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" Western Civilization "

Motionpoems was a unique twelve-year initiative that adapted contemporary poetry into engaging short films.
“Western Civilization” is one of the animated poems I had the privilege to direct and animate, which premiered at the 2014 Motionpoems event. This piece, originally a poem by Peter Jay Shippy, was a thrilling challenge to bring to visual life. I took the helm in both directing and animating, striving to capture the essence of the poem’s intricate layers.

I teamed up with Emory Allen, who brought his talents to both the lettering and the lead role, adding a special touch to our project. Ashley Burke’s makeup expertise and Valerie Lockhart’s additional animation brought extra depth and detail. And Joey Verskotzi’s haunting soundtrack further created an atmosphere that was both unsettling and mesmerizing.

Animating “Western Civilization” was a unique challenge that blended live-action with 2D animation, aimed at capturing the surreal and gritty essence of Peter Jay Shippy’s poem. My goal was to meld the raw, tangible feeling of the poem with a visual style that felt both handcrafted and illustrative.

We shot Lucas and Li Po against a green screen, which allowed us to use rotoscoping and other keying techniques, ensuring that the live-action footage blended well with the illustrative elements. The backgrounds were a combination of 2D illustrations and 3D elements, all rendered to maintain the 2D illustrative quality. The color palette was intentionally limited to black, white, and a rust color red, which not only resonated with the Utah desert setting described in the poem but also enhanced the overall moody and introspective atmosphere of the animation. For moments in the poem that twist reality—those brain-bending episodes — I introduced trippy, vivid, multicolored patterns to visually signify Lucas’s psychological journey and introspective revelations.

Credits

Client: Motionpoems
Produced by: Neighbor
Written by: Peter Jay Shippy
Director: Alicia (Reece) Allen
Additional Animation: Valerie Lockhart
Lettering & Lead Actor: Emory Allen
Make-up: Ashley Burke
Music: Joey Verskotzi

Thanks for watching!