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Christopher Allan Thomas’s animated short film Hi Five The Cactus Premieres at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Sunday, September 16!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 09/15/2018

Christopher Allan Thomas’s animated short film Hi Five The Cactus Premieres at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Sunday, September 16!

Christopher Allan Thomas’s animated short film Hi Five The Cactus Premieres at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Sunday, September 16!

Here is an interview I did with Christopher:

Nigrin: Your wonderful and surreal short animated film Hi-Five the Cactusis about the inhabitants of a small desert town who are suffering from a devastating drought. Please tell us more about your film and what moved you to make it?

 

ThomasHi-Five the Cactuswas originally a folk-song written by Jay Purdy of the Extraordinaries.   While at one of their house-shows at a DIY punk-rock-venue in Philadelphia, I was given a hand-crafted book featuring 13 beautiful and disturbing water-color illustrations with their accompanying song.   The first page I turned to depicted a one-armed cactus with trio of dead characters at his base with the caption : “For I’ve poisoned all my juices to destroy this little town.”   I closed the book; approached Jay Purdy and told him: ”I’ve never animated a film before.   But I would absolutely devote my life to making this story a stop-frame animation.  I started the project the next day and finished it ten years later.”    

Nigrin: Is your film shot on film? How long did it take to make it?

ThomasHi-Five the Cactuswas shot on a GL1 DV camcorder I borrowed from a friend of mine.  (Thank you Isaac).  He later gave me the camera after seeing the first bit of animation I completed and I sort of just stuck with it.   If you look closely, the last scene actually contains 7 dead pixels.   I thought it was fitting the video-camera “dies” at the end of the film too.  Hi-Five the Cactuswas shot over a period of 10 years with about a 5 year break in-between where I denounced animation and swore never to return to it.  A near-death experience inspired me to eventually complete my magnum-opus project and to pursue my dream of becoming an animator.  

Nigrin:  How did you achieve all those crazy special effects? 

Thomas: Virtually all of the specials effects in Hi-Five the Cactusare done in their respective animation-sequences and not in post-production.  I use a variety of techniques ranging from back-lit projection mattes, custom-made-camera-rigs and cleverly-engineered-props.  The cowboy’s hand-gun, for instance, actually contains a small fire-cracker that is lit and photographed each time in the animation sequence.  The sparks that are created are quite literally explosive!

  

Nigrin:  How did you come to create such interesting animal and human characters.

Thomas: I really enjoy villains.   I gravitate towards them.  I also am enchanted by the anti-hero.  I wanted every character in Hi-Five the Cactusto have a different look / movement / energy to them.  The Cactus is the lovable anti-hero.  The trio of desert animals are the diabolical stooges.  The mouse is both creepy and magical.  The vultures are the haunting force that drive the film.  And the armadillo is the neutral-character who serves as the “audience”.   We watch the story through his perspective.   The combination of character-archetypes glue this tragedy together nicely, in my opinion, at least.  

Nigrin:  The soundtrack is also quite original too. Is your film meant to be a musical. Tell us more about the songs and the music in your film. 

 

Thomas: As stated earlier, the film Hi-Five the Cactuswas originally a folk-song written by Jay Purdy of the Extraordinaries.   In developing the story for animation, I expanded the universe of this song into a Five-Act-Musical.  I wrote all the “new” songs and recorded them myself in the same warehouse where Hi-Five the Cactus was animated.     Drawing inspiration from their original-song, Ennio Morricone and the “Hey Dude” soundtrack….The soundtrack of Hi-Five the Cactus was completed over a three-month recording period.    It was my first attempt to ever write music or sing for that matter.   Since completing Hi-Five the Cactus I have written 7 more songs and will be releasing them under the moniker Crooked-Tooth and the Story-Tellers.    The album (Stupid Good: Volume 1)  will be released on November 7th, 2018, exactly one-week after Hi-Five the Cactusmakes it’s internet premier on Halloween-NIght.  

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can pass on to us?

Thomas: I am convinced Hi-Five the Cactusis cursed.   In completing this film, I have yet to determine if I have been released by it’s curse or have just sunk further into it.   The film is devoted to by dog Booker who unfortunately died one month prior to completion.   The cause of his death: ruptured-intestines / poison.   Even curses can have an odd sense of humor.   Perhaps one day I will let the world know if I've been relinquished?   If the world never hears from me again you will know I haven't been.  

Christopher Allan Thomas’s animated short film Hi Five The Cactus Premieres at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Sunday, September 16!

Hi Five the Cactus will be playing by six other great shorts and the documentary feature My Tourette’s. Here is more information on this screening:


BPM -Greg Robbins (Weehawken, New Jersey)  A jogger searching for cheap thrills stumbles upon something more exhilarating. 2018; 4 min



 
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Piano -Brendan Walsh (Tuckerton, New Jersey)  In this touching short film, a piano technician arrives at a house for a scheduled tuning at a fateful moment. 2018; 5 min.

Broken Lullaby - Bill McGarvey and Stella Rosen (Hoboken, New Jersey)  Musical notes come to life in this charming animated film. 2018; 3 min.

Icons - Ronnie Cramer (Denver, Colorado)  Experience 500 years of world art in five minutes! Made up of 2,500 individual drawings, rendered with a nylon-tip pen, this dazzling animated film also features a musical soundtrack created by the artist-director. 2018; 5 min. 

Divert Lea -Michael Obiazi (Brooklyn, New York)  A family with special powers is on the verge of being captured by an evil organization. What is the best way to survive--to run? Or to stay and fight? 2018; 9 min. With a Q+A Session by Director Michael Obiazi!

OnikumaAlessia Cechet (Soquel, California)  Combininglive action with stop motion, this short, animated film tells the story of two women who, after wandering in the snow, learn that demons can appear in different forms. 2018; 12 min. 

Hi-Five the Cactus - Christopher Allan Thomas (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) The inhabitants of a small desert town suffer a devastating drought.Their only hope lies with an old cactus lovingly named Hi-Five. Can Hi-Five’s selfless sacrifice keep this dusty town alive?2018; 12 min.

My Tourette's - Alessandro Molatore (Mexico City, Mexico) This compassionate documentaryfollows five individuals struggling with the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome: ticks, jerks, and painful, uncontrollable bodily and verbal disruptions. For Isabella, Nick, Alex, Carysa, and Marc, Tourette’s has presented a life of isolation and prejudice, depriving them of their dreams and aspirations. Yet, hope is not lost. Researchers  believe they might have a solution for Tourette’s, that will allow these young people to discover that they are more than what they know themselves to be.  2018; 75 min. Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University Office of Disability Services and the Rutgers University Cinema Studies Program!



 
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Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482; 
www.njfilmfest.com




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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