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Interview: Chris Sullivan on Michael Jordan, Jean Piaget, and The Sopranos

I met Chris Sullivan quite by accident at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival. My friend and I had settled in for a screening of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt when the guy next to us struck up a conversation about the good crowd for the screening. He mentioned he was a filmmaker visiting with his […]

Chris Sullivan Coutesy Taylor Glascock

Chris Sullivan
Courtesy Taylor Glascock

I met Chris Sullivan quite by accident at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival. My friend and I had settled in for a screening of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt when the guy next to us struck up a conversation about the good crowd for the screening. He mentioned he was a filmmaker visiting with his film, we asked which film? That film happen to be Consuming Spirits and the guy we coincidentally sat down next happened to be Chris Sullivan. The Walker had booked Chris’ film literally right before I had left for Vancouver, so I was thrilled with the lucky serendipity.

Three months later after this brief meeting and as the screenings for Consuming Spirits at the Walker quickly approached, I seized the opportunity to interview Chris about the film and his work for an article on the Walker site. Our conversation spiraled in many different and interesting directions, many of which I was unable to incorporate in the piece that I wrote. Read on for our full conversation where Chris compares Prairie Home Companion to The Sopranos, feels lucky that he didn’t make a film about Lady Di, and diviluges that David Bowie is on his short list for his next film, even if David doesn’t know it!

Kathie Smith: The fact that it took you 15 years to make Consuming Spirits is always going to be something that accompanies any description of the film. I’m wondering if you can describe the development of the film, and more specifically, a chicken-or-egg question: Was it the story that came first or the visuals?

Chris Sullivan: The story did come from a few visual starting points. One of them is this body that was exhumed on Beechey Island which was connected with the Franklin Expedition, and its image is so arresting, it’s even sneaking into my new film. I have both a brother and a father who died prematurely, and there is a way that they were memorialized, like their sins die with them a little bit—that image made me think about this. There’s also this shaman image that is from an actual exhibit in the Field Museum in Chicago, and the description is very much like the description in the film. So this idea that a shaman is perhaps a romantic description of an alcoholic was also a starting point.

Shaman in Consuming Spirits

Shaman in Consuming Spirits

The film has autobiographical beginning points, but it is definitely a complete fiction, which I always want to make people understand. I come from a giant family, which I wasn’t willing to animate! I often find when people think they can explore something deep inside themselves, they get down to the bottom they realize: “Oh, wait a second. I don’t want to talk about this!” So fiction gives you the freedom to go to these places that you wouldn’t go if it was in fact the truth.

The environs of Consuming Spirits is similar to where you grew up, correct? Somewhere near Pittsburgh?

Right. I grew up in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh is one of those cities—in a way like Minneapolis, where you have places like Nicollet Island, which isn’t what it was when I was there. The town, in terms of look, is similar to something…I’m having a blank on the river town that is on the St Croix…

Stillwater?

Yeah. Stillwater. I often think of it like Wheeling, West Virginia. But in Pittsburgh where I grew up, there was a forest across the street from my house. There was a farm behind me, even though I could see the skyscrapers of Pittsburgh.

When you say you had seeds of the story percolating in your head, did you then work on the script? Because one thing about the film is that it is so well scripted, and even though you are watching this animation with voice actors, it often resonates better than some live action film. Did you start on the script first?

It’s funny, in ’95 I started writing a whole other film that I got deeply into and I said to myself: “This is crazy. This will take me ten years to make!”

Little did you know!

Right! “Now I’ll make something more manageable!” But I did first write a prose narrative and then I started to work it into a screenplay. I feel very lucky that I did not make a film about the death of Lady Di, or something. If I was talking about it 15 years later, I would feel very odd. It did end up being things that would hold, and I don’t think I did that intentionally. I feel like that is a bit of luck on my side.

Because of that, I knew certain images that were going to happen, but there are important things in the film that were not in the original script. The most important is that Victor Blue was initially the protagonist. Often when you are writing a novel or a movie, you’ll be attracted to these kind of simple and perhaps even stupid characters. Or, let’s say, repressed characters. But as a writer that ends up being a real limit, because they don’t have any introspection, and that can be really frustrating. So Earl and Genny were characters that actually did have levels of introspection that allowed me to enjoy writing and to have a character that is as smart or smarter than me. I think writers often make a bunch of characters that are much dumber than them, but then they get a little bored. So the emergence of Earl Gray as the main character was something that happened as the film grew. That’s something that changed over the years.

