Chris Sullivan is an American actor and musician. He became widely known for his portrayal of Tom Cleary on the Cinemax drama The Knick. He currently stars as Toby on the NBC drama This Is Us.
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About the Film
The Orbit of Minor Satellites is a story of two very distinct and separate worlds that are connected by the most unlikely threads. The character Derwood Richards is a controversial psychiatrist who treats Rosemary Hamm at his private sanitarium.
Rosemary has created an imaginery world of a space station located on one of the Moons of Saturn, in a forgotten corner of the solar system. She conjures a romance between a doomed astronaut and a cosmonaut that mirrors her difficult earthbound existence.
Our talking bison is the moon's only native inhabitant, a sulferdioxide breathing giant who yearns for lost loves.
The Orbit of Minor Satellites is a hand drawn 2-D feature animation, independently produced by Chris Sullivan and his battalion of animators.
The film is hand drawn, digitally composited over painted backgrounds, models, and live action actors. As with all of my films, it is strange in form and content, my characters are misguided, but follow their strange paths to a place of peace, and empathy.
CHRIS SULLIVAN is the creator, writer, director, lead animator, and sound design. His previous animated films include Master of Ceremonies, Landscape with The Fall of Icarus, and Consuming Spirits.
"The Orbit of Minor Satellites is my new digital 2-D animated feature film, which takes you to the richly imagined world inside the mind of a troubled sanitarium inmate.
It’s a dark story about love in a time of darkness, shot starkly in black and white to better convey the dislocation of my main characters, the psychiatric patient and the doctor who treats her, and the imagined inhabitants of a forgotten Cold War space station on a moon of Saturn.
I’m thrilled to share with you that Sara Karloff, the daughter of my personal film hero Boris Karloff, has given me permission to use clips from her father’s radio performances for the voice of another major character in the film, a 100-foot-tall talking bison named Roger Ashley Norton.
"The Orbit of Minor Satellites" is a film that has been brewing for many years, and first came together thanks to a Creative Capital Grant. I’ve focused over the past two years on writing, preproduction, experimentation, and animating labor, bringing together an incredible creative team who will work with me to complete the film over the next two years.
If I'm able to raise the necessary funds, I'll complete "The Orbit of Minor Satellites” by late summer of 2019, entering it first in major live action festivals and then in animation festivals. It will be theatrically released in early 2020.
This is my second major animated feature film. Consuming Spirits, which was funded with a Rockefeller Foundation Film Fellowship and a fellowship from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, was completed and released in 2012."
A.O. Scott, in a 2012 review in The New York Times, called it “remarkable” and said it "is a work of obsessive artisanal discipline and unfettered artistic vision. You have never seen anything like it… Mr. Sullivan’s pictorial wit and storytelling brio are delightful in ways that cut against the harshness of the story without blunting its deep ache."
Tasha Robinson, The Onion AV club: "Watching Consuming Spirits is like surrendering to hypnosis, or to a particularly haunting dream"..."Consuming Spirits has hidden depths"
Ask Me Anything!
What is the process like for a "digital 2-D animated feature film" in 2017? I can see you and your team are hand drawing the cells, frame by frame. Can you describe what this old style of animation is like, now that it's blended with the digital age of film making? When does the classical process end and the digital begin?
yeah I am in the proccess is actually analogue at first, and then everything is scanned and put together in phiti shop and after effects. The pencil drawings are the way that I liked to work. we did a john Henry like race, animating in photoshop and adding texture, and the scanned pencil drawings won. but the breath is on photoshop with a wacom,
What are some lesser known, or outside of the mainstream animated films and animators that you would recommend to someone interested in more obscure or artistic animation films?
Why do you choose this clearly more difficult process over easier modern methods of animation?
Jeremy Clapin, Sean Buckelew, Joseph Pierce, Suzie Templeton, Mikey Please, and a crazy motion comic-animation I love is Tatsume
Thanks for the answer! And if you have time for a follow up:
Do you think the same thing applies in your experience with animated shorts screening in a live action context?
Yes, my partner Laura Harrison has won award in as many Live action conexts as animation. something wonderful about animators but nice to freak out the live action folks every now and again.
How did you choose the planets this story is set on? As an animation filmmaker how have you chosen your style? As someone who believes the major animation style, whilst changing, has not improved over the last 15 years, how has technology impacted on animation style? Finally, how does the comic book industry affect your work?
It started from three threads. Chicago disasters, my interest in Psychiatry , and the notion of the lost traveler, things like the franklin expedition, and the Boris Karloff thread came in one day while animating and listening to an old Lights Out program. The planet I made up, because I did not want to be tied to facts about a particular planet, I wanted to have room make things up, it has elements of several moons, though I do give it an atmosphere, and a relatively earthlike gravity. I also like the idea that it is maybe 10 15 miles in diameter so you can kind of hide, but not completely. you cannot escape yourself .
on the technical side, it is I think interesting that technology has leveled the playing field a bit, anyone can do digital ink and paint, at a reasonable pace, so the look of an indy short does not have to be greatly different than a feature
Hi Mr. Sullivan. Congratuwelldone on the film! Can I ask what software do you use when animating?
hand drawn on tracing paper, then comosited in photo shop, and aftereffects, and some animating in photosjop and flash, photo shop is great for effects animation, but no so good (at least for me) with characters.
Any animated features you've recently watched that you would recommend?
