Interview with GB Hajim, Director of the SF Movie Strange Frame: Love & Sax
We would like to invite you to read an interview with the up-and-coming director GB Hajim. His film debut Strange Frame: Love & Sax was released in 2012 "as the world's first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film" (Wikipedia).
"Set at the end of the 28th century, the human race has long since abandoned a desolate earth. In order to survive, humanity has been using genetic engineering to adapt to otherworld environments, to the point where changing one’s skin color or gender has become commonplace. On the moon Ganymede, saxophonist Parker (Claudia Black) and guitarist Naia (Tara Strong) develop a close relationship. The two embark on their new relationship and form a new band — but they also must fight for their freedom from the evil Mig (Tim Curry)."
Join GB Hajim on this exciting behind-the-scene tour of Strange Frame. Enjoy!
1) Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about how you got into a movie business.
Aloha yall. I'm GB Hajim, the Producer/Director of the cult hit Strange Frame starring Claudia Black, Tim Curry and all your favorite sci-fi people.
After I finished grad school, I moved my young family to the Big Island of Hawai'i, not to search for paradise but to find community. Island culture is beyond karmic: What goes around really does come around…and quickly. I set myself to the task of learning Hawaiian. During that time I spent countless hours doing television work on the active volcano, crossing active flows with the U.S. Geological Survey and burning a few pair of boots along the way.
One of my workdays on the volcano:
I worked with the Hawaiian immersion schools and eventually did over 100 programs with them from shorts to a feature film.
These educational videos allowed me to hone a unique style of cutout animation – a style that is both artful, taking advantage of my addiction to drawing, and economical, a prerequisite when you live in one of the most economically challenged areas in the country. How I got into the movie business from there was just deciding to do it.
2) How did it come about that you and Shelley Doty teamed up? Could you tell us about the origin of the Strange Frame idea and what inspired it?
Shelley and I went to University of California at San Diego together in the 1980s, so we've been friends for a long time. We share the same loves of music, sci-fi, and even hit on some of the same women ;)
In 1999 we sat down and started kicking around some ideas: inspired by what we love in literary sci-fi that is severely lacking on screen. The best of John Varley has never been seen on screen. None of the great work of Neal Stephenson or Kim Stanley Robinson's stuff has made it on screen and I don't think we've really captured any of the ideas of cyberpunk akin to William Gibson. Sci-Fi is typically just a setting for an action film.
3) What were the ideas that went into the design and production of Strange Frame? Tell us a little bit about your choice of the cutout animation?
I wanted to do something that visually captured the weirdness that humanity will become after hundreds of years of genetic engineering as well as the rare beauty that will emerge. The style of cutout we developed allows the artist immediacy and the act of drawing is the act of making the movie. With other forms of animation, drawing is only step one plus we had a very limited budget and we had a grand vision.
If we had done it in CG it would have been a $80 million movie and nobody is going to give us that kind of budget for a film about lesbian revolutionaries and oddball space pirates.
4) Please tell us about the animators you picked for this movie.
I wanted to give back to the local community here so I trained local teens and college students in this form of animation.
We had 40 young adults go through a 1 to 2 year internship program. The best of those became our full time animators, but we did have some outside guidance. Even the great Jean 'Moebuis' Giraud gave us insight and input.
5) How much freedom did the animators have? Could they sneak in some of their own unique visual style?
The animators had an immense amount of freedom. I picked those people who not only had great drawing skills, but also imagination. Some sequences I let them come up with the ideas themselves and I just guided the process. The Yutok story, though written by me, is visually almost completely Matt Hawkin's baby.
6) The movie has a impressive voice cast. How did you acquire well know actors like Claudia Black, Tim Curry, Juliet Landau, Alan Tudyk, George Takei, Ron Glass, Michael Dorn among others?
Because of our very limited budget we had to rely on the strength of our vision. Our animation is something new and the process I have laid out is something many people can believe in. We have been providing internships in animation to young adults in one of the most impoverished parts of Hawaii.
Our crew is made up of these young people. We did a lot of begging too! Jamie Thomason, our casting director, was able to see our vision (thank you Jamie!) and he was able to convey this to the people we wanted for our film.
7) What did you enjoy most while working on Strange Frame and what was challenging for you?
I got to work with some really incredible people and incredible places – I mean Skywalker Ranch with Academy Award winner Gary Rizzo!
Before Strange Frame, it was just a kind of Geek Nerdvana, untouchable and yet I was there. Walking past the sound stages where they were mixing huge movies like Avatar (at our first trip there) and Brave (our last trip there). And, of course, voice recording with my cast - some of my childhood and current sci-fi heroes.
Also, working with my team of animators and seeing this new form of animation that was an experiment at the beginning, but now we have a production process that works and creates imagery that is beautiful, dense, and economical (my Producer self talking here).
Most challenging? Raising money. Dealing paperwork and lawyers who make as much as myself plus the whole crew put together, but do a shabby job. Getting people to open their minds to this different story, different heroes and different look.
8) What made you passionate about SF movies in the first place? Which SF movies influenced you and which are your favorite ones?
I think Claudia Black, our lead, says it best:
I think our influences are pretty apparent because our reviewers keep bringing the same ones up: Cowboy Bebop, Blade Runner, Fifth Element, and Heavy Metal.
9) What advice would you give to filmmakers who are about to make their first SF movie?
Do reading of the story with a cast of friends in your living room. If it doesn't sound great there, all the coolest effects and sexiest costumes aren't going to make it good. Keep re-writing until it sounds awesome from your couch.
10) Are you going to make another science fiction movie in the future?
Yes, definitely. I have two in the development pipeline and, of course, if Strange Frame does well, there will be sequels! So please spread the word!
We would like to thank GB Hajim for taking the time to share his filmmakimg experience with us! Check out Strange Frame on Facebook and Twitter.
You can ask your questions or leave a message below as well.