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The Voyeuristic Pleasure of Animating Anonymous Voicemails

Dustin Grella shares intimate stories, confessions, and poems with 'Animation Hotline."

by Beckett Mufson
Sep 28 2015, 5:00pm

Screencap via

What's more alluring than a secret? A secret from a complete stranger, which you have no obligation to keep. The Bronx's Dusty Studio, headed by filmmaker Dustin Grella, peddles these kinds of intimate secret messages in the form of short animated visualizations of voicemails left on their answering machine. Grella calls the project Animation Hotline, offering his number to anyone who needs somebody to talk to.

Grella started the project four years ago, but had been put on hiatus until a recent Grateful Dead concert inspired Grella to revive it. It has become a means of honing Dusty Studio's skill and creativity through mass production, a la Joey Camacho's Progress Before Perfection or Beeple's everydays project. "They are like little experiments," he tells The Creators Project. He animates with a chalkboard and pastels, for example, rather than fancy CGI or other, safer techniques. "If it works, great. If it fails miserably, great! The object is to keep creating regardless, more so than getting one shot perfectly right."

The shorts are often more than a little voyeuristic, offering windows into stories about feelings, tragedies, and pleasures that want to be told but don't seem to have other outlets. One woman speaks about her connection to water and the recent death of her boyfriend. Another voice falteringly proclaims, "I am a native New Yorker, and I feel great." Amidst crowds of "I'm walkin' here!" stereotypes and apathetic crowds shuffling through our urine-scented streets, this declaration of happiness is an antidote for even the most serious Monday grumps. These are the kinds of stories and confessions we suspect are at the other end of Noah Latif Lamp and Ciro Dublos' water-locked voicemail machine, 0642764284.

"Absolutely everyone has a story (or two), and most people have a telephone," says Grella. But deciding which stories are the most animation-friendly can be difficult. "We choose the message based on what works for us in that moment," he explains. "Are there any specific images that are conjured? Was there anything that struck a chord with us emotionally? Does the message somehow capture the zeitgeist of the day? Sometimes it is just silly and fun and a challenge to animate."

Grella sent of a few of his favorite shorts, which you can check out below.

Animation Hotline: Swimming from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Double Knot from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Honeymoon from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Ticket from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Ode to Bikesharing from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

The End by Robert Pope from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Flowers Are Nice from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Soup or Salad from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

Animation Hotline: Inside Out from Dusty Studio on Vimeo.

The Animation Hotline will be active through October, pending more funding. Learn more about the project on its official website. Check out Dusty Studio's other work here. Call (212)-683-2490  or Skype animationhotline to share your own not-so-secret message.

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Tagged:
Animation
Creators
voicemail
Crowdsourcing
voyeurism
animation hotline
dustin grella
dusty studios