Shorts on Sundays: Principles of a Protagonist

The Multi-Talented Chicago Musician Willis Earl Beal Reveals an Introspective Animation

Avatars of Lionel Richie and President Barack Obama pop up in Willis Earl Beal’s animated exploration of everyday human values, trials and mediations, Principles of a Protagonist. Chicago-born Beal’s past lives include those of an army recruit and a night-shift security guard before he began recording music, promoting his work by leaving CD-Rs in public spaces around town, accompanied by hand-illustrated flyers. The autobiography-meets-fantasy concept behind Principles of a Protagonist originated in the form of a novella Beals wrote in 2010 while heartbroken and unemployed, and distributed as a photocopied 'zine. He has since hooked up with Hot Charity/XL Recordings, who put out his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery, last year, and are planning a sophomore release for late 2013. Beal continues to integrate his writing and drawing into his recording work, however, and today’s new installment of our Shorts on Sundays series is a testament to his many talents—visual, musical, and philosophical. "The Protagonist does what we cannot," Beal revealed to us in a brief artist's statement. "He embraces an inevitable destruction that is all inclusive. He knowingly constructs a set of principles that ultimately must dissolve within a meaningless void like the perceived order of life into the uncertainty of death."

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  • owenbay
    nice. thank you

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    On Replay

    Iris Apfel x Duro Olowu

    The 91-Year-Old Style Doyenne Shares Life Lessons with the Designer at the Zoo

    When Iris Apfel first met Duro Olowu in 2005, she was decked out in Mickey Mouse pajamas and laden with jewelry, and he had just bagged the award for New Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. The long-standing friends recently met up for a stroll through London Zoo, an encounter filmed by Leigh Johnson. After a brief post-university spell at Women’s Wear Daily, native New Yorker Apfel began a career in interior design in the early 1950s, starting a textile company with her husband Carl, which enabled her to indulge her peripatetic urges, especially in regards to collecting. She continues to be a muse for Jimmy Choo, MAC cosmetics and Albert Maysles, and her trademark more-is-more style has been honored in a celebratory exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We have a very similar aesthetic for international fabric—a sort of curatorial eye for it but in a fun way,” explains Nigerian-born Olowu. “We don’t like precious things and our philosophy is: when in doubt, just add something else.” Olowu, who trained and practiced as a lawyer before launching his eponymous label in October 2004, collaborated with the perennial magpie this year by having her design bags and jewelry to accompany his capsule collection for JC Penney. “She and her husband Carl are like my second parents,” says Olowu. “Of course she loves fashion and I’m in the fashion business, but it’s not based on that. It’s just that I respect them, I like them and anyway I’ve always been a sucker for a 90-year-old broad.”
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    And After All

    Our Director-Showcasing Series Continues With Stellar New Work Submitted Via Open Call

    Rising star Annabelle Dexter-Jones takes a soul searching trip back to her character’s small-town past in Julian Ungano’s And After All, the first premiere chosen from our Short on Sundays open call via NOWNESS’ Vimeo page. Selected from over 200 submissions, the film throws the seemingly glamorous Manhattan art world into sharp relief when Jones’ protagonist is faced with real loss, forcing her to travel to a world she thought she had left behind—and rekindle a relationship in the process. “I lost my father when I was 15, and had been trying to put something together inspired by that,” explains Ungano of this deeply personal project, which stars a handful of New York scenesters including Byrdie Bell, Victor Kubicek and Heidi Mount. “Then sometime around Christmas in 2011 I lost my mother quite suddenly and I sort of rearranged things and was able to write the first version of the script in a couple days.” Ungano and his collaborator on the project, Tommy Agriodimas, met while students at the Pratt Institute and have since shot for clients including The New York Times, Elle, Ralph Lauren and Nike as well as DJing regularly around town and putting out their own publication, La Lutte Continue. Inspired by cinema verité, the camera work for their newest film draws the viewer into the experience of Dexter-Jones’ character. “I knew almost instantly that she was the right person,” says Ungano of casting the Manhattan-raised actress, daughter of Foreigner’s Mick Jones, sister of producer Mark Ronson, and muse to the likes of Leos Carax, Aaron Rose and André Saraiva. “She can appear supremely confident and then you blink your eyes and refocus them on her and she looks completely vulnerable.” We reached out to cast members Bell, Kubicek and star Dexter-Jones for their reflections on working with the industrious duo.

    Annabelle Dexter-Jones

    What was cool was that there was something very personal about the project. It had a lot to do with Julian's life, and when we were shooting we stayed in his house in Vermont where he grew up. I found that very helpful for me. I felt like Julian let me into this very intimate and sacred part of his life growing up.

    Byrdie Bell

    I love working with Julian and Tommy because they are both uniquely talented but also compliment each other in a way that brings their voices to another level. I remember, specifically, on set when there were some lighting issues in the club scene Tommy so insightfully put Julian at ease by pointing out the narrative parallels illustrated by the juxtaposition of the cramped dark city scenes to the wide open Vermont landscape. That's my favorite part of the film—when we are viewers can breathe with Charlotte.

    Victor Kubicek

    Julian and Tommy were confident and quick, young filmmakers who weren't too cautious and sluggish. They're very visually sensitive and were obsessed with setting up shots, so they let us do our thing. We had good fun. I know Annabelle, who was in it too, so we were able to goof around. Shooting over three days in the fall in New York City, some of the scenes were in Bungalow 8—but in the middle of the day!  

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