Yesterday we reviewed a film that was financed entirely with integrated advertising, Morgan Spurlock's "Greatest Movie Ever Sold." Today we turn to a project that could use a few good sponsors to see the light of day. Or to see the dark of an art house cinema. The makers of the proposed film about comic strip artists and the decline of their platform, newspapers, are in need of final financing. "Stripped" is not a "Food Inc" expose or "Waiting for Superman" polemic. It describes itself benignly as a "love letter to the art form" of comics.
And that is fine by me. Comic strips are arguably as American as Jazz...and just about as varied and lively. Any of my email correspondents knows that I am pretty much in the tank for the form, since "Popeye" is part of my digital address. Back in my previous life teaching at Brown and University of Virginia, I wrote about and lectured on the comic arts, from the fantasies of Little Nemo to the propaganda of WWI poster artists, the domestic and class comedy of Bringing Up Father to the gruesome moralism of Dick Tracy. Look at the back page of any newspaper, I used to advise my students, and you will see a dozen or more different versions of reality established visually by as many artists every day. Using the truncated storytelling of silent film, and its pace, the methods of mass production, and the situations of modern life there was nothing in American popular culture that so neatly expressed in so many ways the experience of 20th Century change. This is an art worth preserving and cherishing.
And so it is great to see filmmakers Dave Kellett and Fred Schroeder of Small Fish Studios move towards finishing a documentary composed of more than 60 artist interviews discussing the form. "Stripped" has taken two years so far to create. The main body of the work has been done, but editing, additional animations and mixing remains. The duo has taken to the Kickstarter project funding site to drum up the $58,000 they feel they need to bring the project to fruition. There are 27 days left in the pledge drive with $22,135 already promised.
As you can see from the trailer/preview below, these guys have already captured some of the leading figures in both print and online comics, including the brilliant author of Understanding Comics Scott McCloud and the great Jeff Smith of Bone fame. In the clip embedded here these creators discuss how they fell in love with comics and the perils of working in a form whose main patron, the newspaper syndicate, is crumbling.Comic arts actually make for great documentary filmmaking. Comic Book Confidential, Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist and Crumb are great examples of using the film camera to draw us into the artistry of static images. These guys seem to have that same aesthetic in mind, and let's hope they have the opportunity to add to the small shelf of videos on the form.