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An Interview With Scott Bateman (5000 Aliens)

Animator and artist Scott Bateman's new film 5000 Space Aliens is that rare thing- a non-narrative feature. Bateman took found footage, vintage photo studio pictures from Venezuela and Romania, scraps of a 100 year-old psychology textbook and more into 5000 one-second shot animated characters. Each image appears for exactly one second.

Rather than a typical narrative, the film is described as "more like a ride" and "hypnotic". Bateman animated the whole film entirely single-handedly. He was also responsible for the electronica-tinged soundtrack.

Bateman's previous work includes The Bateman Lectures On Depression and You, Your Brain & you. In an unconventional technique, Bateman raised the funding for 5000 Space Aliens by gameshow. He made appearances on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Jeopardy, becoming a one-day champion on the latter.

Bateman says: "Storytelling is everywhere these days, it’s ridiculous. But not everything has to tell a story. I believe movies can do other things as well, and still be fun and entertaining to watch. So with 5000 Space Aliens, I set out to create an entertaining, non-narrative film."

"I’m very happy that it all worked. 5000 Space Aliens is a very fun movie to watch with a group of friends at home or in a theatre. There are so many “What did I just see?” moments, and it’s highly re-watchable."

"But also, I wanted to make a film but had no money at the time. So I was looking for a way I could make a movie all by myself. This was a fun challenge, as it’s been one so rarely. I did all this animation, created all this music, did the editing, all of it. I had a blast making this film, and I’m so happy it’s a blast so audiences can experience this groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind film. There's never been another film like this."

Producer Lucas A Ferrara added : "This unique work, which was a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic, was created by just one man during the lockdown. Without the assistance of another human being, Scott Bateman singlehandedly animated and scored an entire feature-length exposé about the thousands of alien creatures who are believed to be living among us."

"If you’re looking for something quirky, off-beat, and extremely entertaining, check out this unique film. And while you’re at it, you’d best fasten your seatbelts, as you’ll likely encounter some turbulence as this mesmerizing movie takes you on a fast-paced, high-speed joyride. An engaging alternate reality awaits."

The film was named Medusa Underground Film Festival's Best Picture and has won numerous 'official selections' at festivals around the world.

We caught up with Scott and had a chat about the film.

AFA: How did you get into animation? What’s your background as an artist?

Scott Bateman: I started drawing cartoons as a kid, and I learned animation back in the early ‘90s. At that point, you had to draw hundreds of frames and then photograph them one at a time on a film camera. And then you’d get the film back two weeks later and you’d find out the whole thing was overexposed and you had to do it over again. Fun!

When Flash animation became a thing, I made little animations for websites like Salon, which was fun.

What was the inspiration behind 5000 Space Aliens?

A whole lot of ideas came together all at once. I wanted to make a film as cheaply as possible, which meant finding a way to do a film by myself at home. I wanted to work with found footage. I’d been playing with the shot-a-second rhythm and wanted to try it for an entire movie, because I found it hypnotic. And then when Covid hit, this was kind of the perfect film to be working on since it was just me!

How did you select the imagery used in the film?

Mostly, I was looking for gestures or movements. A great deal of the footage is public domain, from vintage home movies and retro educational films and ads. A lot of it is very lo-res, so it needs a lot of help to make it hi-res. In so doing, I could re-frame the footage, cut a person out of their footage and put them in a new setting, or even zoom in on someone in the background of a shot who might be doing something interesting.

What was the production method behind 5000 Space Aliens?

A lot of it is probably done in a similar manner as Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life, using software to sort of rotoscope footage. I think I actually made 10,000 seconds of footage to get 5,000 good ones—there was a learning curve in figuring out just what I could do.

What would be your message for potential viewers of  5000 Space Aliens?

Well, I wanted to make a non-narrative film that would be as entertaining as a narrative film, or at least entertaining in a different way. I feel like 99.9% of films are dealing in story-telling, but I often want to see a film I can engage with in a different way. And I hope I’m not alone! I just want to give myself and an audience something a little different. 

5000 Space Aliens is now available to rent or buy digitally worldwide including Amazon, Amazon UK iTunes, YouTube Movies and more.