Truth Among Cats with Sean Pecknold
Sean Pecknold is known for making music videos for the likes of Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and Beach House. His latest project is an experimental film called The Internet – A Blog Cats WTF Universe, which he wrote, cast, and produced in four weeks in Berlin and Iceland with filmmaker Matt Daniels. Using restrictions and simplicity to drive the creative process, Pecknold seeks to explore our obsession with technology and its effects on our consciousness.
Congratulations on having your project funded on Kickstarter.
Thanks. It was an experiment to see if we could get some post-production help because it was very much “let’s go make a project with no money.” And we funded the travel, but then I was like, I suppose it would be nice to actually be able to hire another animator to help us, even if I end up doing a lot of the animation. It’s cool … it’s a pretty game-changing thing.
That’s a pretty meta way to have your film funded.
Especially this project. It’s about a guy who starts a blog.
Is it a Tumblr?
Yeah, Tumblr is the blog format that the character is so excited about being able to update so easily. He keeps changing the theme, but once he has it, he’s thrilled. But having that great theme does not necessarily change his life as he hopes it will.
Now this is getting super meta.
I should be filming this interview. I just wanted to make a movie about our obsession with technology and the internet, looking at something as large as the universe and how our place in it seems so small and insignificant. I feel that way about the internet as well. It’s something that I, and most people I know, are affected by on a deep level, which is really kind of insane. In the “how many messages do you have, how many views do you have” sense — you know all that stuff is really insignificant and can create this weird existential angst. I’m sure it happened two hundred years ago with a different medium, love letters or whatever. It’s more of a shared experience now because anyone can be a part of it.
As an artist, do you think that kind of existential angst has an effect on creation?
I think it can have an effect on creation for sure. It all depends on what you want to explore. I always end up with some sort of underlying question about the universe in my work, and now that the internet is such a part of our everyday life and work life, it’d be impossible for it not to have an effect on what we create. I think it’s great to take good long breaks from anything online — it helps your brain return to its normal speed, whatever that is.
Did you feel that same anxiety while making or funding the film?
I have become a bit more of an anxious person because of all the checking, and adding Kickstarter to that list of things to be checking and getting bummed out about certainly adds to that. But it’s an amazing thing to be able to crowd fund. I’m super glad we were able to utilize it.
Why did you choose to film in Berlin and Iceland?
We really wanted to go to Berlin. We filmed in those two locations for inspiration. Iceland is a little cliche now, but in this case it sort of fit what we needed. The character slowly dips more and more into a place in his head that exists as kind of an end of the universe where he encounters a god. It’s pretty otherworldly there, so it worked out well.
Did those locations inform the film or dialogue at all?
Berlin for sure because that is to me a place that people are talking about, like oh, go there. So that inspired the character. The character’s kind of thinking about moving to a city. And that’s another thing I see in my peer group. Thinking that moving is going to change your life. I mean a lot of the times it does change things for the better, but there is usually more to it than just a place. I’m going to move to Portland, I’m going to move to LA. I think that’s also an effect of the Internet. It’s hard to really stay in one space and stay focused.
What was it like being in front of the camera?
Pretty normal. I mean, it takes a little getting used to it, but it was literally just Matt and a sound guy — the crew. We had, for some of these scenes, mainly natural light so it felt very much like shooting a documentary — there was a lot of interaction with real people who had to just be themselves. The character is someone that I would be connected with; he felt connected to my actual self. So it was an amazing experience, filming it, being in front of the camera, knowing what that’s like. I love animation but I don’t just want to do that for the rest of my life. I have that obsession, but I know I want to keep exploring with different people in real environments and expand the range a little bit.
What’s next on your plate?
Work-wise, Matt and I are helping someone else finish a feature film. I’m doing editorial for it. As soon as I finish that, I’m off to go shoot another music video in July, then try to finish the movie in August, and then possibly go out into the world to shoot another film.
What are your favorite Tumblrs?
How do you feel about cats?
I like cats, I had one cat that lived until she was 22. I think cats know something about the universe that we don’t. Don’t you?
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