The panic attack lasted for two days. It woke me up in the night and I said, “My heart is exploding”. I started working on ‘eggshell’ to know myself better.

This stop-motion animation is composed of paper cutouts, paint gestures on plastic and sculptures made from cereal boxes. Case Jernigan filled our Animation genre with exciting cutout stop-motion films over the years (Bubble, Zombie Boyfriend). But ‘eggshell’ certainly takes things to an all new narrative level. Which is kind of ironic since Case started working on this short without a particular script in mind.

I didn’t work from a script and in fact had no idea where the piece was going at all. My initial kernel was that my grandfather’s ghost was haunting me. He was a powerful man who commanded respect from our community in South Carolina, but he died before I was born. I’ve frequently been compared to him because of the way I look and my sense of humor, so I’ve often felt this sense that he’s both watching over me and stifling me from being myself. As the piece grew, I experienced an odd combination of health anomalies. I started waking up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, and then I suffered a bad concussion on the soccer field.

These experiences dictated the direction of the film as it shifted into the dreamlike state

This combination led to a month long period where I simply couldn’t sleep. I spent much time reading in the middle of the night, and then watching the sunrise.These experiences dictated the direction of the film as it shifted into the dreamlike state. From the concrete into the ephemeral. I worked on short musical compositions while I was making the piece. Each section of music or passage of animation became a puzzle piece that I moved and rearranged many times, until arriving at a configuration that felt tenuous but also complete. My wife Cassandra was kind enough to lend me her voice to use, and my friend Josh (Love Science Music) generously recorded the voiceover with us and help me finalize the sound mix.

I used a canon rebel t4i to shoot all of the individual elements in stop-motion. Occasionally I spliced in bits of iphone footage. The backgrounds and figures are all paper cutouts or paintings on plastic sheeting.

Eggshell really takes us into this bizarre psychedelic realm where memories clash with surrealism. While the story doesn’t follow a particular narrative path, we quickly inherit the anxiety-driven dreamlike experience.

Anxiety and sleeplessness are difficult subjects to move into

This piece is a love note to my wife. It’s also an acknowledgement of the strain and separation among my immediate family from South Carolina. I choose handmade textures and papers to work with because of my roots in artmaking- I was trained as an oil painter. I want to feel fibers and bubbles and imperfections that can mimic the characters and movement in the film. Anxiety and sleeplessness are difficult subjects to move into, hence this film does what my favorite artists have done, which is to ride the line between figuration and abstraction, to waver, to exist in the tension.