Dear Mr. Chung

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I first encountered AEON FLUX as a young boy, and it's cast a long, wonderful shadow through my life. I grew up in rural southern Ohio, didn't have cable, and was very rarely exposed to 'alternative' media. In fact, I didn't know music other than top 40 country existed until I was probably eight years old! So staying up late in my grandmother's basement watching cable when I was about that age, it was truly unique to encounter work like yours.

.. Years later, when the show had its DVD release, it was amazing to encounter the material again with a matured perspective. And when, still later, I began to research metaphysics and discovered that certain abstract notions I'd always intuited, that those notions shared a school of thought -- Gnosticism -- it served to deepen my experience of the show still further.

In general, I am in the habit of re-watching, re-re-watching, etc. Even when one is entirely familiar with a work of art (in this case film or television), one can be *read by* the material in a kind of symbiotic mode. Scrying, is how I think of it. You could reduce this idea, I suppose, to the medium (the show or film)'s having becoming so transparent in its familiarity that the viewer in fact watches his/her own associations as they arise in the experience of re-approach.

Certain media seem to lend themselves to this practice better than others, infused as they are with a metaphysical dimension. AEON FLUX, for me, is a locus; an atemporal zone that facilitates a certain quality of encounter. Down to the concatenations of the angles or the sound design, I've never not been able to 'unearth' something new and worthwhile in visiting its world(s). (I remember the first time I noticed the fleeting appearance of the word 'ILLUMINATION' in Trevor's iris during the series intro, it just floored me..)

.. Which is all a way of saying that I'm a big fan. I'd hoped to track down your contact info for years now but never had much luck, so I'm glad to have discovered this forum and to see that you check it with some regularity.

IN ANY CASE, tho you probably get these questions often, I didn't see them answered specifically in going through the messages here..

1) What's the situation with the rights? I remember hearing that you were interested in doing more AEON FLUX, but that at that time it was legally impossible. (I actually read the MTV Loaded promo as a meta-commentary in that regard.) Even if you don't have the rights, given the current vogue of resurgence, I wondered if there had been any developments..?

2) Regardless, is there more material written, old or new, in that universe?

3) I saw you'd said you've amassed a lot of new material that you were thinking of shaping into a new project..? Would this be related in some way? You mentioned that you've come in recent years to concede that an audience needs a familiar frame in order to approach material that would otherwise be considered 'difficult'. .. Personally I think the best thing a creator can do for their audience is forget them. (I recall on the commentary track for "The Purge" you'd said you wanted to get into similarly far-out terrain if the show continued; I'd like the see more of that type of thing myself, regardless of venue!)

A lot of programming now -- I'm thinking of Legion, recently, or Westworld -- seem to be taking a lot of narrative risks. I think the average viewer has become savvy to this type of thing, whether they're conscious of it or not. I'd love to see you develop an intelligent, uncompromising show that could really lend itself to that sort of plasticity.

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Thank you for your work.

Best wishes,
-- Garett Strickland

Derdekeas, Saturday, 6 May 2017 17:52 (six years ago) link

Thank you for posting and sharing. It's touching and inspiring to read comments like yours, to find that something we did over 20 years ago had the effect you describe. At the time, I knew well that the opportunity to make the show was one that likely wasn't going to come about again (I was right about that) and took as many risks as I could get away with. The biggest struggle at the time was dealing with BS&P (Broadcast Standards and Practices) notes, which were absurdly restrictive. In the end, I decided it would be best to relent on those and to not compromise on the bigger picture- unconventional narratives and subversive themes.

1) The rights are held by Viacom, the parent company of MTV and Paramount. There are various ways to work with the property with their approval. There have been a couple of attempts to do something new, but the lack of any visible results is honestly due to my own uncertainty about what form or venue made the best sense. I will pursue this further but I decided that I'd rather do it under ideal creative circumstances or not at all.

2) Yes, there is material written for Aeon that is more definitive of the characters and the world than anything released so far.

3) A project that I'd been developing for a long time is finally gaining some traction with a viable outlet. I can't say more for now.
I do not agree with the notion of forgetting about the audience as the best approach to creative expression. A film is of no use if no one (or not enough viewers) want to watch it. The medium exists as a method of mass communication.
A person might think that as long as the artist is being true to his own compelling creative vision, that an audience will come. In TV and film, there doesn't exist the luxury of waiting for that to happen. The impact must be immediate, or else the distributor will quash it and quickly move on to the next item on its schedule.

