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INTERVIEWS

INTERVIEW WITH A. BUDOVSKY, J. HAAS, A. KEPE HAAS & WALTER WEST FOR "ALGORITHM TAKEDOWN"

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It’s for moments like this that our Q&As are for —to pay tribute to above-par artists, to get to the bottom of their intentions and sense of purpose. An endless round of applause for this mind-blowing video! It is so groovy, albeit dealing with a serious topic of concern to everyone on the face of this earth! You have depicted exactly what we are all going through every day, right? And yet, it continues. Or rather, we continue! Why is that? Is there ever going to be an end to this low-grade information showdown?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "Public awareness and concern keep the brakes on when it gets really tough. AT is intended to keep the dialogue moving forward."


Alex Budovsky: "History repeats itself as a farce, if we are not going to learn the lesson, we will have to face the whole thing again sometime in the future."


Walter West: "Honestly, the steps required to restore humanity and consciousness on a global scale would be extremely difficult to accomplish. Since most people are complacent with their day-to-day routines, the BEST route for change is to focus on your own personal growth and do your absolute best to be an inspiration to those around you."






What is the story behind this incredibly fruitful collaboration between Lenny White, Composer Alex Budovsky, Animator, Jonathan Haas, Performer and Anna Kepe Haas, Producer? How did you meet? How was this made possible? And how did you decide to go with the lyrics written and performed by Walter West? Give us the lo-down!


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "J. Haas has been exploring timpani in many rarified areas of music. During COVID shutdown, Haas did a deep dive into Hip Hop and came out the other side, wanting to put timpani into the art form. Lenny White was the perfect composer to write the piece and he had worked with Walter West prior, thus the soundtrack. Haas had worked with Budovsky, 20 years ago with a film collaboration at the Aspen Music Festival and upon completion of the soundtrack for AT, Budovsky was the perfect choice and collaborator to put a visual aspect to the music."


Alex Budovsky: "Jonathan Haas contacted me in September 2022. He knew my work from 20 years ago and kept me on his mind all these years, so when the time came to make an animation for the “Algorithm Takedown” track, he found me and offered me the job. I thought it was interesting and agreed to participate. I moved to Bogota from New York, where I lived for 16 years back in 2010, and I usually come back once a year, normally in September, so it was the perfect time to meet Jonathan during my visit to NYC. We met in front of NYU where he teaches and discussed future projects. In spring of the next year, the animation was completed. Jonathan is the only person from our team that I met in person. I met Anna Kepe, Lenny White and Walter West only via Zoom."



What are your plans for Algorithm Takedown’s marketing?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "Worldwide distribution and embracing the message!!!"







Since Grandmaster Flash and The Message, a Year Zero for hip-hop critics, when hip-hop showed it could be used as a powerful instrument for social commentary, and more precisely since the 2000s, American-born rap, and trap and drill, with lyrics and sounds that have spread to all capital cities from New York to London through to Stockholm and Seoul, have been dealing mostly with drug dealing and street crime. It would be awesome if hip-hop could kick a** while pointing at society’s biggest troubles. Or is it already the case? Or does such a movement exist already?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "AT hopes to join the messaging of peace and harmony through thoughtful dialogue and messaging."


Walter West: "I believe that numerous mainstream rappers resonate with the conscious listener, but the masses have been conditioned to follow what's flashy/trendy. The appeal of designer clothes, nice cars, and vast wealth through illegal means has been the topic of artists in the industry for as long as I can remember. However, there are several who are turning the tide; J.Cole, Kendrick, Ab-Soul, Nipsey Hussle (R.I.P), Big KRIT, and Lupe Fiasco to name a few."



This question is related to the previous one: How is rap the controversial sound of global youth?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "It is the telling of a “truth” that needs to be told."


Walter West: "The media tends to focus on the most negative content in the genre, which is why people consider it "controversial" so to speak. But the truth is that ALL genres of music have an abundance of edgy and contentious artists, but since rap has such a wide range of listeners, it's easier to put it under the magnifying glass."





Such powerful lyrics, we have 2 questions—we couldn’t resist going through every word!

“Take away the lights and the likes all the apps and the sights are the wrongs with your rights, and the praise

Take away the clothes and the shows and the superficial goals and the way that which your soul really weighs

Take away the memes and the streams, the machines the regimes and the screens telling lies like they’re true

Take away the greed and the need to impede and mislead and in the end the only thing left is you”

(…)

“Are you living or ‘re you really just surviving, or you driving or ‘you really just conniving, if peace comes at a cost then I'm buying; This world's get rich or die trying — I’ve seen a man lose his soul trying to chase fame but all the money in the world won't erase pain —Sometimes you go crazy trying to stay sane, but inner peace is the part you gotta maintain”

“Are you living or you really just surviving, are you driving or you really just connive if peace comes at a cost that I'm buying —In this world is get rich or die trying, I’ve seen a man lose his soul trying to chase fame, but all the money in the world won’t erase pain —Sometimes you'll go crazy trying to stay sane, but inner peace is the part you gotta maintain”


You are talking about the manipulation potential of socials, the growing hype with personal branding and all that jazz, and how painful it is to live in a material world, with no escape in sight. Tell us more?

Also, you are touching on quality of life, lost values, self-worth, and mental issues. We are talking about the foundations of our society here.


