit canvas of my young adult life.
So in a way, this is only the beginning. I hope Abandoned Masterpiece Theatre will become a staple of The Heated Forest. Not only my own abandoned masterpieces, but yours too. And I will say this: writing this out, documenting the process while I could still remember most of it, has been extremely cathartic. Really. You should try it.
Send your abandoned masterpiece to email@example.com.
Also, if you have a heart, leave a comment. Compliment me. Berate me. Talk to me.