For me, the challenge of presenting a personally meaningful work in a way that reaches a broad audience is more rewarding than stubbornly refusing to meet the audience where they live. I've seen up close the problem of directors who think their efforts and talent entitle them to a public. They slowly hang themselves on their own convictions of genius. Whether the public is right or wrong to embrace them, it is not the audience's role to do the research needed to appreciate the artist's merits.

Peter Chung, Sunday, 7 May 2017 15:34 (six years ago) link

The other aspect of directing that fans (and often directors themselves) do not take into account is the director's duty to his/her creative staff. To make the AF half-hour series, I had to personally recruit, persuade and encourage a large team of artists of all types in the U.S., Canada, Korea and Japan to trust that their efforts and their sacrifices would result in a finished result that will prove worthwhile to an appreciative public. That is a huge responsibility, and a source of stress when I myself am not certain that the risks I'm demanding will pay off. Everyone involved is getting paid, but for many, it is faith in the director that keeps them motivated.

Peter Chung, Sunday, 7 May 2017 15:51 (six years ago) link

Peter --

Thanks for the response!

It's great to know that there's more material for Aeon and that that material has such depth. I really hope something becomes of it. It would be a shame if it never saw the light of day.

.. I think about David Milch's plans for the Deadwood movie (I've watched Deadwood in its entirety eight or nine times; it's another show that speaks to me on levels), and how, tho it's finally been greenlit, it's possible that scheduling complications or red tape could keep it from ultimately happening. Feeling so invested, I would rather see the material adapted into book form than never become privy to further storytelling. .. Obviously, I respect your idealism in terms of making sure your own stories are told in the way you'd want.

I think that's more in the vein of what I meant about 'forgetting the audience'; that kind of idealism. Obviously, it needs to be seen -- ("Light in the absence of eyes illuminates nothing..") -- but in the essential solitude of *writing* the material, a lust for result could spin against the way it drives.

.. Tho this is spoken as someone who hasn't contributed to any large scale production of the kind described. I imagine working in a writers' room has its own unique challenges.

It seems auspicious that we're living in a climate where the writer/director-showrunner has risen to instill such faith within the industry. I can imagine, in repeating a similar process to the one you describe for AF, it would be less of a challenge to rally that kind of support and commitment to vision from a team. And not just because you've done it before.

Derdekeas, Friday, 12 May 2017 23:59 (six years ago) link

You also see something like what Damon Lindeloff has been able to do with The Leftovers -- a great show -- which came together in spite of the general public disappointment and the shadow cast by the end of LOST. You see can see how the seeds of that series crystallize into something that speaks far more maturely to his themes and concerns with this one, dovetailing.

Derdekeas, Saturday, 13 May 2017 00:07 (six years ago) link

..."a lust for result could spin against the way it drives."

This is a constant struggle, and I find myself arguing both sides, depending on the situation and the mindset of whom I'm talking to.
I've met quite a few professionals who genuinely did not care about the audience's experience, and were only motivated by their own creative process. When you are spending other people's money and time, that is just plain reckless and narcissistic. On the other hand, writers and directors at big studios are so intent on pleasing their masters sometimes that they forfeit any claim to having a personal vision. A good director knows what the desired finished film will be and must convince the studio and staff to trust him/her even if they cannot see it themselves.

While working on Firebreather, I was getting persistent notes discouraging me from taking certain risks. The trick is not to let it become adversarial, nor to take it personally. I understand that I cannot expect executives to have the same picture in their minds as the director. I was fortunate in that instance that I had a good relationship with them and they were willing to let me do it my way in spite of their doubts. In the end, I was able to get everything I wanted, and the studio was very pleased with the results.

Here is something that may come as a surprise to many. The fact that you enjoyed the AF series at all is because foremost in my mind was that the finished episodes would be accessible, emotionally affecting and thought provoking for the viewer. Those concerns were absolutely primary. I knew that the stories and ideas would be complicated and unconventional. But I always strove to make the storytelling (directing) as clear and as engaging as possible.

Peter Chung, Sunday, 14 May 2017 17:01 (six years ago) link

Well it helps to have already established that you personally in the AF shorts were able to tell stories of complexity and nuance without needing words at all. I watched the lecture where you explain how you mapped out "Tide" that way. The primacy of the image is central in any case. And adding spoken language to something at which you'd already proven adept, you didn't pull punches either. No exposition. Nor would there need to be for anyone paying attention. But even for those who aren't, establishing a multivalent architecture.

It's too bad that for some people the notion of the "avant-garde" has an import of work unnecessarily convoluted or purposely, needlessly skewed and not worth the efforts required to decipher meaning. Tho visual literacy is so often merely a series of doors. Door, door door, a door a door a door. Visual storytelling by itself establishes that semiology inherently. Perhaps for some who become confused it's simply a question of speed, pace..? The symbolic order too prog-y or sumthin'..? No idea.

