Disconnect is a solo cinematic effort that combines 2D photographs with animated 3D renders to produce a time-based social commentary piece about the shortcomings of our new digital reality.
Disconnect stands as both an assessment and a plea. Smart phones have changed human interaction in profound ways over the last decade and increased our focus on our virtual lives at the expense of the face to face interactions that have dominated human communication since the dawn of time. Reading facial expressions, body gestures and vocal tone are crucial to understanding, but are often lost through electronic mediums. These self-induced silos keep us in informational echo chambers, the end result of which is a lack of empathy, understanding, and genuine happiness. We ignore the people right in front of us in favor of 140 character half-thoughts from those miles away.
I figured all this out one morning over breakfast when, after being passively ignored for 20 minutes, my daughter suggested that we should ban phones from the table. She felt hurt, and I felt ashamed. The ban went into effect immediately. Shortly thereafter I came across the following quote by Sir Ian McKellen and was moved to make a film in the hopes of inspiring others to disconnect from their virtual world in order to reconnect with the human world.
“I feel sorry for people who go out and they're...typing on their phones, walking along the street. You know while you've just sent that message, which didn't matter....the love of your life walked past, and you missed it. I have met people in the street, and lived with them for five years."
Disconnect is an animated short narrative critiquing our society’s ever increasing connectedness through digital mediums and the growing disconnect we have with our fellow humans around us. The film features stylized 3D animated characters composited with realistic 2D photographic environments to further accentuate the feeling of an augmented reality.
The missed opportunity that McKellen described above forms the backbone of Disconnect’s plot, along with a dream sequence showing the relationship that might have been. The cinematic look of the film is inspired by Stanley Kubrick whose centrist and symmetrical compositions have always inspired my view of the world. The dark and cynical tone of the film is in homage to British animator Steve Cutts. Despite his often derisive view of mankind, I have always felt motivated by Cutts’ critique of the human psyche to strive to be a better human being and hope that Disconnect achieves in a similar way with viewers.
Additional sources of inspiration include musician Aaron Lee Tasjan, whose song “Little Movies” sets both the mood and pacing for the dream sequence portion of the film, and comedian, Aziz Ansari, author of the book entitled “Modern Romance” about dating in the digital world.