PERŞEMBE, KASIM 1, 2007
Lev Yylmaz's comics are rocking the internet video world!
To see TALES OF MERE EXISTENCE Series please click here.
Lev Yylmaz Interview by San Francisco Chronicle
The cartoonist known as Lev was weathering the dot-bomb as most San Francisco artists have: working in an espresso bar by day and working on his live animation and comic strip -- OK, and partying -- during every other waking moment. Which left little time for that sleep thing.
"I had not slept all night, and I was just fried, when I got the e-mail," says Lev, an underground sensation for his kinky/quirky "Tales of Mere Existence" animated series, which was conceived and produced in his Richmond District bedroom. Even now, stacks of the cartoon's print version clutter his bachelor pad; he hastily clears them off his one cushy chair so a visitor can sit down.
"I came home in the afternoon to sleep, and there was this e-mail from Comedy Central saying they were interested in having me be part of this new show called 'Jump Cuts'! So I called them right away, and the producer started laughing and said, 'We sent that e-mail one minute ago -- you're so fast!' "
He smiles nervously. "And I told her that's because I've been waiting so long!"
How long can a 31-year-old have waited? Try 25 years. Lev (born Lev Yilmaz to a Turkish immigrant father and a Swedish mother) started his career in film when he was just 7 or 8.
"My mom had gotten a Super 8 camera to make home movies with, and my brother and me got our hands on it and ran with it," he laughs. "We made satires of everything -- news broadcasts and TV shows that we watched. When I look at them now, they are totally amateurish, but I find it quite remarkable that we were so skeptical of the world! My parents watched them and thought they were funny; they really encouraged us."
But it's not always good to discover your passion so early; it means the last 25 years have been a tad slow -- a long, drawn-out incubation period.
There was art school near his Boston home, years of making subversive short films that got some play on the festival circuit, moving to San Francisco in 1998 to seek his artistic pot of gold, only to have the multimedia economy go belly-up.
But the highs have been mounting -- packed houses for his Monday night screenings at the Red Devil Lounge, his comic books selling out at various bookstores around town, the invitation to screen "Tales" in New York.
But, notes Lev, when the Big Call does come, it can be the proverbial crack in the clouds with angels singing.
"That was in June, and even now, when I start to think about it, I get a little overwhelmed," says Lev, sitting cross-legged on a desk chair. "Apparently someone from the Upright Citizens Brigade was at the New York screening and told Comedy Central they should check me out. It's so amazing --
I have not been able to wrap my brain around it."
He's a bit jittery; he's only done interviews with subterranean cartoon- centric zines and is new at this major media stuff. He has notes about things he wants to say.
His skin is pale, but his hair is Anglo-Afro -- so curly it comes together like a halo. He wears silver and leather jewelry and clasps his long and slender fingers. You can order Lev T-shirts on his Web site (www.ingredientx.com) that feature him shirtless in a kung-fu pose. And his small apartment is stuffed with "Dragnet" videos and Douglas Adams books. He is irony personified.
"The whole point of doing that T-shirt design was to make them so over the top that it might make people curious enough to find out more about me. Who is this weirdo?" he smiles cheerfully. Then adds: "It's a little weird asking for money from people who want to wear my face."
Despite his being out and about at cultural events in the city, he says he's not a scenester. "No, but much of what I do artistically is about trying to be a scenester. I like to go out and get demented, but I'm also a loner and somewhat reclusive. To be honest, I've never been sure where I fit in."
Maybe the new Comedy Central series will convince him of who his peers might be. "The company I'm in on this show!" he breathes. "Well, it's pretty humbling. Bill Plympton, Don Hertzfeldt, who was nominated for an Oscar. ... Some of my heroes!"
Yet watching the first episode of "Jump Cuts" (which is airing every Sunday night this month at midnight for the edgy-and-young audience), Lev's cartoon stands shoulder to shoulder with theirs. Subtitled "Stuff you think about but don't talk about," "Tales of Mere Existence" is a first-person narrative tour through the occasionally mundane, always hilarious, thoughts of a young man on the edge.