.. I had an ex-girlfriend who when watching something had the impeccable timing of asking about *What is Going On* at the exact moment when continued attention would otherwise have answered her question ..

Regardless, every force evolves a form. A gap or an absence in narrative architecture is at once a goad and an extension of the engine & algorithm. The heart of the thing accounts for those lapses in understanding, and they're necessary. You say what you have to say in as direct a way as it can be conveyed. I don't think that ought to be in dispute, personally. .. And if it is, it shouldn't figure in in any case.

Derdekeas, Monday, 15 May 2017 21:17 (six years ago) link

One thing I enjoy about Deadwood is that almost 100% of the dialogue is exposition. But how that's executed is what's remarkable. It becomes a showcase for baroque language and the themes at the story's core, while essentially never yielding in its transmission of What is Going On.

.. But when you kill the "hero" in your fourth episode, there are still people who are going to walk away, even if that signal jamming is entirely the point.

.. You can lead a horse to water ..

Derdekeas, Monday, 15 May 2017 21:25 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

Aeon Flux was an inspiring to make My own attemp of animation 10 years ago. Is a unique style of animation and an example of creative Freedom. Although My animation workflow and style are diferent and not at the high Mr Chung level. Aeon Flux is today an importante reference of quality for new animators.

Pat Mosquera, Monday, 14 August 2017 19:45 (six years ago) link

I recently decided to watch the Leftovers. I agree the show is great, up to a point. In this case, it would have been best if it ended after season 2. The amount of gratuitous plot that kept accumulating started to have the effect of cheapening what had happened before. Relationships that were ravaged get repurposed to the point where the arbitrariness of outcomes starts to show.

Peter Chung, Tuesday, 15 August 2017 23:10 (six years ago) link

Having said that, there were moments during the show that were astonishing, even transcendent. Especially the season 2 opener. It's my high regard for what they were doing that made me wish they exited on a high note.

Peter Chung, Wednesday, 16 August 2017 03:46 (six years ago) link

I agree that the show probably should have ended with the second season, and that that season's ending had a more satisfying finality than what ultimately concludes the third season.

There were certain things about the third season I liked -- the 'sequel' to "International Assassin" was pretty great structurally -- and I thought the performances were all very good. But, yes, in terms of story, it didn't really *need* to happen. I certainly wasn't as emotionally affected by the third season in the same way I was with the first two.

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Have you been keeping up with Twin Peaks: The Return..? It's not tidy, but almost the entire time I've been thinking that it's just exactly the show I want to be watching. It certainly feels game-changing in a way that mirrors the original run of the series and its subsequent influence. But I'm also a big Lynch fan and am just 100% on board to go whatever the show wants to take me.

Derdekeas, Saturday, 26 August 2017 18:22 (six years ago) link


Derdekeas, Saturday, 26 August 2017 18:35 (six years ago) link

As an episode on its own, the sequel to Intl. Assassin was cool. But the problem for me was bringing back the Patti Levin character. The importance of her assassination earlier is undermined by bringing her back.
It feels like they're just jerking us around.

Peter Chung, Saturday, 26 August 2017 19:16 (six years ago) link

Yes, I'm keeping up with Twin Peaks 2017.
There are times when shots of soap opera are delivered in the most perfunctory way possible, with straight exposition.
I like to think that Lynch does it deliberately, to get them out of the way so he can do the thing closest to his heart- dreamlike excursions of cinematic mind bending.

Peter Chung, Saturday, 26 August 2017 19:27 (six years ago) link

I love Patti Levin as a character and I think she and Kevin's arc is a highlight of the series as a whole, so even while I was delighted to see her again it *did* feel a bit fan-servicey. The logic of the show's metaphysics wasn't violated by Kevin bringing her out of "retirement", but I agree that it does cheapen the closure she was given.

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TP '17 seems to be the most explicitly self-conscious and meta television experiment that's been attempted. All the parts that seem to be pandering are so self-aware that they're rendered, for me, palatable. (Although I hated Michael Cera's scene, Frank Truman's eye roll as he walks away from it would be a good example.)

Above all, Lynch's decision to embed himself as a character so prominently in the narrative is appropriately multidimensional, and his admission to not understanding the situation is to me the best invitation as an audience member to participate and co-author the mystery that's unfolding. I've half wondered if Lynch wasn't editing and delivering episodes week to week, so accurate has it been in taking our temperature.

Derdekeas, Saturday, 26 August 2017 22:00 (six years ago) link

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