Experiments in motion graphics

So… tobogganhead.com has been updated.

What’s up with that?

Wholesale Souls, Inc. now available for immediate viewing

I’ll get the big stuff out of the way right now:

If you want to watch the feature film Wholesale Souls, Inc. for free, click here.
If for some reason that link isn’t working for you, the film is mirrored at the Internet Archive here.

It’s a big file (over 200 MB), I’m working on a few different distribution methods (streaming flash, a more compressed version, maybe a torrent), which should be up either today or tomorrow.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

If you like the movie and would like to see it in full resolution along with loads of special features, you can buy the DVD. If you just want to offer a little financial appreciation, you can make a PayPal donation.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m free to blather on for a bit. This is my would-be award acceptance speech, but since this movie isn’t going to win any awards, I’ll just post it here:

I made this movie because I didn’t think I could. In eighth grade, I challenged myself to make a feature film before I left for college, never seriously considering the possibility that I might actually succeed. Well… what do you know.

There are countless people who made this movie possible, and it would be foolhardy of me to try and thank all of them. The cast and crew, of course, were all wonderfully patient and inexplicably dedicated to the film. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with, and without every single one of them, the entire project would have crumbled. I’d like to thank my friends for tolerating my obsession and my family for not smothering me with a pillow. I’d like to thank the guys at Channel 10 because I said I would and I’m a man of my word. I’d like to thank the staff and students of Poudre High School, but I won’t because that’s too much of a generalization, even for someone as rhetorically-inclined as myself. I’d like to thank the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art and my own personal lord and savior Parker Cagle-Smith, who spent one memorable Easter Sunday risking serious injury by chip shrapnel in order to rescue a foundering first reel.

There are a lot of points in the production of a film, when you have no money and you haven’t slept in days and all you want to do is give up and throw all your tapes out the window and find a nice job in sales, that an unseen force draws you forward. I’m not religious and so I don’t know what to call this force. It sure as hell wasn’t sheer iron constitution on my part. There were times during this production that I felt as though I was tethered to the back of a fast-moving semi truck and it was all I could do to try not to drag my feet. And then one day the semi stopped, and that’s when I knew the movie was done. An art teacher of mine once told me that you’re never finished with anything you make; you just eventually decide it’s time to give up. It took me a long time to give up, and by the time I did, I was nearly dead. But the results are astonishing.

Look at this movie! I made a freakin’ movie! We ALL made a freakin’ movie! Go ahead and watch it, and think what you want. Don’t be gentle, don’t be kind. Tear it to pieces. Kick it while it’s down. Because whatever you think about it, however it is received, I am immeasurably proud to call this film my own.

Thank you for watching.

A big announcement re: Wholesale Souls, Inc.

I had a breakthrough some time ago. I decided to watch Wholesale Souls, Inc.–actually sit down and watch it.

It’s been almost two years since I started work on the film, and it was last July that I finally dubbed it “finished,” and I’ll confess that I’ve never really watched the movie before. I’ve seen it, sure. I’ve reviewed it. But I’d never watched it. I’d never been able to stand it. I’d always cringe. Over the past few months I’d begun to habitually downplay the quality, significance and value of the film. But then I watched it.

Let me tell you something: I am DAMN proud of this movie. I am nothing less than ecstatic at the way it turned out, and here’s the kicker: I actually enjoyed it.

I’ll say that again: I actually enjoyed watching Wholesale Souls, Inc. and I thought it was a good movie, from the perspective of a viewer.

Wholesale Souls is a good movie. And it is also a movie with absolutely no future. It will never make me any money. It will never even recoup its meager production costs. It’s not polished enough to make the festival circuit and it’s not incendiary enough to be a cult sleeper hit. A distributor would have to be out of his gourd to offer me a home video release, and no self-respecting TV station would air it.

But oh, I am so very fond of big announcements, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so here it is: in recognition of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, Wholesale Souls, Inc., a film which has consumed my entire life and most of my energy for nigh on two years, will be available for free online viewing starting TOMORROW, April 23rd. If you like the movie, you might consider buying the DVD to see it at full quality and partake of the many extras.

Tell your friends.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet…

I don’t usually post links, but in the past couple days I’ve found all sorts of great free content on the internet.

First: this recording of Kurt Vonnegut reading from a rough draft of Breakfast Of Champions at the 92nd Street Y in 1970 is really fantastic and funny and charming, and the audience reactions are also great. [via the 92Y Blog]

When you’re done listening to that, you may want to take a look at this six-part lecture on acting from Michael Caine. Fantastic and insightful, especially in the distinctions he makes between stage and screen acting.

Hot damn, I want this camera. It’s only $17,500!

When you’re done drooling over that, better yourself by listening to UC Berkeley class lectures as podcasts. Be sure to look at all the different semesters to get a broad range of classes dating back to 2001. I’m listening to a Psych 1 lecture right now, but I just subscribed to a whole bunch of classes, including one called “Physics for Future Presidents.”

Finally, I’d like to reiterate what I touched on several months ago: one of the fringe benefits of going to an art school is all the free portraiture going around. With that in mind, I give you this unusual photograph:

Exploded Filmmaker

Don's Impossible Adventure (Starring Salad Spinner Haiku)

Salad Spinner Haiku
Above: Salad Spinner Haiku (left), Don (right)

Two weeks ago, I posted a recording of myself pitching the most bizarre plot I could think of to my film class. I was terrified to note that the class was entirely unfazed by my pitch and did not, as I suspected might happen, reject my concept.

