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Amanda Bonaiuto talks to Zippy Frames about Shanghai, her new 2D animation short. 

A couple attempts to tear themselves limb from limb on a late afternoon stroll before entering a fluttery dimension. This is the premise behind the Shanghai music video by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, directed by CalArts graduate, Amanda Bonaiuto.

Zippy Frames talked to the director:

ZF: How did this collaboration happen between two continents? How did they find you/them? And I guess the whole thing happened online. It all happened online!

AB: It all happened online! We had an initial conversation on instagram and then moved over to email to get into the details. I created a treatment/mood pitch for them before getting started and then began animating. The whole process from beginning to end felt completely open to my creative direction, a very dreamy collaboration.

Watch Shanghai:

ZF: What things did you keep from Shanghai itself in your video?

AB: King gizzard asked me to include butterflies in the video in some way in reference to the album title "Butterfly 3000" and the song lyrics in Shanghai. I decided to think of butterflies in swarms, almost as an invasive force in relation to the two central characters. It was interesting working with one motif initially to frame the video. The music otherwise informed the overall mood and pace of the film. I really love collaborating with musicians because the animation process itself is pretty choreographic, and it's surprising how our brains work to sync sound and image.

ZF: Did you have any concept of the couple from the beginning? How did your story evolve in the process of making the film?

AB: The couple emerged after doing a couple hours of free drawing, after some long walks through Brooklyn, and after writing about some personal life stuff. I was interested in seeing these two characters nearly squash each other in their walk cycles and how they could relate to each other in the world I was trying to build. My process often starts off with some initial drawings, character ideas/shot ideas, and world elements, which I'll then use to create a very loose 'guide' to work with and then I'll paste that to the wall, and keep it there for the duration of the production. After I've done some brain storming and drawing, I'll choose whichever drawing holds most of my attention and just start animating. In this video, the first thing I animated was the initial close up head bob of the tube-eye character at the beginning of the video. Working this way usually reveals a lot along the way, and makes for more intuitive or abstract relationships and narratives.

ZF: Is pencil on paper your favorite mode of animating or you used it just for this video? Tell us a little bit more about the technique here in general, and if you had any graphic/visual references for this.

AB: I love working with graphite and paper and I work this way most of the time. Sometimes I also animate in TVPaint if I'm crunched for time. My process generally moves from drawing on paper to photographing in Dragon Frame, and then keying and coloring in Photoshop before taking the drawings into After Effects for any compositing. While making the video I was looking at a lot of Philip Guston, Lauren Redniss, and Alice Neel. I was also reading a lot about attachment theory and co-dependence.

ZF: I really liked the tubes-as-eyes in the video, they have a function of their own. Was it something you had from the start?

AB: Initially I had been drawing and thinking about my grandmother, who had Retinitis pigmentosa, and as a result had what we described as 'tunnel vision', but I think within the context of the video the character trait developed a function of its own that moved away from that initial brainstorm.

ZF: Was it easier for you to work on an already prepared script (here the song itself) rather than starting imagery and ideas of your own?

AB: I really love making music videos. Receiving a song from an artist and finding a world to work into is a treat and something I really look forward to with each new project. I'm lucky in that I always have full creative freedom beyond the existing music, so it does ultimately feel like making a film where the sound came first. I also love making my own films and creating my own sound design. In my experience both ways of working have their own hurdles and joys.

ZF: How long did it take you and did you have any help in making the video?

AB: It took about 5 weeks from beginning to end. I did all of the work on my own, but I had some trusted eyeballs looking at clips along the way for feedback.

ZF: Would you actually continue with music videos or preparing something of your own at the moment?

AB: At the moment I'm animating for a television show, creating a new music video, and about to begin a full time teaching position at CalArts. Once my commissions finish this Fall, I'm looking forward to making my own film.

Film Review (Vassilis Kroustallis):
It looks like the walk of life - in its fluttery variant. Gravity-free animated music video by Amanda Bonaiuto inhales and exhales stimuli of seduction and repulsion, and builds up a story where butterflies are the catalyst of a relationship in transformation. Walk cycles develop into swirls, and eye tunnels become the recipient of new life entering a person ready to try. Elevating its plot development bit by bit and stanza by stanza, Bonaiuto presents a soft-colored yet moving (and in movement) view of a couple in need of a new, after-Shanghai experience.


About Amanda Bonaiuto:
Amanda Bonaiuto is a freelance animation director, artist, and educator currently living and working in New York and Los Angeles. She is best known for her short films and commissioned pieces which have screened at film festivals and galleries worldwide. She's inspired by humor, tilted realities, and observing the natural world. She received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2012 and an MFA in Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 2018.

Credits:
Shanghai (2021, 4:04, US independent) - Animated Music Video for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Directed and Animated by Amanda Bonaiuto || Medium: Pencil on Paper | Color: Colored in Photoshop | Sound: Stereo

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