Becoming Bill: An Epistemological Look at the Career and Films of Don Hertzfeldt Open Access

Dempsey, Thomas (2015)

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For nearly two decades, Don Hertzfeldt has served as a prominent figure in a burgeoning mode of cinematic production: independent animation. Largely eschewing digital technology, Hertzfeldt's means of production have held to an older tradition of filmmaking, relying on practical animation and in-camera effects. Hertzfeldt quickly established his distinct artistic style and amassed a cult following at independent animation festivals with his early student films: Ah, L'Amour (1995), Genre (1996), Lily and Jim (1997), and Billy's Balloon (1998). Hertzfeldt achieved widespread acclaim with his Oscar nominated short Rejected (2000), which marked the beginning of a prolific decade of films to follow: The Meaning of Life (2005), Everything Will Be Okay (2006), I'm So Proud of You (2008) and Wisdom Teeth (2010). In 2011, Hertzfeldt completed It's Such a Beautiful Day, the final film of a trilogy that would go on to unverversal critical praise the following year. At just over an hour, and marking the culmination of 6 years of work, It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012) signifies Hertzfeldt as one of the great filmmakers of his generation. This thesis will attempt to chart the development of Hertzfeldt as an artist over the course of his films. This process will consist of three phases: an investigation of artistic influences on Hertzfeldt, including that of Douglas Trumbull, Stan Brakhage and Chris Marker; a formal critique of Hertzfeldt's filmography, charting the development of style and recurring motifs; and concluding with an application of affect theory (specifically that of Germaine Dulac, Carl Plantinga, and Gilles Deleuze) to Hertzfeldt's texts.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One - Crawling through the Grass: Hertzfeldt and His Influences 15

Chapter Two - Making Grass Grow: Thematic Expression through Technique 34

The Frame 37

Montage 47

The Perspective-Image 56

Chapter Three - He Lives and He Lives: Opening Hertzfeldt to Theoretical Discourse 62

Moving Lines 67

Passive Affect 72

The Face of Bill 76

Identifying Bill 83

Conclusion 89

Works Cited

Print and Internet Sources 93

Filmography 95

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