So in terms of this idea of what was there and what came in, there are important things that came in late and there were important things that were there from the inception. And that goes for things in terms of what I shot. I primarily shot it sequentially. The closing scenes in the museum were something that were there very early on in the film, but the campfire scene was not. That was something that was shot in 2011.

When did you decide that you would be the voice of Victor Blue and did that have an impact in how the story was structured?

I often think of ‘life is there but for fortune go I.’ As the 10th child of 11, we tend to take whatever crumbs are left. It’s kind of like a psychological position. But on the other hand, if that crumb is something delicious, we will also take it. I do think I could be that character and it’s just someone saying: ‘Hey. This is good. You should do this.”

I moved to Minneapolis because my drawing teacher Bruce Breland said, “Oh, I have this friend, Erbert Munzner, who teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. You should go there.” That’s what I did. I didn’t look for another school. I went and I bought a ticket.

I’m a little smarter now, but not a whole lot. It ended up being fortuitous and wonderful, but if I didn’t have that drawing teacher, if I didn’t have that conversation, I would have never spent my 20s in Minneapolis. Those are weird things that I have a lot of compassion for.

There’s a thing that Michael Jordon says—his mode is ‘you can be whatever you want to be’ which I think is totally untrue. Maybe one out of every 2 million people ends up being exactly what they want to be.

Easy for Michael Jordan to say!

I’m 52 and I do have this good feeling and I do think this is the best film I’ve made. But I haven’t made a film for 18 years!

When people think about animation, especially in the 21st century, they think digital. Consuming Spirits is the complete antithesis of that, in all the best ways, as far as handmade cutouts and scale models and stop motion animation. Did you actually shoot Consuming Spirits on film?

Yeah, it’s shot on 16mm. It’s not even shot on Super 16, so it’s originally shot 3:4. As technology changed—it’s one of the weird things about the film—the newspaper tropes ended up being something that I went through in terms of how films are finished. There was a point when the negative got really dirty, and perhaps the whole film was going to get trashed. There were labs that would not deal with it, because I had already conformed it. Finishing it on film would have wiped out all my money and would have made it a useless 16mm feature film.

There is a lab here in Chicago that was really great and they ended up transferring the film for me. During the transferring we had to adjust the frame, because it was shot 3:4, and I was realizing that they really did manage to clean it, it’s going to finish, it’s going to actually be a film. I don’t know if it will be good, but it is actually going to happen. I was sitting there in this colorist room, bursting into tears, and they were looking at me like, “Are you okay.” There are all these moments when I just thought this thing would never happen.

Give me an idea of how much time is spent on one minute of footage.

It usually ends up being a week of making elements, meaning a different character or a different background. Usually it takes an entire day to get all the lighting right and all the layers of glass right. And then when the shooting starts, it’s about 300 frames a day. It ends up being a little more than 10 seconds a day to actually shoot. And if you have multiple characters and multiple camera moves, it will slow down.

The dialogue is also logged on little index cards and so you have to either move the mouth or move the little teeth. Some of the characters have replacement mouths and some of the characters have hinged mouths. That slows things down, but still you can get 250-300 frames a day. The drawings are slower. You can draw maybe 70-80 drawings a day. And again that usually means per character, so that if you have a shot with three characters in it, you duplicate that. The shooting of the drawing goes quicker. You can shoot 1000 frames of drawings a day.

Consuming Spirits

Consuming Spirits

Would you say a quarter of the film is drawings?

Something like that.

And the rest all stop motion?

Right. That is a decision I made that had something to do with the technology of the time, but also getting a little tired of the film I had finished previous to that, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. I had spent en entire year and a half coloring stuff, and still the color is very thin, very light like Egon Schiele-ish.

The idea of having a full color palette was something I really wanted to be able to work with and that’s what the cutouts provided—the kind of detail and texture. It was something I had never done before, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. There were times when I’d say, “I’m really proud of that shot” and then “I’m not proud of that shot” but there were things happening with it that were interesting to me.

There’s this term that Piaget uses called “esquema” which is the way that a kids draw. People do that with animation. It takes them a little time, but then they say, “Ok. This is what things look like.” And they let themselves fall into the film. Not everyone, of course.

