The story behind the story
How it began
In the fall of 1998 I was hired by a company with 50 million dollars to blow and not a plan in site. "We're a B2B!", "We're Telecom!", "We're going to do e-Bay one better!"
As I sat inside my office doing nothing day after day I plotted my strategy for when the bubble burst. That bubble was fat and stupid. It was going to burst.
From the day I entered college I had wanted to animate my own film. I was derailed by many detours, but that dream never completely left me.
After miraculously surviving three lay-offs, the company took its final nose-dive, saving only the wealthiest and best-connected employees. I was not among them. I was allowed to take two weeks pay and my sweet, sweet leather bag swag home with me.
I chose to do my film in Poser, because I could afford it, comprehend it and because the animation tools were surprisingly robust. I spent three months rigging the charcters out of parts I modeled in, of all things, Infini-D. This was all theoretically impossible. Fortunately, I did not know.
My animation came with some strings. I had to be able to render it using Poser 4, which meant the setting needed to be dead simple. Five robots, one sparse room was about all it could handle.
I also realized there was going to be a learning curve in animating. It would be best if the story meant the robots became more lively as the story went along.
After three months modeling and rigging a single robot, I realized the story was going to be about identical robots. This makes me sound lazy, but I really wanted to get animating.
Plus, once I had the idea of identical robots, it occured to me that if they were exactly the same, they would be incapacitated by their inability even to cross a room. If this doesn't make sense, go to iTunes right now and plunk down the two bucks for the short. You'll get it. You'll be entertained. (What, you didn't know this story is just a big ad for the film?)
In 2001, I started animating before I wrote anything down. I was ...over-eager.
As I began to write the script, the robots became quite chatty. I could have had a two hour movie about robot chat in an empty room. It would have been unbearable.
I pared it down, wrote out half the film, and asked my friend Jessica if she would voice the robots. She took the script home. She practiced. She really brought out each individual personailty. She was, in short, awesome.
We recorded half the dialogue at a friend's house, I went home, made some choices and started animating.
I animated in order, which is generally not necessary and probably not even a good idea for most productions. For mine it made sense. I plotted it that way. If you watch the short, you pretty much get to see my development as an animator. Compare the start of the film with the climbing scene. You'll see the difference.
As I wrote the story, it somehow ended up having all these layers of meaning. The batteries were a metaphor for mortality and in my original script they ended up having their song and dance number, dying off one by one.
Fortunately I found another way out.
I really wanted the film to have great music. I had a friend who was a talented musician and he agreed to do the music.
You know how you hear about bands breaking up because of creative difference, but no one really explains what it's about? Well, it wasn't Yoko.
I was nearly finished animating the film - I was right up to the dance scene and I needed the music so I could synch the robots dance. It never came.
I was on my own. I spent $69 on a music program called "Player PRO", and $500 on a set of orchestral samples. It was a little out of proportion. I then had to take all the samples and build instruments.
And I had to learn how to write music.
With the music recorded, I was able to animate the film and, voila! it was done. Except that I needed footsteps, servos, clinks and clanks. I borrowed every camera I could get my hands on and recorded the sounds of lenses extending, video tapes being ejected, and metal pieces rattling.
How it ended
In 2003, after two and a half years, the movie was finished.
There is only one road for a short film and that road is the festival circut. This would be fun and exciting except that every festival charges a fee and few of them offer a prize. Send your film to 20 festivals at 30 bucks a pop and you're out a cool $600.
Yeah, I should have looked into that a little sooner.
Same Difference went all over the place. Some people loved it. Others rejected it.
In the midst of this process, I was told a dirty little secret about some festivals. They don't watch your film. They collect your $30 fee and toss your tape right back in an envelope with a rejection form.
It sounds ridiculous. But the person who clued me in, also told me how to catch them. "Cue your tape to fifteen seconds. If it comes back that way, they never looked."
I am sorry to say it happens.
In the course of this process — in fact, while I was specifically at a screening at the Rhode Island Film festival, I got a call from an agent I had sent the short to. He was extremely enthusiatic and he wanted to know if there was a feature length script.
There wasn't. There would be.
Same Difference, the feature?
Several studios showed an interested in "Same Difference", potentially as the starting point for a feature film.
My agent found a producer in London who was was very interested in making this happen.
Everyone felt it was best to pull the short from public view for the time being. If someone wanted to buy the property, they would want it fresh, without preconceived design and story ideas. If the short became a feature, my movie would become essentially a cute extra on a DVD.
I was fine with that. I insisted that if the movie got made, I be the one to direct it.
How close did that all come to being? It's hard to know. Let's say, almost.
How to get a short on iTunes
The producer had the rights to "Same Difference" until 2006. Then the rights reverted to me. I decided it was time to get the thing out there and iTunes seemed ideal.
I thought this would be easy. A company called Tunecore will let you release an album on iTunes for a total fee of $36. That's it. They don't even take cut of what you make from Apple. In fact, their process is so straightforward that I put out an album under the name Iondot. (Go ahead, check that out too, I did learn to make music, after all!)
Shorts, however, are a different matter.
To my knowledge, there are only two ways to get a short on iTunes. One is to be Disney/Pixar. The other is to go through Shorts International.
Same Difference traveled to London again, and, in 2007 Shorts International announced they were interested.
There was waiting. There was paperwork. There was finding a suitible launch. and finally there was waiting for Apple to post the short.
At last, in August of 2008, Same Difference has finally become available.