Eric Theise

Twelve Random Developments and Other Stuff (1981)

16mm, color, sound, 1 minute.

By the end of 1980 I knew that I'd be entering the Ph.D program in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences at Northwestern University. In retrospect it's perhaps surprising that I'd satisfied all my course requirements in the Business School at Loyola University Chicago and that two free electives remained. Innumerable interactions with Loyola are to that University's credit: one is that they put no obstacles in my way for transferring elective credits in from courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). And so I signed up for Animation I with Byron Grush and Drawing for Animation I with Dennis Wille. I remember being exceedingly nervous when I showed up at SAIC to register and pay for those courses as I had no portfolio, only a (one hopes) coherent verbal explanation of my interest in the subject. The gentleman seated at the film department table signed off on my application. That was my first meeting with Fred Camper.

I pulled at least two all-nighters at the animation stand in the basement of SAIC to make this little film. Even though I'd recorded the opening to a Gary Numan track – Remember I was Vapor, off of his album Telekon – onto fullcoat magnetic film and identified the frame numbers where key percussive and pitched activities happened, I'd gotten it wrong; the first all-nighter was a waste (I wonder if I have that reel somewhere). The second attempt is what you see here. I remark on this because after crashing for a few hours before sunrise on a couch at SAIC I walked the mile and a half up Michigan Avenue for my morning business school class. I was bleary-eyed, unshowered, unshaven while my classmates – specifically, James Prendergast, who I'd worked with on many class projects – were wearing three piece suits and big-bowed power outfits for their interviews with Arthur Andersen and other large firms. And I thought: this must be where our paths diverge.

There's so much to be annoyed with here. The calligraphy is terrible (but my calligraphy instructor at Loyola, Margaret Dagenais, was an inspiring and wonderful influence). The title is doubly bad. "Random" is hardly that; the "developments" are clearly things that amused me then and still give me a chuckle today. "Stuff", what a god-awful, lazy and imprecise term. Worst of all, there's no development in the "developments"; cutouts are replaced by other cutouts with zero transition.

But there's still quite a bit of humor to be found in the film and in the circumstances of its making. Foremost: the class with Grush had maybe twenty students but the vast majority, all art students, took incompletes. I was thunderstruck; this was absolutely a foreign concept to me, a business student. I was quite proud to be one of the few if not the only to screen my "finished" film on the final day of class. I also remember guzzling paper cups full of wine in the classroom that day, another new and delightful concept.

I never did truly finish the film, that is to say, I never sent the fullcoat and reversal film together to a lab to be married into a release print. I cannot find the core that holds the fullcoat although I believe I still have it, and my friends at Movette find it dubious that the sounds would be salvageable forty years on. So what you're hearing is a recreation – same disc of vinyl! – using a USB turntable and a few hours spent with DaVinci Resolve to achieve an acceptable level of synchronization.

Eric Theise, September 2021

Digital scan made possible through a January 2019 Interbay Cinema Society Lightpress Grant.