PES, Czar

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Thanks to those cool "Diesel Dreams" web films, at the moment PES might be said to be the bomb. His stop-motion Kaboom! (see, in which a toy city is attacked by a bomber that's about to drop a nuclear peanut, is so much visually dazzling fun it makes you think maybe stop motion really does have a future in the digital age. But like the similarly named candy itself, PES is both old and new and available in many flavors.

His real name is Adam Pesapane, but no one calls him Adam, he says, not even his mother. He's known strictly as PES, he's from New Jersey and he has a cool, semi-irrelevant background, with a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in James Joyce and lived in the room that once belonged to Edgar Allan Poe-who were he alive today would probably be POE. And like Poe, "I watched very little TV as a kid," confesses PES. "It just wasn't that interesting for me, except The Wizard of Oz, which played only once a year on TV and was an event that had no comparison. As a child, I was always a little naive about popular TV shows. I remember having to vote once in school for my favorite actor and I chose Woody Woodpecker with absolute sincerity-I watched that show every day while I devoured five bowls of Lucky Charms before heading off to school."

Well, the Lucky Charms explains the Joyce fixation. As for the rest, PES was one of those obsessional draftsman kids whose "ability to draw somehow got linked early to storytelling, so I started writing books and illustrating them," he recalls. "This continued all the way through college where I learned how to make books in the style of 15th century illuminated manuscripts. The stories I chose to depict in this style were often disgusting little tales chosen to contrast with the ornate qualities of illuminated text. For instance, one featured a story about how my grandmother served me a disgusting meatloaf by vomiting it like a volcano into the atmosphere, then it came crashing down on my plate."

It may not be a great leap from this to Roof Sex, his stop-motion tour de furniture in which two chairs fornicate plein air in a distinctly X-rated manner. PES also has a stop-motion short called Pee-nut, which is all about urinating on a fly. But that's about it for his really salacious output, which to date consists mainly of spec spots, animation tests and some shorts. He's done some very modest live action for WongDoody, featuring a few L.A. Dodgers and a host of bobbleheads. His spec spot to the soundtrack of Nike's "Wild Horses," which features Electric Football figures running around a field of meat, is prime just-do-it-ness. Which is to say PES, despite having nothing to speak of so far in the way of mainstream commercials work-right now he's shooting live action/animation for Coinstar and Publicis/Seattle-is hardly an unknown quantity. He's signed with Czar in the States, he's newly signed with Independent in the U.K. for commercials and music video representation in Europe, and his site pulls in the neighborhood of a million hits a month, claims his manager, Sarah Phelps.

So whither PES? Is he expecting to put all his nuts in the stop-motion basket? Is there really a future for this laborious style? He's hedging his bets on that one, though he cites the Czech master Jan Svankmajer as "a revelation, and I continue to learn and be influenced by his work. At the same time, I prefer to think of our relationship as one in which he opened a door of perception and I'm walking through it." On the other side of that door, "I'm attracted to ideas I feel have strong entertainment potential, whatever the format. If someone thinks I would be the right director for their concept, I want to see the boards, period. I think smart creatives see clearly that my animation is as close to live action as animation gets. I use locations; I have to deal with light-source consistency; and I constantly think about camera angles in three dimensions. But my real ability is not in moving peanuts-it's in capturing and holding a viewer's attention. I believe that forward-thinking clients and agencies are pushing for more innovative and entertaining work these days, which, to some people, may point to animation. But I have ideas I'd like to create in virtually every format. I'm much more an idea person than a technician. I taught myself how to move objects frame by frame because I had to-I wanted to make Roof Sex and I didn't have a big crew."

While animated web films are his ace in the hole, "the effort of the advertising community to pigeonhole directors can never be underestimated," he notes. And for a big change of pace, PES says his live-action spec spot "Beasty Boy" is good for "half a million to a million hits per month on my website." (It's a one-take Learning Channel nightmare about a kid who watches a sheep getting shtupped on the web, then runs to get the family poodle.) As for the Diesel triumph, "it was great to get a creative brief from Diesel and KesselsKramer that said, in effect, 'Dream for us. Just do your thing because we love that.' Of course I'd love to do more work like that. But the Diesel film is a breakthrough because it demonstrates to the ad community that when I make a short film, it can be viewed by millions of people overnight. This is a combination of me having built up a fan base on the internet, Diesel promoting the hell out of the film and the film itself being short entertainment that people want to watch. I think this will encourage more clients to commission films and to do more integrated campaigns. I can also see a cutting-edge client sponsoring something on my website to reach an underground market. Everything points to the viability of short entertainment. If you do it well, people will seek it out over and over again."

Sort of like candy.

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