Alaska Robotics

Archive for the ‘Films & Animation’ Category

Die Rebel Scum

Saturday, July 2nd 2011 by Pat

I was in my first poetry slam last month, the theme was Heroes & Villains. This one is dedicated to brave men and women of the Empire and I like to imagine it was performed in a dimly lit backroom theatre/pub on Coruscant.

The poem was an expansion on the theme I used in a series of Imperial Times editorial cartoons.

Imperial Times Editorial - Darth Traitor, Nepotism

49th Films

Friday, June 24th 2011 by Pat

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but it fell off the back burner when I was preparing for the Norway trip.

Matt Shields is an Alaskan screenwriter digging into his craft while also exploring the history and landscape of filmmaking in Alaska. His excellent interviews and insights about screenwriting can be found at 49th Films.

Matt did an interview with me and the boys a few weeks back where we talked about the JUMP Society, the Alaska Short Forum, and the film community in general.

Matt also interviewed our friend, local screenwriter, Dave Hunsaker and did a great round of Q&A with some script readers, both are required reading for aspiring Alaskan screenwriters.

Dick Dale, the Future of Music

Tuesday, June 14th 2011 by Pat

Marian Call is a smart, geeky musician I met in Anchorage and she’s part of a pioneering crowd of independent artist/entrepreneurs who are developing quality, creator-owned content and imaginative, dynamic business models. They’re lashing together raw instinct and bold hope with fiber optic cables, running up colorful flags and setting sail.

Marian sent me some great articles by Jonathan Coulton and Amanda F. Palmer detailing their evolving careers. It’s nice to see these successes and it’s nice to know the same stories also exist outside music, that people are making a living from webcomics and even soap.

All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

The thing is, none of this is new. I think we all know that but it’s exciting to think we’re discovering new land. Yes, to some extent we are, but it’s full of the same poisonous plants, wild animals and punji pits as whatever we just left behind.

Wm. Spear Design is headquartered upstairs from our office and carries a world class collection of enamel pins. Bill got started designing his pins well before I had a dial-up connection and his business model is similar to any Etsy success story: Create something wonderful and sell it to people who love your brand of wonderful.

It’s nothing new, it’s small business, but even Bill has made adjustments over the years. He was an early adopter of technology in the form of an online catalog, he had me make a little QuickTime movie starring some of his pins, and he even developed a widget when those were the rage. He’s flexible and smart and willing to experiment, it keeps him afloat.

Getting back to music, Dick Dale is probably my favorite case study, he offers up some great advice here for aspiring musicians and not a word about the Internet but it might as well be coming from JoCo.

So who the hell is Dick Dale? He’s the king of the surf guitar, probably best known for his song, “Miserlou,” featured in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” He melts through guitar picks and is still kicking ass in his seventies. [Edit – The Ed Sullivan clip I previously embedded got pulled, so here’s something more recent as an example of his work.]

Unfortunate Elephants

The Internet is changing the world! As hopeful artists like myself delight and established businesses struggle to cope and we all flail around trying to understand what direction we’re heading, Barry Dallman points to the elephant sitting politely in the corner, “The reality in the music business now is the same as it’s always been – that most people don’t have successful careers in music because they’re not good enough.”

Amanda Palmer hits on another problem, artists asking for money, “People don’t like it.” Historically there’s been a layer of protection between artists and their income, the label or the manager take care of that part. People don’t like an artist looking for a handout, it tarnishes the experience. It’s uncomfortable, like a smelly hobo asking for change.

Palmer provides the solution in a very straightforward, A.F.P. way, “It’s time to destroy the myth that artists shouldn’t ask for money.”

Me Me Me Me and Meeeee!

So what does this all mean for me? I don’t really know, I’m working through it. I think it’s a little different for aimless filmmaker/cartoonist types than for musicians.

Aaron, Lou and I already tried firing all our clients and making a go of Alaska Robotics full-time but it didn’t last long.

If we were a band, we would have been the guys who had no bookings before we jumped in the van to tour. We had trouble meeting self-imposed deadlines. We had trouble producing work on a regular basis. We had trouble finding food. We had trouble building an audience. We had fun.

Lately we’ve been doing a lot of work-for-hire, still very independent and still succeeding as a business, but not doing exactly what I want as frequently as I want. This is where a little voice jumps in (I suspect it’s my mother) and she tells me that it’s selfish to expect to be able to do what I want all the time and get paid for it.

Yeah. OK. I can understand the sentiment but I’m pursuing a calling that isn’t hurting people and fits neatly into a social context. I’ve always been encouraged to follow my dreams by people I love and trust and even if there’s a little voice (maybe it’s not my mother) trying to convince me my pursuits are selfish or vain or futile, I’m here, typing, drawing, dancing, and doing whatever needs to be done to get there.

That brings me around to the final little piece of the puzzle.


This is a note for me. If you’ve read this far through my meandering, metaphor-laden post, you won’t have any trouble with perseverance.

Keep going. You can learn talent. You can learn business. It’s ok if you can’t build your boat while you’re underway. It’s ok to pull over and regroup after a storm.

