A friend on Facebook recently shared this animated interview with departed indie rocker, Elliott Smith and I was like, "Wow, this is amazing! What is this?" The audio was taken from an interview conducted by Barney Hoskyns in 1998, and was brought to life with animations by Patrick Smith for a PBS digital series called Blank on Blank.
It's such a rarity to hear the interview process – the actual back-and-forth between interviewer and interviewee; the background noise; the interactions with random people outside the interview – but it's also interesting to see an artist's interpretation of what might be happening during the conversation, including facial expressions; unsaid thoughts that might be going on in each of the peoples' minds; and artistic representations of memories and abstract emotions being discussed. In this particular conversation, Smith discusses his insecurities and fears, and how the artistic process can filter chaos and sadness into something creative and beautiful.
After watching the video, I went to the Blank on Blank website and found a whole repository of other animated interviews, many with other departed celebrities, including Kurt Cobain, Lou Reed, Maya Angelou, Robin Williams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but also with some living ones, too. Blank on Blank is a Brooklyn-based project of Quoted Studios, a nonprofit "dedicated to uncovering, preserving and reimagining the American interview" – a lofty and fascinating project that uses digital arts and new media to keep the art of journalism, as well as the words of these famous people, alive and accessible to everyone with an internet connection.
So far there are 34 episodes in the Blank on Blank series, but they're working on more, and even taking submissions from journalists, authors, radio stations, and others who might have some recorded conversations with famous people. In some cases, these interviews are probably on some pretty outdated machinery, like reel-to-reel or microcassettes, but Quoted Studios has a whole team of audio people who can digitize and clean-up the sound on most any recorded piece.