Alpha Beta Complex is a film that grew out of a combination of several inspirations and experiences. I started to develop this film idea during the tail end of production on my NFB film Asthma Tech. I find in that when you're in heavy production mode towards the end of a film, your production mind gets into a groove but your creative mind gets bored because there aren't as many creative decisions to be made and it starts thinking of other ideas and projects.
I initially wrote this as a short story in several formats, one in text form and one as a children's story book, but I had always intended it to be animated. I kept the idea kicking around, until I went back to University in 2007 to Concordia's Film Animation program in order to further explore and experiment with different techniques and narrative ideas.
One of the first inspirations for the film stems from my visual attraction to graffiti letters. My high school was a special art school, and there were so many graffiti artists at the school, that the art department head made a deal with all of the artists that they could have all three floors of the north wing stairway to do what they wanted, but the rest of the school would remain untouched. The coolest and smartest move that any teacher could have done to solve a school's graffiti problem.
But as far as graffiit throughout the city, I wasn't so attracted to the actual act of civil disobedience, the defacing of public or private property, I was more fascinated by the animatability of the artform, the dynamic potential in the letters. Even though graffiti might be physically static, in my eyes, there was always movement. I always thought there must be some way to use graffiti's design aesthetics for my narrative purposes.
In the lead up to this film, I was having apartment problems in downtown Montreal. I think somehow, the ventilation between me and my neighbour was not sealed, and I was getting constant smoke or fumes or aromas, into my apartment. Crowded, dense, apartment living is another inspiration for this film. I wanted to communicate the problems that exist in certain apartment buildings and rather than getting fixed, the tenant moves out and they simply get passed on to the next tenant.
I also wrote this film at a time when global conflict was escalating. I felt the need to comment on conflict, communication and cohabitation, but without referencing any specific situation. Using letters gave me a perfect way to achieve a specificity while remaining broad. I find it especially ironic that a bunch of letters and fonts would resort to violence when they are intrinsically communicative in their nature, and maybe it's something to be applied to humans.
Below are some of the earliest development sketches that were done with ink liners and markers. Using markers used to be a common tool for graf artists to plan their pieces in advance because they can be used very quickly and have vibrant colours. In this case I used them to plan out my film: