National Film Festival for Talented Youth | Seattle Youth Film Festival | Student Film Festival

T O N A L

T O N A L

01/13/2012
NFFTY Films, Video

NFFTY 2011 – Expermental Film (Audience Award Winner)

Directed by Champ Ensminger

Concept:
Using manipulated motion, visual metaphor, and psychoacoustics to interpret the idea of sound as a drug.

Why:
A speculative science fiction idea I have meditated on for a few years, I imagined a future where sound or music had such a profound effect on people that it became an addictive substance, and in the process was banned by the government. Overblown theories of dystopia and Social Darwinism have entered this speculative future, but I was most interested in the internal sensation of drug addiction in terms that I could understand, which was a fond obsession with music. In manipulating the image and the soundscape, I hope to explore the relationship between psychology and visuals (that being the psychological impressions of the image to an audience, as well as a psychological experience interpreted visually.)

Narrative:
- A young man meets with a dealer in a car by the water. They discuss music, and progress towards an exchange of what we believe to be drugs.
- The man’s perspective is distinguished by a jarring soundscape, of which he is clearly tormented by.
- A violent episode of withdrawal forces the young man to produce the drug he’s purchased, which we discover to be an CD. Pulling out a CD player and forcing headphones on, the young man experiences a euphoric experience while listening in an alleyway. (Speculative visual component: smoke begins billowing out of his mouth, captured in slow motion.) He passes out in the alleyway.
- The euphoria is exhibited in the changing soundscape, where distortion transitions to clarity and pure tones, and smooth slow motion using blending still images.
- Credits roll against the alleyway wall.

Alternate history:
Personal reasons have drawn this spin on drug addiction into reality. I worked with a concept initially surrounding the visual interpretation of separation anxiety, playing on the same visual style. When I discovered that I couldn’t convey these visuals without entering into a personal perspective, I decided to play with the concept of addiction as synonymous with separation anxiety.

Influences:
- Andrei Tarkovsky’s meditations on psychological abstraction.
- Lars von Trier’s disturbing imagery and poetic slow motion in “Antichrist”

Style:
- High framerate slow motion (motion blending of still images in After Effects)
- Distorted, ambient soundscapes, varied in disorientation and clarity

Challenges:
- Negotiating narrative with visual abstraction and ambiguity
- Convincing acting to translate well with the distortion
- Taking advantage of the soundscape (using a proper recording instrument for high fidelity audio)

Special Thanks to: Nelson White, Stefan Sobiek, Tommy Yacoe

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  1. Pingback: NFFTY Filmmaker Interview w/ Champ Ensminger

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