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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Unto Us A Child Is Born

from Handel's Messiah

This is a student film project I made in 1966 at USC Film School. I was 20 years old and very lucky to be in classes with the likes of George Lucas, John Milius, Matthew Robbins, Walter Murch, Randal Kleiser, and many others who eventually left their mark on cinema history.

Since high school, as a budding photographer, I had dreamed of illustrating classical music with photographs. I used to turn up the "stereo" (as they were called then) and close my eyes and watch the images that would flow in my mind as the music unfolded. At USC I got to give it a try.

At that time I was befriended by a fellow film student, Jerry Strawbridge III, who became my mentor in the field of animation. I was an undergraduate and he, like Lucas, was in the graduate program. He was an heir to the Strawbridge Dept. Store fortune but I had no idea of that at the time and no idea that his family was what might be called "upper class." That shows how totally naive I was at the time. I only knew that he was clearly a genius and that was all I needed to know. I've often thought that perhaps one reason he liked me was that I WAS so naive and completely unaware of his social status. During my two years at USC he helped me immensely and was ever a kind and considerate friend.

One day I told Jerry of my dream to animate pictures with classical music and that I wanted to do "Unto Us a Child Is Born" and animate it with Family-Of-Man type pictures of children around the world. He loved the idea and we decided to do it together as a student project for one of our classes.

This type of animation was called "kinestasis," which was a fairly new word at the time. I was naive then too about the proper way to do it (grease pencil marks on clear leader to match the sound track) and laboriously worked out my own system of matching pictures to the sound.

At the time Jerry was building his own animation camera in his apartment and this film was the first test of that homemade machine. That is why the moves on the pictures are not as smooth as they would have been on a professional Oxberry camera, but the way we did it was much more exciting and fun.

It's clearly a student effort, but I think it's heart is in the right place.

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