With that history behind me, today I wrapped photography on Don’s Impossible Adventure (Starring Salad Spinner Haiku). The whirlwind shoot lasted only two days and was, paradoxically, one of the most relaxed and smoothest-running shoots I’ve ever presided over. We finished substantially early on both days. I have no idea to what I should credit this fantastic luck, but it may have had something to do with the fact that one of the major characters is a tiny plastic chicken named Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Yes, friends, and I would like to state for the record that I used real stage actors for this film, setting back the dignity of their profession by perhaps twenty years; Steven Bucko played Don and Jesse Griffith played Dr. I. Learned Scholar. Salad Spinner Haiku played himself in this production.

Below: Dr. I. Learned Scholar, with stylish forehead-pig
Dr. I. Learned Scholar

Somebody (Sometime to Sometime): He Tried


One of my great literary heroes is Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote my three favorite books: The Sirens of Titan, Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-Five. He published his last novel, Timequake, ten years ago. He died yesterday, at the age of 84.

So it goes.

The first Vonnegut book I ever read was Breakfast of Champions. I was in eighth grade, and I first picked it up to impress a girl. I remember it feeling like a light had suddenly been turned on. I was on page five and then suddenly I was at the end of the book, and I wanted more! That year I read every one of his books, and it was fantastic. I discovered a new literature–an American literature–that I had never known existed, and it breathed new life into me. Breakfast of Champions fascinated me as a piece of experimental literature; Slaughterhouse-Five made me mourn the woes that the world visits upon itself; and The Sirens of Titan, an epic science-fiction novel of tremendous emotional impact… that’s the only book I’ve ever read that makes me feel glad to be human.

Vonnegut is up in heaven now.

It is not an exaggeration at all to say that if it were not for Kurt Vonnegut’s writings, I would not today be a filmmaker. His novels saved me from a life of not caring about literature and language and stories, and that to me would have been a fate worse than death. It is because of Kurt Vonnegut’s writings that I started writing and kept writing and realized that stories are so powerful that they can hit you like a ton of bricks. Literature just hadn’t done that to me before. The end of The Sirens of Titan makes me weep every time I read it, and I’m not ashamed to say that. You go read that book, and then you’ll know what I mean.


Vonnegut was fond of writing epitaphs. In almost every one of his novels can be found a crudely-drawn gravestone, sporting a single phrase that seeks to sum up a person’s entire existence. I’ve just been poring over his books. I’ve looked and looked, but none of those epitaphs seem fitting here. But he did write somewhere that he felt the obligation to always end his stories in a specific way; one that emphasized the fact that no conflict reaches ultimate resolution, no story is ever finished, and the world just keeps on moving on. And I think that ending can serve just as well as anything else as the epitaph for the greatest writer of the 20th century:


A New Project! And Ethan's First Post!

It is my pleasure to be the first to announce a new project we’ll be working on this summer.

An as-of-yet untitled feature, currently being referred to as Untitled Search for God, will be shooting this summer. As some of you know, it’s a script I’ve been working on for the better part of the past two years. I don’t want to say too much yet, since pre-production has only hardly begun.

But I am very excited. The really exciting thing about this project right now is that we already have a director of photography on board! Andrew has been able to enlist the help of Kathryn Morris as DP.

As for the film itself, the plot is a little hard to describe. It follows a poor excuse for a protagonist named John, as he is pursued by some sort of mob boss, a very frightening woman, a dog who may or may not be God, and a disembodied voice who may or may not be God. Lots of stuff happens, and John almost, but not quite, has a spiritual epiphany.

Well, I’m sure anyone who hasn’t read the script has now lost all interest in the project, but I assure you, it’s gonna be really really cool.

I’ll be organizing auditions to take place near the middle or end of next month (May). I’ll let you guys know about that when it’s set in stone.

That’s all I’m gonna say right now, but I hope I’ve at least piqued your curiosity.

If you wish to get a taste of the finished script and what this project is going to entail, be sure to come to this Sunday’s meeting of The Ministry of Playwrighting, from 1-4 PM at Catalyst Coffee on Horsetooth & Shields. I am planning on bringing at least part of the script then.

Leo's publicity still

One of the marvels of editing is that in any given freeze frame, a person’s face can look absolutely ridiculous. With that in mind, I give you Leo Noblac’s publicity still:

Leo Noblac's publicity still

And yes, this does mean that I’m actually actively working on Terminal Philosophy again, not just looking through the footage for silly stills. Just to let you know.

And you know you’re in trouble when work becomes a mode of procrastination. Just to let you know.

Pitching the bizarre

Not more than three hours ago I pitched what will likely become the most bizarre short film I have ever made, and possibly will ever make.

It’s… well… difficult to explain. But I did record myself pitching the film to my class, so you can listen.

Of delays and kittens

Yes, yes, I realize that March is over and I missed the last two days of Exploding Shorts. Here is why.

Isn’t it cute?

Anyway, a new kitten does horrible things to one’s productivity, but now I’m back in Minneapolis and dreading the workload that will inevitably befall me in the coming weeks. But I will eventually put up my more recent film projects (and the inventory of Exploding Shorts will indubitably continue to grow, albeit more slowly, as new projects are finished).

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