Christian Schlaeffer - The return of john frum

7:30, 2010, Animation
John Frum, Messiah of polynesian Cargo Cults, returns as an astronaut and businessman to the postindustrial wasteland of the financial-service-economy. Together with a native, he sets out for a conquest of the useless. then things get confused, and what begins as a journey turns into a trip far off the boundaries of so called "logic" and "meaning".
With a storyline initially based on the prophecies of the seemingly most syncretic, ridiculous and pointless religion in the world - though really not any more syncretic, ridiculous and pointless than any and all other religions - computer-aided handdrawn 2D animation and 2D-3D-hybrid background art celebrate a renaissance of the unconscious, free from the technocratic structuralism of our times.
DirectorChristian SchlaefferProducerChristian SchlaefferWriterChristian SchlaefferCameraChristian SchlaefferEditorChristian Schlaeffer


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Who is Christian Schlaeffer?
Google says he studied communication-design at the university of applied sciences augsburg, Germany, where he contributed to the university’s comic-magazine "strichnin" and graduated in 2010 with an animated short named "the return of john frum". Some sources also state that he´s an odd cat.

How did you start with film, and do you have an educational background in film?
I started in 2005 and have done a handful of live-action shorts on DV since then. Unhappy with the less-than-mediocre image quality, i applied at some universities, where i would have liked to study animation or film, but was rejected.
So i started communication-design in augsburg, my hometown, in 2005 and made films during the holidays. In 2008 i chose to do an animated film at the university, "AGENT ORANGE READY", which was my first approach on animation, and it turned out well enough, so i decided to do another animated short as my diploma thesis project.

What is The return of John Frum about?
John Frum (google it, wikipedia is also a good idea), the messiah of a polynesian cargo cult (again, you might want to google that or look it up on wikipedia), and about all the things these stories imply, as well as some personal thoughts on story structure and development, which are reflected in the story. Postmodernism, appreciating the world´s weirdness.

Could you explain how you work, your method or style, and what is important to you?
I don’t have any real working routines (yet), which is great for creativity, of course, but also it makes me a slow worker, because i have to think everything through before i start working. Important for me is my personal fun in creating stuff and solving the problems that arise on the way. Until now i did not have to accept any restrictions except those of my own thoughts and my own abilities, both of which i try to expand as far as possible- which is the reason why i’m doing this, i guess.

Why animation?
It gives you ultimate control over everything, which is addictive. Also, i like drawing.

How did you experience working for yourself compared to working in a team?
I have little team-work experience on my own projects because, well, i’m obsessed, and the people i know that are equally obsessed usually have their own stuff going on. But i’ve had good experiences on a certain project, where i was the head of special effects, and there was a strict hierarchy in the team.
But i also had bad experiences with team-work, especially when most of the team thought, it would be a good idea to solve problems democratically, which i found out is often the case with projects where there is no money involved.
But working for myself on this and other projects was a wonderful time, i really like the meditative aspect of getting up, turning on the computer, turning it off and getting to bed when the sun comes up.

How long did you work on this film?
About 7 or 8 months production. I don’t remember how long the ideas-stage and the pre-production took. People tell me that this is fast, but i don’t work fast, i work a lot.
My average working day was not 9 to 5 but more like 1pm to 6 am. (with a lot of coffee and cigarette breaks). I prefer working in the night, there are less distractions then.

How important is sound in your work?
Sound is there so people can read the pictures and the movements more easily and to give the feeling of a real place instead of a stage.
Therefore, foley is extremely important.
Music is used to create emotions, which i didn’t aim for.

Can you give an example of some struggles you faced during the production of this film?
Actually i had no real struggle, i mean, there is nothing i had planned that didn’t work - of course, feasability was taken into account during planning, so there were only very few things i hadn’t played through in my mind before getting to the computer. No real surprises there.
My production-schedule also happened to be quite perfect- something i did not expect, which is why i started to do all-night-shifts from the beginning and stayed with it for the whole time, which in turn is the reason my schedule worked.
I did have some problems with the sound, because i’m very inexperienced in foley, but nothing serious.

Do you have any animators that profoundly influenced you?
The works of Koji Morimoto and Masaaki Yuasa had influence on my style of animation and on an unconscious level i guess everything else i have ever seen.

What is your next project about?
I won’t tell.

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