Wow. I haven’t posted here much, as I’ve been away in video game land this past year and haven’t (widely) released any animation in 2014. That’s difficult to swallow. I’ll need to correct that ASAP.
The video above is what became of an ambitious little short I started in 2011(!?!?) and never finished. I never finished it because I was always busy, it was way too long and complicated, and by the time I’d gotten back to it the story wasn’t one I’d do now. Leans pretty heavily on a lot of story things I don’t like as much these days. Grew out of it I suppose. But it was cool enough and I’m proud enough of what I’d done back then that I thought hey, let’s just put it out there. So there it is.
If you’re wondering what is going on in it, it tells the story of one guy over several days, and all the different scenarios his choices would lead him into. Each consequential choice spawns a new bubble. Infinite universes and all that. A bubble whites out and disappears when that life ends, which in this short was going to be fairly often. This was made for viewing on the internet, so you could rewind and pause and follow the storylines you were interested in. There were going to be about 4 or 5 main storylines (with branches), and the longest ones all would wrap up at the same time. It was only a ~4 minute short but that ended up being 20+ minutes of little bubbles and yeah, no matter how simple that’s gonna be a timesink. I was really jazzed about the format, though, and how it worked with the theme of the wider world around this guy who is just going through the motions.
The main character is a super insecure, shiftless dude. Most of his storylines where about him stumbling into trouble that doesn’t really concern him, getting wrapped up in the stories of characters who actually have some agency, or acting out some sort of awful but amusing power fantasy. Women either as kittens in trees or forces of nature you get swept up with. Uuuuugh. See? Not really the kind of stuff I do these days. But you have to go through the bad story ideas to get to the good ones, so whatevs.
It’s funny how much you grow in just a few years. I was very much in the “cool stuff” zone for this story, which isn’t really where my brain dwells these days. I tend to think about themes and meanings and representation and context and all kinds of things I wasn’t thinking about at all with this short. And despite what some might say about some mythical childlike state of pure artistic vision without thought of the world it exists in, I think my work is better now for being more thoughtful and critical. Work that doesn’t touch the ground isn’t interesting, at least to me.
The only story that reached its full ending was the one in the lower left corner, where our hero gets involved with a woman who actually has a plan and goals and so forth and that makes him get all brave and crazy. Ugh so manic pixie. Although I guess she’s not so much a manic pixie as an aggressive, impulsive person, and he’s definitely the guy who would latch onto that. Ha ha I am hating this as I write it. Oh 2011 Scott.
The story on the upper left involved him playing out an insane superhero fantasy, but naturally he just becomes a horrible and violent street vigilante, with a space helmet on. That story would have ended with him thwarting a robbery, but having to flee the police. He would have been alone at the shooting range, just firing forever. Disempowered dude gets gun. Saves helpless ladies from muggers. Real good, 2011 Scott.
The story that starts going on the upper right but then cuts out, that one involved him being paralyzed and falling in with a doctor who would give him experimental robotic legs. The legs, however, could do all kinds of things and he’d turn into a crazed supervillain. Wait, why was I making superhero/villain origin stories? Wtf, 2011 Scott.
The final story, in the lower right, was going to see him transferred to an office in some unnamed made up country. While working there a revolution would happen. This storyline actually split in two: in one, he escapes but gets lost in the wilderness and ends up becoming a shepherd in a small village in the mountains that takes him in. In another, he is swept up in violence in the city but bumps into a woman at his office who reluctantly leads him to her safe basement. They sit there while explosions and gunfire go off outside. He tries to hold her hand but she moves hers away. Wait, why was I doing bummer-dude meets competent woman against the backdrop of political violence? Why, 2011 Scott?
I have 2 giant sketchbooks with the boards for all of this. Now I think I can chuck them.
There are things I like about this project a lot, though. I like the style, and it’s one that ended up influencing my further work in a lot of ways. The simple shapes and very strong geometric compositions, the heavy use of haze and atmosphere, and doing it all with very few colors. Making other images out of the scenes, like the skull train car in the upper left at 1:56. Looking at it all again now I think there are some superb images and compositions. Would like to do something in this exact style again. Maybe a video game, as that seems to be where I’m headed.
I think this was the point where I became obsessed with backgrounds, which I still kinda am. Especially ones made of brick buildings. Also trains. Lots of trains. And buses. You can draw a line directly from this to With Any Sort Of Certainty, and right before this I’d done The Murph. If you watch them in chronological order (murph -> potential -> with any sort of certainty) you can see how the loose things I was playing with started to solidify. Potential was about stripping things down to their simplest iterations. Squares. Circles. Triangles. One font. Very few colors. Minimal action. These are still things I’ve carried forward and built on. This what I find interesting. Also I got to really run with my obvious Chris Ware influence, and that’s always fun.
Sorry, I know this is all a bit navel-gazey but hey, it’s a post mortem for an unfinished film. This is what happens.
So anyway, that’s Potential. Amusingly name for a big project I never finished it. Had some promise. Maybe this could have been my festival winner. Whatevs.
I did some gifs in a bit of tribute to it earlier this year. Was going to be a 7 day set. Appropriately enough, I didn’t finish it. Here’s to learning, growing, and moving on.