I will still be in these screenings where there will literally be five minutes left of the film, and there is some couple that will get up, shaking their head, and walk out. It’s a weird film! And I sometimes forget that it’s weird. On the other hand, it does end up being a social experience, and this is something that is really important to me. I was afraid what reviewers would experience with 10 people sitting in an empty theater watching this film. So I was really excited by the fact that I got some in-depth reviews out of both Tribeca Film Festival and the Film Forum run, which was amazing. I had no idea that I would get that kind of reception.

Every once in a while you realize that New York knows how to do their thing, and one of them is to pay attention to art. Someone who has been a big support of this film is Tasha Robinson who writes for the Onion. She saw it at Tribeca and did an interview with me. She has been supportive, but real clean and professional. It’s not like we are buddies or anything, but she even did another full review of the film.

The thing that feels the most exciting is people, who do not know you at all, going into the film and being generous. I do not know A.O. Scott. I did send him a thank you letter via the promotional office but he is not my friend. And that feels so sincere and so real. Those are the kind of things that were like, “Whoa. This thing is a film, I think, maybe.”

There are of course people who still don’t like it, and there are snarky reviews as well. Some things that I am really proud of are: it’s not based on a book, it’s not a remake, it really only exists as a film. And for me, it really only exists in the social space of the cinema. People have watched it individually, and have been able to understand it like that, but there is something about sitting in a room full of people and experiencing it. I will have a somber serious audience, and then I’ll have another audience that is willing to laugh at the film, which is interesting to see. I like that. I really want to defend the right to assembly—the cultural value of assembly. All the people at Apple will have to realize that not everything should happen by the glow of a flat screen. We actually had somebody tell our technician recently that optical media is dead.

What? I guess that’s the new thing—declare the death of things.

I think painting has been dead for 50 years now!

You hold many of the credits in the film: obviously director and animator, but also, as I mentioned, voice actor and musician—the music in the film is great. Can you run down your technical and artistic duties of the film, if that’s possible?

Sure. I did all the writing and the music. I did have some musicians—Monty McCullom played violin on some tracks, my daughter Carmen played violin on some tracks, which she is somewhat sheepish about because she played them when she was 11 and now she is a concert violinist! And she says, “It’s a little hard for me to hear that.”

All the characters sing their parts. I shot probably three-fifths of the film, and in terms of the drawing even more. The other animators were really important too and they did wonderful work. I did all the sound editing and cutting. I ended up doing the color correction which was something I was doing just to get it ready for festivals, and I suddenly realized that I had gotten so deeply into it, that to actually pay for a color correction they would not do much more than I was doing and it would have wiped out any money I had left.

Is that uncommon? Doing the color correction yourself?

It is uncommon. The problem is that there were some technical issues that I had to deal with. If you watch the film real slowly you’ll see these weird jump frames or wiggle frames. The DaVinci is not meant to take splices and so it would often hop. So I lost the last five or six frames of almost every shot. There were individual frames that had to be duplicated and copied to fix aspects of the film.

There were times when I wanted someone else to be editing, but the reality was that there was not any budget left by the time I got it to those things. I am getting to the point where I probably have to give this thing over to a distributor if I want to get to work on my new film, because it is taking up all my time.

I’ve made some real big errors. I did not apply for an Academy Award. I don’t think I would get one, but I could have been nominated. But you don’t know how things are going to happen. In September I was showing in festivals, and I was getting rejections—I still get rejections from film festivals. I have trouble breaking the British barrier! I’ve gotten into one festival on the British Isles, but I’ve been rejected by six or seven. I have realized that this film is made for people other than filmmakers to see, but it takes some time and you realize, “Oh, this thing perhaps has some cultural value.” I wish I had a little bit more type A personality in me, so I could make these proper decisions. But it is wonderful to feel like the film is moving beyond me. It really feels great. And when I say things about having strangers see the film—of course I want my love ones to see it and I want my friends to see it—but it’s like a writer wants a stranger to pick up their book and read it and be moved by it. That’s what we hope art does!

You mentioned that you are currently self-distributing. Is there interest out there? Have you heard from any distributors?

There is interest. Again, things like getting an Academy Award, those things are important to people. The reviews from New York are really important and helpful, and I think that something will happen with it. It is complicated because—and this is a hard thing for filmmakers—I have yet to talk to a filmmaker who has actually made money after giving their film to a distributor.

There’s something that people aren’t aware of which is called a calendar fee. So when you go to an arthouse place and you are seeing a film and there are 12 people sitting there, that person is literally loosing money because they are actually renting the space. It’s not just, “Oh, too bad people aren’t here.” The filmmaker is going in the red. So you have to have people come in and sit in the seats and fill it up. It is really hard.