Topics include: what makes him horny (those choker necklaces women wear), how he feels about his successful friends (great guys he loves and would like to drive off a cliff), what he has worried about in his life ("that I would never see that Barber of Seville Bugs Bunny cartoon again," "that one day kids will find Aerosmith as boring as I always found Elvis," "that I will one day be the old guy at the party.")
Lev does everything -- the writing, the production and the vocal narration. The latter is hard to believe when in Lev's company and listening to his normal, maybe even a little sweet, speaking voice.
Lev's alter ego sounds world-weary, and maybe little bitter, as his gravelly voice drones his narrative.
"Yeah, but that's me, too," he insists. "I can talk like that guy who doesn't want to get out of bed. He's an aspect of me -- the part of me that feels socially inept and never grew up."
Lev's cartoons succeed with their Sahara-dry wit and piercing insights, not on his ILM-worthy animation skills; in fact, the style is so rudimentary as to seem like a child's Etch-a-Sketch doodling.
As the Onion raved, "Self-expression has never been so eloquently expressed with so little ink!"
Yet he's modest about his skills. "I was dumb enough to go to art school and think I could make a living at it; I should be smart enough to figure out how to do it for cheap. I also think it's neat to make art from the simplest of elements. I've always thought sock puppets were among the most effective."
How Lev achieves his technique -- simultaneous drawing and narration, but without ever seeing a hand doing the drawing -- is a trade secret. Suffice it to say that it was born out of a necessity to keep the costs low.
"Each episode costs me around $15 to make," he grins. "So even though I'm not getting a ton of money from Comedy Central, it's great money for me, considering my costs."
He pauses. "And it's been cool hanging out at Comedy Central -- they are great people. At one point, I freaked out when I thought, holy s -- ! Jon Stewart might be watching my stuff!"
Stewart perhaps, but how about his parents, who are still in Boston? He winces. He has not told them yet. "But I will! They're proud of me but know art is not a very practical route. My father was a goatherder orphan in Turkey who was taken in by a wealthy man and sent to MIT, where he became a physicist. My mother is Swedish and works for a Japanese corporation."
He chuckles. "I guess I inherited my family's unconventional path."
And therein lies a lesson. "I've spent my life trying to figure out where I belonged. Now I'm realizing the only place I really belong is just completely following my own path."
Lev Yylmaz Interview by Ynetfilm.com
Lev created the thought-provoking animated series, Tales of Mere Existence, which include the episodes Pickle, Haircut, Red Rum, Jealous and Good Looking.
What inspired you to create "Tales of Mere Existence?"
I don't remember the initial reason, but a lot of these stories were ones that I'd tell people about over and over at parties or bars or whatever, and after a while I figured if I told them in video form, I'd never really be able to tell them verbally again. Kind of sticks the nail in the coffin and forces you to have new stupid experiences so you have more stories to tell.
What is your film background?
Me & my brother got a little super 8 camera when we were kids, and made some of the most demented shorts that ever classified as home movies. We had a bunch of adult comedy records from the 60's we had stolen from our dad, Nichols & May, Alan Sherman, Bill Cosby and stuff like that and so we developed a pretty adult sense of humor by accident, and totally passed over the potty humor stage. We did parodies of Television commercials, used car salesmen and news broadcasts before either of us entered double digit ages. I got back into it when I got into Art school, and I majored in Video Art. I went knee deep into Bohemia, and did a lot of abstract stuff influenced by the Mummenschanz. After college, I made tons of bizarre subversive comedy shorts that did okay in film festivals, and then I made a movie called "Liberty Beast" which was like a Sesame Street for adults. That was such an enormous project, I cooled it for a while and didn't do anything until I started "Tales".
Are all of the scenarios based on you own personal experiences?
Yeah, but their not just based in fact,
they're pure unadultrated fact. Whenever I've even tried exaggerating a story a little, it falls flat for me so I stick to what actually happened. I think people would be able to tell if any of it was bullshit.
Do you have any future projects you are planing to work on?
I never know what I'm going to do until it's 99 percent done. I don't think too far in advance, so I'm just planning to do "Tales" until I get sick of it.
Your short films exalt the everyday, mundane realities of existence. Is this an attempt to compensate for a perceived deficit in these qualities in art, or do you feel that all facets of life are equally precious and deserving of being captured in art?
