With their classic looks, granular characters, and highly curated soundtracks, the gritty retro animations of Giles Pates could have been Adult Swim bumps, but I found them on Instagram. First, the New York City native animator wrote a 52-page novella entitled Quincy And The Delicate Dandelions, a sort-of memoir that chronicles a string of his own failed relationships over a span of seven years. The story is filled with drug trips and awkward sexual encounters, and is written in a vulnerable and authentic voice that should make it accessible to all kinds of viewers. For the sake of anonymity, he uses names that reflect his characters' geographic origins, as well as elements of their personalities—The Minnesota Monarch, The Polish Paper Wasp, to name a few. The sentiments are real, neither overtly romantic nor whimsical like too many love stories today, and every now and then they contain profound existential observations about love, life, and relationships.
Pates then turned his novella into a five-minute, dialogue-free short film, AOMI, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. Although the movie is based on the written story, Pates doesn't hit you over the head with references to his novella. Instead, he instead leaves it up to the viewer to find visual associations with the writing. Though it's a small production, with its fantastic score, and beautiful shooting, it perfectly captures scenes any young person living and loving in the Big City will recognize.
Despite his background in animation, Pates chose to insert his graphics sparingly, as if they were reminders of their author's origins. The subtle cartoonish markers work as clues to the storyline, guide the viewer’s eye and forcing it to focus in on certain areas of the frame.
It’s important to note that this story is entirely autobiographical. Pates makes this a point in the creative scrapbook he shares with the project: featuring different mementos and trinkets in the story, it almost feels like evidence. Pates also attached a color key card inside the book to assist viewers in discovering different things about the women in the story, like their ages, levels of intoxication, and whether or not they were smokers, drug lovers, or even American citizens. In addition, Pates and his production team put together a process book that follows the making of the film, from open call Facebook posts, to crumpled up screen directions.
Interested in digging deeper, The Creators Project spoke to Giles Pates about his works. Watch AOMI in full, then check out our interview, below:
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Creators Project: What inspired you to write something in the first person? / Did it start as a sort of diary?
Giles Pates: This story is 100% autobiographical. In regard to any art form, I always find that fiction is never as powerful as something truly experienced. We live in a society of constant oversharing but its rare to see someone share the nitty gritty dark crunchy parts. There's always embellishments or abstractions. I lived this story and it became a part of me. I figured if I was going to tell my story I would leave no stone unturned. People might find this project to be slanderous, thinking to themselves “OOOOO the boy got burned and now he’s out for revenge.” This was never my intention and those who consume the project in its entirety will see it for what it is; a keepsake.
One of the main reasons I did the project was to remember things soon forgot. All of us have experienced love in one way or another. We all speak on love and infatuation but we rarely pay homage or even notice to the loves of our past as if we never knew them at all. I personally didn’t want to forget the loves of my past or the lessons I learned from them. I didn’t want them to be a passing mention in a much larger conversation. I wanted to remember those from my past and who I was with them, both the salty underbelly and the warm gooey times.
How do you think music contributes to the experience?
I think that it is the backbone of the project. It is the glue that holds it all together, making seven years of my life feel like one moment. A little less than a year ago today, I was sitting on the windowsill of a Bed-Stuy apartment watching the rain fall onto a street I was all too familiar with. While contemplating my next creative endeavor, the song "Solace" by Earl Sweatshirt began to play in the background. "Solace" is a 10-minute experimental piece about the trials and tribulations of Earl's past, present, and future. It's essentially a collage of samples and feelings. Earl composed the track to speak more through the sound than the words themselves, so when I began this project I wanted to use the same approach—using samples and moving compositions to fill in the blanks.
In regard to the film, I deliberately wrote the script without dialogue. I wanted the samples and the film to say something deeper than dialogue ever could. This also allows the audience to place themselves within the story and come to their own conclusions. The musical selections for the novella were tools to help the audience get closer to the way I intended the book to be read. In the Scrapbook, the music was a window into the essence of who these women where and how I saw them. Having synesthesia gives me great insight into describing the embodiment of these women without words or pretty pictures. In short, I wanted my audience to be as close to the project as I was. I wanted them to feel what I have felt, also leaving room for them to include themselves and their experiences as well. The only conceivable way being music.
How do you see the city’s role in this story?
I believe that the three cities in which my story takes place play a more vital role. Our surroundings are everything. They dictate how we feel and how we react at certain moments in our lives. My novella takes place in Chicago, New York City, and Paris. Each city changed my perspective on life and those I share it with. Ive always remembered Chicago for its nights. For its contrasting architecture, its light, the looming danger around every corner and its introspective quality.
I've always seen New York for its early mornings and late evenings. Its always been a place of solace and reflection. A place for me to lay my head and bring life to the things I have seen. When thinking of Paris, I see natural light and romance. It's a place of history that brings about perspective. A perspective that reminds you that yourself and everyone around you will be just another blip in time and that the most important thing in this world is the people in it. Things may come and go, but usually the thing that will make you whole is a soft smile and good conversation. All of these perspectives blend together to create the highs and lows of this project. They all bring clarity to the complex and often convoluted nature of one's own story.
You use the word sin a lot in your writing. What does that word mean to you?
I find inspiration in sin. When looking back at my life, I always find moments of sin to be some of my clearest memories. I find solace in sin because oftentimes I learn so much from it. For me, sin isn’t a singular act but many in a short period of time. When I find myself in moments of sin I let it engulf me, it's not just one act or moment, but a tidal wave of it. Allowing it to highlight some of my best and worst qualities. I've learned from sin, learned about love, hate, fear and doubt. I let my most animalistic of tendencies break free and when the storm is over I see myself clearly. I think thats why I am so drawn to it, it strips me of the bullshit and shows me who I really am.
You used your animations sparingly in the film, why? How do you think the subtle animated graphics enhance the film?
In the start of the process, I wanted the animations to be loud. I wanted the project to be equal parts film to equal part animation. Day after day I slowly whittled it down. After finishing the entirety of the project I had drawn over 200,000 frames but only used 5,110. I realized too much animation completely detracts from the story I wrote and was a dishonest approach to my vision. I wanted people to see how we remember our feelings. In the moment, as we experience happiness or pain it consumes us. But as time goes on you can only faintly remember the feeling, Distant and yet so close. Its more about the wild actions you took because of those feelings. I knew that the best approach to telling the story I lived was to approach the animation side of the project honestly without detracting form the story I wanted to tell.