Patch the holes, mend the sails and get back in the water.

Beard Team Alaska Robotics

Sunday, April 24th 2011 by Pat

It’s official. We’re trundling off to Trondheim, Norway this May for the 2011 World Beard & Moustache Championships!

Aaron, Lou and I will be joined by the ham-loving Jamie Karnik and super best college buddy Eric Davis. Also along for the trip will be the slightly less beardy Alli and Jess. Our powers combined, we form Beard Team Alaska Robotics!

It’s going to be an epic adventure so stay tuned for coverage, we’ll be taking plenty of pictures, doing more experimental beard radio and filming mini-documentaries.

Here are a couple of our videos and a roundup of posts from the 2009 Anchorage trip to tide you over..

WBMC Posts – Anchorage Alaska, 2009

Fruit Falls

Wednesday, February 16th 2011 by Pat

I really enjoyed this song and music video by George Kuhar, it was screened at the winter JUMP Society film festival and was definitely one of the highlights for me.

George thanked me in the credits but I want to be clear that he did all the work on this, I just digitized some footage for him. He processed it so much I didn’t even realize I’d made a contribution.

The JUMP Society Film Festival is a screening we host twice a year to showcase locally made short films. We’ve been doing it for about nine years now and it just keeps getting better and better. This time around we had over three hours of short film submissions to pick from, usually we try to include everything but we had to cut it down quite a bit. A few feelings were hurt but we had to try to be as inclusive as possible without subjecting the audience to a marathon.

For a population of just about thirty thousand, Juneau sure has some pockets of talent and creativity.

Valentine’s Day

Sunday, February 13th 2011 by Pat

It’s Valentine’s Day. Again.

I don’t particularly like the holiday, it’s an odd mix of commercial interests and forced sentiments. I don’t have anything against celebrating love, it’s just the way we approach it that turns me off. Hmmm… Maybe we should just replace it with Waterslide Day.

Thanks to Andrew Kramer at Video Copilot for creating the Sure Target 2 plug-in, it was a great help in putting this thing together.

The music is “St. Louis Blues,” by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band with Al Bernard. The recording is from 1921 so it should have lapsed into the public domain by now.

Taylor White – Aftermath

Monday, January 10th 2011 by Pat

On the early morning of June 5th, 2009, Taylor White was killed in a drunk driving accident.

After Taylor’s death, a foundation was formed by his family and friends to help others learn from the mistakes that were made that night.

When Kevin White, Taylor’s father, first approached me about working on a documentary for the foundation I wasn’t very enthusiastic and, quite honestly, tried to give him the runaround.

I didn’t want to get pulled into what sounded like a long, challenging and emotionally draining project but here I am on the other side of the process and happy to have been a part of telling the story.

What we created is ostensibly a “Don’t Drink and Drive” film but there are deeper themes rattling around as well. It’s hard for me to watch, young people are surrounded by a feeling of invulnerability and to see that shattered is heartbreaking.

I guess there are a million films like this rotting on the shelves of health classes and youth centers but I feel like this one has a little more integrity, a little more grit, and can be more effective on a local level than some of the uncomfortable films I was subjected to in my health class at JDHS.

If I get one wish for it, I hope that this film can give parents and young adults a chance to have a good honest discussion about some of the realities they face.

Yes, Virginia

Wednesday, November 24th 2010 by Pat

Ok ok ok. Maybe this is too much tinsel and corn syrup to be ladling on before Thanksgiving but I’m excited to see that our friend, Bill Sneed, did the lead character design work for the upcoming Christmas Special, “Yes, Virginia.”

The character will also appear in gigantic balloon form for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. That’s a pretttty cool thing for a designer to see their work floating through New York City streets.

Billy also dabbles in an occasional non-Christmas themed animation. I love this music video for “Ohio” by Outside Royalty.

It’s even better because the producer credit goes to Jody MacKinnon, one of my first and dearest childhood friends. Jody bolted from Juneau right after high school and people are always asking me what she’s been doing.. apparently producing amazing music videos!

The Best Beards and Moustaches in the World

Monday, November 15th 2010 by Pat

We picked up a ton of footage when we attended the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage last year and always intended to cut together a few mini-docs with what we captured. This new one is a collection of some of the better portraits and closeups.

There were a few rounds of competition that we lost to a defective memory card as explained in the Alaskan Whaler mini-doc. Too bad. I wish we’d come home with more mutton chop.

There were several other film crews at the event and I’ve just seen a little of their footage so far. The trailer for “Beardo,” stands out as looking well crafted and I can’t wait to see if Aaron turns up in their feature.

Also, on a sadder, but equally bearded note, news came to us via Jamie Karnik that a man was forced to eat his own beard. Oh the humanity!

Alaskan Whaler

Wednesday, November 3rd 2010 by Pat

In 2009, we attended the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. It was too close to home to miss. We had a great time and Aaron came back with a second place commemorative gold pan for the Alaskan Whaler category. This is the tale of our adventure…

Related Posts:

The World Beard and Moustache Championships take place every two years and the next event is being held in Trondheim, Norway in May of 2011.

We plan to be there.