American artist Don Hertzfeldt is regarded by many as one of the most influential animators in the 21st century. The only director to ever have won the Grand Jury Prize in the Short Film category twice at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, Hertzfeldt’s artistic vision has been thoroughly appreciated by critics as well as audiences. His interpretations of absurdism and surrealism have inspired countless famous works, including Adult Swim’s content and the wildly popular webcomic Cyanide and Happiness.
The seminal first addition to Hertzfeldt’s three-part story, Everything Will Be Ok follows a man named Bill whose sense of reality is removed from the world that most of us inhabit. It is a revelatory exploration of mental illness, gradually opening our eyes to the pernicious machinations of dissociation and how dangerous it is to retreat into the corners of our own minds.
Everything Will Be Ok uses minimalistic stick-figures and hallucinatory visuals in its investigation of Bill’s condition. All the innovative special effects that we see in the film were actually performed without the help of a computer which makes Hertzfeldt’s achievements even more impressive than they seem. Everything Will Be Ok ended up winning more than 40 accolades, including the Jury Award for Short Filmmaking at Sundance.
Hertzfeldt reflected: “I’ve had a weird career. Everything I’ve done has been independent, with unpredictable distribution. There haven’t been any big grants, I’ve never had a side gig, and I’m not a secret oil baron. There’s just an audience that’s always been ready to show up and buy a ticket to the newest thing. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that but they’ve funded everything for over twenty years. People know that buying a DVD is going to help pay for the next movie and not someone’s yacht, and I think that kind of simplicity isn’t really common in the film industry.”
Adding, “I don’t know if I dig deep, but I do have to relate to every character on some level in order to write for them and their motivations. And that carries all the way through to animating them, too. A basic animation lesson is to focus on whatever a character’s thinking in a scene, instead of just whatever action they happen to be doing. An animator has to think like an actor: ‘I’m drawing this person crossing the room, but how do they feel about crossing the room?’ So I do have these characters in my head for a really long time.”
Watch Don Hertzfeldt’s acclaimed comedy short Everything Will Be Ok below.