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "Music and film/animation memorialize the human condition. When in sync, all senses come into play and AT looks to this outcome as its purpose and mission."


Walter West: "I am speaking from my personal experiences and my observations of what others go through as well. I have been songwriting professionally for the past 15 years. I've witnessed people lose themselves to the pursuit of stardom and wealth. A number of people I grew up with have lost their identities trying to assimilate into whatever they think will bring them some sense of notoriety. Conspicuous consumption is at an all-time high. I just want people to start being themselves again and stop being so for approval."



“Welcome to the algorithm takedown. The dopamine rushes like the tall tide as we hang up on the truth just to call lies — Dark thoughts got my mind spinning like bald tires, but you know trash only draws flies — they don't wanna see you winning they would like to see you broke — hey this used to be me dirty now they lather me in soap — this fraud of broken dreams is doing bad and neither hope — Got to have a sense of humour, this has just to be a joke (…) You’re born and you get taxed just to breathe air —

Something's gotta change, something's gotta give — we just want to drive we just want to live — we can't keep on suffering, the people’had enough of it

Let's overcome the struggle and then get back to the bank again”.


Would you tell us about your view on the subprime crisis? Is credit the yoke of the modern age? Is this a 21st-century version of suppression of freedom? And would you say these issues have become even more acute since the pandemic?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "The “Myth Of Sisyphus” is the starting point. The message of AT gets down, specific, to the here-and-now problems we face as humans navigating a complex and unpredictable world. Post-pandemic or not, the message is real and palatable."


Walter West: "The subprime crisis has (hopefully) brought more attention to the dangers of debt and the importance of financial education. It has also shown how easily credit can be used to exploit people who are already struggling financially. I think schools should teach more financial literacy courses to the youth. Since the beginning, debt has given banks and other lenders too much power over people's lives. I would certainly say that this issue has worsened since the pandemic."







We’d love to know more about any upcoming plans you might have?


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "AT seeks to reach a global audience and continue the dialogue, through music and animation memorializing other complex and important matters that exist on the earth."



What is your vision of post-Covid cinema? A short statement.


Jonathan Haas, Anna Kepe: "PCC will continue to track the human experience, much as it did and does after a war, a famine, a cataclysmic earth event."


Alex Budovsky: "At first, I thought that movie goers would switch to streaming platforms after the pandemic was over, but now I’ve changed my mind about that. I think that true fans will continue to go see films at the movie theatres, just like they did before the pandemic. It is an amazing experience to see a film on the big screen, and it can’t compete with seeing a film on a TV screen, a computer screen, or a smartphone. The pandemic was kind of a test, and I think true cinema fans have passed it. People will probably go to see films in theatres in even bigger numbers than before 2020."




BIO

Alex Budovsky, Animator




2002 - present: Animator, producer and director of award winning animated music videos, educational animations for children, independent shorts and commercial ads. The independent short films have received awards at many festivals around the world, including Sundance, Tribeca, Florida Film Festival and so on. Born in Leningrad, Soviet Union, in 1975, moved to New York in 1994. Graduated from Brooklyn College in 2000, began career in animation in 2002. Moved to Bogota, Colombia in 2010.



FILMOGRAPHY


Animated music videos:

"Bathtime in Clerkenwell" (2002). 3min 15 sec.

Last Time in Clerkenweell” (2007, 3 min. 55 sec)

Jukebox” (2 min. 50 sec.), 2006

"Return I will To Old Brazil" (4 minutes), 2005

Middle Class Hell” (2010, 2 min. 50 sec)

Batteries” (2012, 1 min. 58 sec)

Plus seven-minus seven” (2013, 2 min. 43 sec)

“Fixies Chistmas song”


Independent Shorts:

The Royal Nightmare” (2008, 3 min. 50 sec)

Flagged” (2009, 50 sec)

Sightings & Sightseeing” (2012, 3 min. 10 sec)

Choo Choo” (2014, 3 min. 25 sec)

“Brooklyn Breeze” (2017, 4 min 08 sec)


Official selection at:

Festival Light (Kiev) 2018 Kiev International Short Film Festival (2019) Celtic Animation Film competition 2018 (Liverpool, UK) ReAnimania International Animation Film festival 2018 (Erevan, Armenia) Cardiff International Film Festival 2018 (Cardiff, UK) Les Films de la Toile 2018 (France) TAF Thessaloniki Animation Festival 2018 (Greece) Anima (Brussels 2018) Suzdal Animation Film Festival 2018 Shtuttgart Animation Film Festival 2018 Annecy 2018 (France) 7 Petits Cailoux (France) Taichung International Animation Festival 2018 (TIAF, Taichung, Taiwan) Filmets Badalona Film Festival 2018 (Barcelona) Window to Europe (Viborg, Russia 2018) Ottawa (Canada, 2018) Krok 2018 (Russia) Multivision Festival 2018 (Russia) Big Cartoon Festival, Cinekid International Film Festival (Amsterdam) Big Eddy Film Festival (Narrowsburg, NY ) Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival (USA) Milano Film Festivaliano (Italy) Athens international Children’s Film Festival Queen Palm International Film Festival (QPIFF) New York International Children's Film Festival 2019 Festival de Cine Great Rivas (Spain, 20019)


Awards:

Diploma from Suzdal animation Film Festival. National animation award “Ikarus” for best film in “Applied animation” category.



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© ITV 2023 Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich

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