There’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is an amazing film that was abandon by the independent and critical community—which drove me crazy. I was in a theater watching it and people were getting up and leaving. This is an important film. What is going on? Those are times when you just feel like, what is wrong with the world.

A really great thing was, when I left New York, I got a call on Christmas day, and I’m saying, “Do people go to films on Christmas Day?” And someone said, “Hey Chris. I was just at the 1:00 screening with a full house and it looks like there’s another group coming in for the 3:00.” And I’m like, “Oh my god. This is a film. I’m not there and it’s happening!”

Karen Cooper who saw the film at Tribeca, she just said, “This is an important film. I’m going to put it in my program.” It was very funny, I was talking to her, I was like, “Is this a good idea? I’m not quite through with festivals.” I realized afterwards that, of course, you do this thing. Again, there is a certain green stupidness in me that takes some time to realize what’s important.

Karen Cooper does programming at Film Forum.

Right. She just saw it and within two or three weeks said, “I want to do a run.” That’s the other thing: people have to be brave, and she was very brave. Mike Maggiore also got on board, and was real excited about the film. Again, these are not people who know me.

Consuming Spirits seems to have many references while, once again, being completely one-of-a-kind. Associating Earl Grey’s soliloquies with Garrison Keillor and a Prairie Home Companion is actually not a Minnesota thing, because I’ve read that reference in places other than Minnesota. But in watching the film I also thought about the experimentalism in the Quay Brothers animation; in tone and visuals, I thought a lot about Lynda Barry’s novel Cruddy, which is a fantastic book; but also David Lynch in the Twin Peaks/Blue Velvet sort of way where you discover this whole other world hidden beneath the veneer of a small town; and I also thought of the Handsome Family, this dark country music.

It’s interesting because they did a cover of “The House Carpenter,” which is in my film. I had already recorded mine. The Joan Baez one was the one I got, but it was really interesting listening to their recording.

That’s great. I guess I didn’t even realize that. I think it is mostly just that tone: their songs are very dark, but they are also really tender. And then if you know the two of them, they are incredibly funny. There’s this mix of humor, darkness, and tenderness that I think is also represented in your film.

Who were your conscious influences in this film, visually, narratively and musically?

Someone like Lynda Barry is. One person who I was very honored to be compared to is Alison Bechdel, and her amazing and important work. Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, which I highly recommend—it’s an incredible piece of work. Joe Frank‘s radio stuff, I really love. In terms of David Lynch and Twin Peaks there is definitely a connection there. Also John Cassavetes is an enormous influence.

John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands on the set of A Woman Under the Influence

John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands on the set of A Woman Under the Influence

There’s an important moment when I realized what I want to do with film, or what I appreciate in film. I was reading this script book and it had all this Hollywood stuff in it. There’s one chapter in this book called “What’s at Stake.” I come from this avant-garde community, in which I don’t know what’s at stake with people’s work. And I don’t understand what is really bothering them. But then there was a chapter called “The Central Question” and it said, every successful film has a central question, and the answer to the question is “yes.” That made me realize: I just identified what I don’t want to do! You can’t say what the object of desire is or what would be the goal. These people who are brave enough to say, you know, life doesn’t really work like that. You think you know what’s going to be important, but it isn’t. And the thing that you wanted? No you won’t get it. You might get something close to it, but you are not going to get that thing and you’ve got to swallow that loss. And that is going to be with you until you drop dead.

I think there is a beauty in that, too. Artists that I really love, or filmmakers, I can’t locate that thing, but at the end there is this sense of: there was this fuzzy question and I totally understand it or I totally feel for it. In terms of Wobegon, I see a close relationship between Lake Wobegon and The Sopranos. Both of these cultural things have said: “Guess what? When the show is over, there will be no closure. And you have just spent twelve hours in this place but there is no closure and you’ll just have to come back and visit again. And there won’t be closure again.” People criticize the way that the Sopranos ended, but I thought it was really brave. It ends in a normal stupid day, a normal stupid moment. And that is what life is like.

