toons / lesbian dogwood and the disaster life thereof: part 1 / didactic



written by bentl, 11/30/2022

what's the scoop, fruit loop!? bentl here! if you're reading this, you've probably watched my film called Lesbian Dogwood and the Disaster Life Thereof. in which case, thank you!! i hope you enjoyed it! if you're interested, here's my personal relationship with the film and elaborations on my artistic philosophy going into its inception. real thrillin' stuff, right?

this might be the most pretentious shit you've ever read and make you hate the film, but yakno i just love talking about art i cant help it!


my artistic roots are mostly in film and music, drawing was a means to an end. you can see my music also on this website but not my films because they all suck, haha. anyways, i went to film school for 2 years and got nothing out of it, nothing worth the price at least. i learned that the film industry is an abusive, parasitic nightmare shitshow. it survives on unpaid internships and the empty promises of making dreams come true. talking to fellow students felt like networking and all the "rules of cinema" felt like exhausting formalities. sure they're valuable if you're collaborating with a giant crew so everyone's on the same page, but i really wasn't interested in doing that. professional filmmaking is essentially a microcosm of hyper-capitalism, a painful reality for an artistic medium as vast and beautiful as film.

i picked up animation sometime in late 2019 as a way of making films that weren't weighed down by the creative restrictions that came with obligatory collaboration. i started making mostly shorts using primarily ms paint, a pirated copy of photoshop, and a pirated copy of premiere. i think most of my early animation influence stemmed from growing up during a golden age of fan mutation internet animations courtesy of PilotRedSun, RatBoyGenius, and seinfeldspitstain just to name a few. i found their surrealist, inventive, deconstructive approach to animation to be really compelling and highlighted to me what made animation such an exciting and unique medium. i was also interested in a lot of experimental improvisational music at the time which really inspired me to trim out as many artistic formalities as possible in my own art. i think this translated to my animation and filmmaking approach in the following ways:

1. i love ms paint. its lightweight, its simple and it doesn't have any frills. i grew up using ms paint all the time and i think its just exists permanently in my brain as "the way to draw".

2. i use a mouse to draw. i think a drawing tablet is big and unwieldy. too many trinkets, too many drivers. also drawing with a tablet feels unfun, like the simulation of drawing on paper just makes me wanna draw on paper. a mouse is simple and accurate. it's also easier for me to edit in adobe premiere with a mouse and i didn't wanna have to keep switching devices. if people can be good at osu then why can't i be good at drawing with a mouse?

3. i very selectively draw in-betweens and lip syncing. i think lip syncing and constant in-betweens are what can make animation such a difficult medium to undertake for a lot of people. my thought is that if a character has their mouth open, we understand that they're the one talking. if a png of a cartoon dude is bouncing across the screen, we understand that its walking. i think when you use lip syncs and fluent movement selectively, it makes the emotional weight of whatever's being said/done a lot stronger. it also makes animation a lot more fun because you're trimming down what i consider to be the boring stuff.

my drawings and characters are very minimal... for the most part. i'm very inspired by the artwork of paul klee as well as various aboriginal and indigenous artists. thanks to these influences, my doodling and artistic approach has leaned very much into the raw and expressionist. emotion that exists in the minimalist feels very unadulterated and human to me. i hope to express those emotions using the tools of a computer, whether it be just a stroke of the ms paint spray tool or a copy-pasted stock photo.

the deeper i got into animating, the more i began to appreciate other animators. Vince Collins, Pritt Parn, CBoyardee, Jonni Phillips, Bembo Davis, Harrison & Parker, etc. i reached a point where I made a 5 minute film about a millionare in less than a day and at that point i realized that i could make a feature film if i wanted to probably. and i did want to.

the making of lesbian dogwood

the project folder for lesbian dogwood is still named "film thing" because i didn't know what i was making when i started making it. i had started making it as a film adaptation of this is my disaster, a hypertext novella i never finished that was inspired by 17776 and Homestuck. i had also sunk some time into making a graphic novel the year before called the moonray highway restoration quest of heir fishbaby, which was also inspired by Homestuck but with a visual style that was more rooted in my mixed media physical art of the time. anyways, i took both stories and smooshed them into one and thus became the basis for Lesbian Dogwood and the Infinite Parking Lot (a title that obviously changed).

there is no complete script for lesbian dogwood. altho it was all loosely planned in my head, scenes were only written out in detail after the prior scene was finished. when dialog was written, it was written in the format of a book, not in a traditional script format. i thought the traditional script format (for what i was doing) was bogus and lame, i think the book format is better for communicating the emotionality of a scene to a voice actor because it reads to me more so like its own standalone piece of art. plus, when you aren't collaborating with anyone for the production, you can be more sparing with visual detail and leave certain things up to readers' interpretation. you can leave it to yourself of the future to interpret the script in a way that is interesting or compelling to them at that time. you don't have to commit to any one shot or style if you don't want to do it when it comes time. if you do what feels exciting in the moment instead of what was planned beforehand, the product will always be better.

the film is always mixing mediums but the digital process stayed largely the same: draw thing in ms paint, copy paste each thing into adobe photoshop, arrange all the things into frames of a photoshop timeline, export the timeline as an image sequence, and make them squirm and wiggle around in adobe premiere. i never used adobe after effects or any other video editing software. the one exception is blender which i used for the cityscape in the title sequence but i HATED using blender so that was it lol.

film philosophies

i really dislike the film industry if that wasn't already obvious lol. i dislike the laws of film, i think they are a horrible disservice to the artform. the industry and film laws are so perfectly intertwined as to keep this shitty industry alive in its horrible state. film festivals i also believe to be an unfortunate misstep for this exact reason. they're good for uniting filmmakers from around the world but are sadly a counterproductive phenomena to film creation due to their restrictions, regulations, and formalities. i use copywritten material all over the film because i don't want to use something that sounds like x song, i want to use x song. its a collage; there's a great artistry in making something out of something else by distorting the context. its fun! its fun to use songs you love and ideas/images you love and to make a new art that is your own. it's fun in the way fan-art or fan-animations are fun.

film, especially animation, is a boundless and infinite medium. it's truly spectacular. the artform has been halted for decades because of all the guidelines that have been put on it by film elites. the use of orange/blue color grading, filming permits, feature films are 1h30m, blah blah blah. we have YouTube and the internet now. for the last decade, in my opinion, independently uploaded "videos" have been running laps around theatrical releases in terms of vision and inventiveness. i think experimental animation from youtube is a really important art movement that deserves so much more dissection and credibility than it gets.

there's not much i want to say about the film thematically but i'll say this: i wanted this film to be really human. i wanted it to fight for the life and beauty that survives in a cruel and unforgiving world. i also want it to be queer, really queer.

thank you for reading about my movie!!!

it means a lot that you cared enough about my movie to read my shitty little thesis about it :) i hope it wasn't too stuffy and pompous. i just think film is a really really great medium and everyone should be doing it now and not falling into the film school trap of "working up to making a movie". you can make a movie right now and you should and it will be beautiful and authentically you and i hope you enjoy making it!!