I don't really know. But I know that I get kind of bored with movies with totally evil Villians in them, because there aren't a lot of situations I know of where a person is truly good or truly evil.. I somehow get sick of implausable stories, but maybe that's just where I am right now. I get into more or less true stories, where you can get into someone's head. I don't know if that really answers the question.
In Haircut, the value of self-perception is overthrown by a passing comment from a random pretty girl. Are we to draw analogies to other facets of self-perception based on this idea, or is the intention of the piece purely surface and physical?
It's just telling what actually happened. When I was in art college, I was pretty good at picking things apart and knowing what the intention was, and for some reason I stopped wanting to really know what I was doing when I left there and was making work without having it reviewed by teachers or whatever. I probably have some vauge idea of what's going on but you don't really THINK about riding a bicycle while you're riding a bicycle.
If you could make disappear three filmmakers and their entire catalogue of films, who would they be and why?
There are a hell of a lot of movies I really hate, but I can't say that I'm not glad I saw them. I get a lot out of trying to figure out what it is that I find so vile, and then try not to do the same things... or simply make fun of them when I'm out drinking. Big budget Sci-Fi movies get dull to see though, Because I already know what I hate about them. There's no bigger turn off for me than when people say: "The plot was shit but the effects were great!"
Name at least three films you've seen more than 10 times and why.
One of my favorite movies of all time is pretty hard to find unless you have a really kickass video store: It's called "Salesman" by the Maysles brothers, and was made in like 68 or 69 I think. It's a documentary (No Narrator) of these door to door bible Salesmen doing their rounds of selling, and then trying to cheer each other up later in the hotel room. It swerves between really funny and really depressing, but man, It's the best. I have no idea how many times I've seen "Ed Wood", and the reason is probably pretty clear, it's just really fucking good. Also, there's aspects of the "Never give up no matter how much you suck" lesson to be learned from that. The original "Dragnet" movie with Jack Webb made in like 1959... I watch that thing while I'm putting away my laundry almost weekly. I have NO clue why I like it so much, it just takes itself so goddamn seriously and the acting is ridiculous. There's a pseudo 'Jazz Cat' in a bop bar that tries to do the beat lingo so hard, and he's the most caucasian guy to ever walk the earth. Pretty irresistable shit.
When you're at the end of your rope, what phrase(s) do you mutter to > yourself to re-center?
I heard this pretty recently from an improv teacher. When you screw up, you just stop and merrily say: "I suck and I love to fail" One from a drawing teacher I had : "You have to be crazy to do this (artwork)... and it doesn't hurt to be a little stupid." One from Iggy Pop : "Eat or be eaten... Yum Yum Yum Yum."
CUMARTESİ, HAZİRAN 23, 2012
The Second "Kazakhstan Montage of Cinemas: Film & Cultural Festival" launches at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles on Aug. 3 for a one-week celebration of Kazakh cinema and culture, including musicians.
The festival is a stellar opportunity for directors, producers, location scouts, and the general public to get an understanding and appreciation of this exotic locale without leaving home.
Sweeping from the Caspian Sea on its Russian border to the Altai Mountain range on the Chinese border, Kazakhstan has a rich nomadic history as well as a powerful current tapestry of cultures. Since gaining independence in 1991, the Central Asian Republic has embraced its remarkable filmmaking past that dates back to the 1930's, when Sergei Eisenstein made his classic Ivan the Terrible in this mystic land, and has even given rise to several "New Wave" movements.
Opening night on Aug. 3rd begins with a reception at 7 pm, and includes a program of live entertainment until 11 pm, at the DGA Theater.
Sponsored by Kazakh Geographic Society (KazGeo.kz ), helixfilmsinc.com , the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Los Angeles, the festival includes Advisory Board Members Steven-Charles Jaffe (GHOST, K19), David Marconi (Screenwriter, ENEMY OF THE STATE), and Ambassador Erlan Idrissov.
Tickets cost $10 (including free parking) can be purchased from the festivals website. "Kazakhstan Montage of Cinemas: Film & Cultural Festival 2012" will be held Aug. 3 - 9 at the Directors Guild of America on 7920 Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, California
For more information, please see www.kazakhfestival.com - KazakhFilmFestLA@gmail.com
Kaynak : HelixFilmsInc.com