The thing that is weird about Minnesota is that my time there wasn’t the subject of my work—I still had all my Pittsburgh baggage—but it was the energy of being on the edge of the frontier, of human existence. The fact that if you walk straight north, if you veer enough that you don’t hit Lake Superior, you are basically walking into the Arctic Circle. There is something very real about that sense that you are marginalized by nature. That is something that is in the film, in terms of this idea that the woods is dangerous because it’s too cold or there are poison things. I remember this boy that got lost near Ely 33 years ago, there was a factor that you have to understand: if you get lost in the woods out there, you can only go about 300 yards a day. It’s full of swamps and thicket—you don’t walk for miles. This space can absorb you. That is something that is very Minnesota about Consuming Spirits.

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your performance work. You are also a performance artist, and, as a matter of fact, you participated in the Walker’s Out There series, currently in its 25th year. How do these seemingly disparate art forms come together in your work?

They do come together. There is something that happens on stage—the acceptance of shifts, the acceptance of different kinds of suspension of disbelief—that still does not function in film. Some people have talk about films like Holy Motors as being something that embraces this idea that film is a performative act and not a real thing. I love things about that film. I find it a little bit too smart to have any feelings, but I still really enjoy it and I’m really glad it’s out there. There is something I can do in performance that I can’t do in film. In my film I have to have a confession or I have to have an interview or I have to create these structures for a certain kind of open writing. But I can just do that on stage—I can just start talking in any form and any tense and that is accepted. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s something I think about a lot.

Performances tend to be several months of writing, a couple months of prep, and I perform the thing. They are, I won’t say disposable, but they are temporal. They allow my brain to be moving. I performed last year in Minneapolis at Open Eye, run by Mike Sommers and Susan Haas, but I hadn’t done a performance since performing at the Walker in ’95 or ’96. I had said, “I’m going to take a break; I don’t have time for this; I’m raising kids; I’ve got my job; I’ve got my film.” But I kept on missing it. It never went away. And I started it again, and got some critical support from a writer in Chicago, Monica Westin, who supported my performance work and has written on Consuming Spirits too. I wanted to try and bring something up while I was at the Walker, but things just got too insane and busy.

I want to do these things I have done in performance—these shifts of characters, where I’m talking to you but I’m kind of a character but kind of not—in film. I’ll be playing a little bit with that, and we’ll see how brave I am! It of course has some sort of ego base too. It’s scary. But hopefully I’ll be up there [in Minnesota] doing something in the next year or so.

You’ve alluded to the fact that you’ve got a new film and obviously some performance work. What do you have coming up?

Of course, I have quite a few screenings coming up with Consuming Spirits.

Where are the upcoming screenings?

I just showed in two public spaces that I knew nothing about: I had week runs in Lake Worth, Florida and Hudson, New York at arthouses there. I’m really curious to see how that goes. I’ve got a one week screening at the Seattle Northwest Film Forum. I have a screening in Edinburgh at a puppet festival there, which will be really interesting venue. A film festival in Istanbul, which will be an interesting audience.

Are you going?

No unfortunately. I am going to Luxembourg, which could be interesting. It’s hard to know when to press and say, “Well, you have to bring me.” A lot of places will put you up and fly you internationally. It’s great when it happens, but it doesn’t always happen.

I’ve got a run at the Gene Siskel here in Chicago that starts the 25th. And that is a week run, and that’s my hometown theatrical. I have something that I’m almost positive is going to happen at Cinefamily in LA at a festival called Animation Breakdown, but the timing with that is a little unclear at the moment, so I’m not sure when the actual dates for that are.

Some barriers for the film have been LA and the British Isles, which I can’t figure out. I got another British rejection Dear John letter from Glasgow. Part of me is like, “Are you sure? Look at these reviews. Come on! Come on!!”

Here’s the thing to think about, when you make a difficult piece of work, you can sit down with it and if you start to get unsure, it can start to drift away from you. And I think that can happen with Consuming Spirits. You have to have faith. There’s always a point when I’m with an audience when I realize, okay, they’re in. But if you start to say, “This is just too crazy,” you can keep going there. And I do understand that some people can just say, “This is not working for me.” That is where the social thing happens too, where you start to feel the energy of people watching it and you start to realize, “Oh, we’re in this!” Even in the good reviews, there is always this thing like, ‘you have to make a commitment,’ or ‘this film is merciless at times.’ I do realize that even the films that I love there are those moments too.