I don't love the Red Turtle, but I love moments in it. also animators always look at each others films and think about their own. the red turtle gave me faith to use tiny characters in landscape. it was a pleasure to see someone else do that so well. Jeremy Clappin has a feature in the works. also strange pieces that mix live action and animation like diary of a teenage girl. beware mister baker and montage of Heck..
What was it like working out the deal for you to use Boris Karloff's voice for your Bison?
was not a deal, I was blindly falling deeper into it, and then I sent a long email, about what I was trying to do with the film, and how I felt it would honor him.. sometimes that is all it takes, I have had people have things like that work out with famous musicians IE, can I please use your song... answer... yes
Did you have scientific consultants or researchers to help with the Space and Astrophysical side to this story? Why Russian Cosmonauts? Why 100 Foot Bison voiced by Boris Karloff? Why psychotherapy? What the hell is going on in that scene where the lecture hall is chanting "I'm too sexy for my books"?
How does your creative process work, bringing all these things together for you? Pretty much everything about this movie seems to intentionally evoke a question, although I'm sure it all adds up somehow. Is that your intent to kind of put the viewer off balance?
Saw that your first film took 15 years to make... can you talk about that process and dedication from inception to completion and finally, it seems, success?
To be honest the short answer is, because it felt right, the longer answer is that I always have several stories floating down this flooded river in my head, and I pick them up, and find relations, because they came into my head through some common thread. for instance my father died in 1969, as did Boris Karloff, and in some way a conflated their loss. this one is going slow, but not as slow, the Bison is just a crazy idea that flew into my head. something that is too large to share its love, like in mice and men.
and yes, I did do scientific research, I was very interested in Mimus, but then realized it was the model for the death star. did not want that. one narrativ element is like the clams in the bottom of the volcanic ocean, My Buffalo breathe sulferdioxide, and uses the sulfer, and expelled the oxygen .
accidentally I have become friends with Lindsy Elkins, and have watched her space science ventures (mission to psyche) and love to think about things like gravitational volvanism, and Gamma blasts
Very excited about the upcoming film, already donated to kickstarter. My question is: Do you consider this film (and your previous film) as existing better in context strictly with other animated features (or shorts) or do you wish or hope that it will be considered alongside other independent live action films? (and as a potential follow up: is one better than the other?)
Really relevent question, Consuming Spirits actually did much better in Live action festivals than it did in animation festivals, partially because it was a film playing in the wrong place (do this when ever you can) the critical praise for Consuming Spirits first came from live action critics, then animation came in more in 2013. Chris Robinson, Carolina Lopex, Nobuaki Doi, Jasmin Basic, Daniel Soldjek (zagreb) are programmers in the animation world who helped me a lot. But first it was Tasha Robinsin, A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, who made people consider the film as a film, I hope for the same trajectory with The Orbit of Minor Satellites.
and thank you!
Fascinating how your mind works. What are your non-animation influences? Books, Non-Animated Movies, Music? It seems music plays a big part in your films, including your own?
film first The singing detective Dennis Potter Version only, and all of John Whales. John Cassavetties, also a huge influence is Joe Frank. radio artist.
renta family- emerald Isle-in the middle of know where- The Bar life.
masterpieces ..books jeanette winterson, alison Butchdel, ellis peters, julian barnes, and in this film Nancy Drew.. I am really drawn to old accidentay amazing books, old science books, medical diaries, archaic manuals. a great Linotypist is called a swift. nit everyone reaches that level.
What an interesting storyline! What was your inspiration and how did this script come to be?
see above, and then continuing on. I have always been interested in strange treatments. be it electro shock, imprinting therapy. or how trauma can sometimes release a mind. some one is badly hurt, and wakes up somehow healed of something else.the writing of the script then began to unfold, and I became interested in one room in the film being live action, that is an interesting part too.
can you trade God for Oblivion
I was just seeing if I could make that square go away but I can't oblivion then.
Hey, friend of the Sullivan family here. Your work looks really interesting! Where did you get your inspiration for the story and the animation style?
several sources, first of all like HAmlets Mother says. "it is the carnage if your brain" but the initially I have always been interested in strange treatments. be it electro shock, imprinting therapy. or how trauma can sometimes release a mind. some one is badly hurt, and wakes up somehow healed of something else I became also a fan of the Frankline Expedition, and the idea of the lost and frozen explorer, they are frozen in reaity as many of us end uo frozen metaohoricy in out dead end search for a grand life. also the three tragedies of the Iraqoi Theater fire, the eastland disaster, and the our lady of angels fire inspired me. the death of a child, how does one move past it. .the writing of the script then began to unfold from these things, and the Buffalo manifested itself in some unconscious way.
though this question started to see if I was functioning, it has method in it. Like many who have strayed from God, I have done so for lack of proof, and because of pain and injustice. but the question is, am I really embracing oblivion and chance. do I want god to come to the rescue at the last minute. God has not chosen to do so. but there is always a part of me that wishes for the love of God. This film has in it this struggle.
How did you decide to dedicate yourself to a career in animation as opposed to non-animated films?
somewhat accidentally, It started with a crush on Sue Bachmin, who was taking an animation class (isn't that how many things start) but then I made my first animated and when I played it in a room full of people I realized that the assembly of people taking in a piece of art is what I wanted, I did live action film, video, and performance, but animation was in many ways what people responded to the most, and granting agencies also, so it became my trade, it is lovely and very painful also. your mind is going like a bird, and your images develope as slow as trees. I love the feeling of losing yourself in a crowd that is experiencing the same thing you are, and letting your Ego quiet down and just take something in, I like being on both sides of the screen the melter, and the melted.