In John Cassavetes’ films there’s always a terrible party you at for too long. He wants you to feel that discomfort, that pain. It’s not like you have to want the film, but you have to say, “I’m going to give this film the benefit of the doubt.” And then I think it will feed you. But I can understand you are sitting there, you’re at a festival and you throw this thing in the computer and you’ve got a cup of coffee and undivided attention is not going to work watching this thing. The first 30-40 minutes, you’re still like, “Where am I?” And then you suddenly go, “I think I see where I am” and it starts to solidify.

That’s such a great moment when that happens.

I like it as a viewer, but it’s scary as a filmmaker. You look at the early Tarkovsky films, and they’re actually conventional, and then, as he got trust, he gets more daring. You don’t know where that trust is going to come from, whether it comes from a review, or whether it comes from the energy of an audience—it’s hard to know. A lot of really great work is not necessarily easy to swallow. I don’t know if this film is a great film, but it’s not unimportant.

A scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice

A scene from Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice

Performance-wise, I’m not sure at this moment. I did a chapter from a performance called “Aggression Therapy” at Open Eye, and I have a desire to flesh that thing out. Right now it is just a 55-minute piece and I want it to be about 70. So I might resurrect that.

This was a piece that you did last year?

I did it a few years ago, in Chicago twice, but I didn’t take it on the road. And then I did it in Minneapolis, but I just did a 15-minute chapter from it. They [Open Eye] have a run going that weekend [I’m there], so there wasn’t any way I could perform there, and I didn’t really get anything else going. Maybe I will come up next fall. We’ll see what happens.

Film-wise, tell me a little bit about your new film.

The new film right now has a very long-winded title called The Orbit of Minor Satellites, which may change. It is a film with animation and 3D sets in it. The puppet-table-top stuff that is in Consuming Spirits, I ended up liking how that felt for people more than I thought I would.

I have two things: one is a space station on a distant moon that goes around Saturn which was a Soviet-American cold war peace gesture, and then there is a mansion turned into a psychiatric institute. I’m fascinated by the conversion of mansions—not just in the United States, in other places too. But in the Unites States they often get converted into health clinics or accounting offices. But then they are also abandoned. The concept of an abandon mansion is this amazing mis-step. How does that happen? The house I grew up in in Pittsburgh is more or less abandoned at the moment. It happens. It’s something about things that fall through the cracks, whether they’re people or whether they’re places. But there is a connection between the two.

One of the main characters is my daughter playing a teenager with a certain psychosis, which she does not have at all, so it’s safe! The actual psychiatrist character—I have a couple people whom I am interested in playing that part, that may actually be a known figure. Tim Curry or David Bowie, but neither of them know that. There will be a trailer up probably within about two months.

You are in production on this?

I’m in production, yeah. I did a big burst in the summer and I got about four minutes done on it and then all of this stuff hit me, so I have not done hardly any work on it for quite a few months. So I’m hoping to work on that. I may even do some Kickstarter thing or something like that. I have to get some more money for more employees and stuff like that.

Should I ask what the timeline is?

I want to have it done by 2015.

I have one other project I’m on the fence about doing. My first feature was called Rooms and it was made in Minneapolis. I got some rejections, and I was 28, and I got scared and withdrew it. I’m one of the main actors, and the other main actor is Joe Pastoor who lives in Minneapolis, and he is up for doing a revisiting of the film. We would record ourselves now, 30 years later. That would be something neat to do. There are things missing from it that I would want to revamp or want to change to make it feel like it’s mine again. There are some visual and some themes that still resonate with me. While I’m working on the animation, I may take a few months and actually finish a weird little live action film.

Rooms is a live action?

It’s live action with marionettes. It has this dual world thing, like the cutouts and the drawings. I’m doing something like that with the new film too, where I’m going to have some live action stuff that is like a 50s health film in black and white.

Is Rooms feature length?

It’s 85 minutes now, so I can still make it the appropriate length, which is 2 hours and 10 minutes, as we all know! The idea is that I would be adding this addendum and the butt element is that we have grown up to become model mortuary-ists. We create small neural dioramas.

That all sounds great! Do you have anything else?

One thing I would say about Consuming Spirits, some reviews say don’t bring the kids. I would say bring the smart kids over 12. I’ve actually had teenagers and young kids really get interested in the film. Kids who are 16 have really enjoyed it. It’s a weird film, but it’s not an esoteric film. So I’m game: all takers!

Consuming Spirits screens Friday, February 8 at 7:30pm and Saturday, February 9 at 3:00pm. Chris will also be taking part in an IFP panel on The Art of Animation – free in the Walker Cinema Saturday, February 9 at 1:00pm.