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DECIMA x OFFF2022

May 2022 ––
In 2019, after a GMUNK marathon speech at OFFF Barcelona, Munky’s dearest design brother and OFFF founder Hector Ayuso approached him at the afterparty and asked him if he wanted to craft their 2020 20th Anniversary title sequence with the highest honor.

Of course Munkowitz, who with a Motion Design background has admired iconic title sequences for over two decades, jumped at the opportunity. He wanted to put all of his energy, skill and passion into the project, and galvanize a network of collaborators to help create an ambitious piece of work.

Fast-forward to March 2020, while on-set filming the sequence, a strange rumor was floating around that a Coronavirus was shutting down society, and actually shut down the last day of filming as the world descended into darkness. Fast-forward another two years to May 2022, and after so many hurdles to complete the post-production on the project, it finally has been released to the world due to an unwavering commitment and incredible collaborators to help realize the dream, no matter how ambitious it was. 









Film Synopsis

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Set in a distant future, a ‘species’ of robotic shamans called the Vi survive through the harvesting of dreams from the human subconscious to predict the future.

DECIMA is the titular matriarch and the last remaining biological human who can dream. When the Vi discover Decima is terminally ill, they attempt to extract her soul in order to place it into an immortal vessel; an Oracle called The Rune.

The film ultimately focuses on the human condition and examines the deep emotional connection to loss and rebirth, exploring themes of mortality, empowerment, soul passage, and illumination.









The Process

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The Process in creating DECIMA was immense. Not only was it a highly technical production, but also had stresses placed on production design, performance and in bringing out an emotional impact with sound, editing and post-production. All while operating on an indie budget and high aspirations not entirely attached to reality.

Definitely, the biggest challenge was the Robotics, and integrating the robotics into the story, which was a first for the entire team. Munky enlisted his lifelong collaborators at VTProDesign to bring the robots to life, and to of course enable them with this powerful laser light to help extract DECIMA’s soul with heat and their own forms of energy.

One could imagine the challenges in figuring out how to mount laser projectors into these giant machines, and then having to choreograph their movements while preserving the vectors of the lasers to create volumetric light appropriate to the various stages of the ceremony, which had defined chapters of mood and energy.

Overall, as with any film project, the focus is always on the storytelling and developing characters with interesting emotional responses to the situations they are in. With this story, exploring themes of mortality, transmigration and empowerment, every scene and every moment had to contribute to the easy digestion of the storytelling, and that was aways the primary focus throughout.

DECIMA was shot on the Sony Venice with the Panavision C-Series Anamorphic Lenses, and was delivered as a digital master to Color by DeJonghe in Belgium to transfer to 35mm Kodak Vision3 500T motion picture film stock, then it was rescanned and color graded, which is why there is so much texture and halation on the final film – it’s the emulsion baby. The process photography that follows was beautifully captured by uber-talented photographer James Heredia
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The Process Film

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Below is a vignette peeling back the curtain on the jam-packed two-day shoot to create the film. What was required was a lot of fast, streamlined production methods and improvisation when things inevitably didn’t go as planned.

What’s beautiful about projects like this is because the resource is so constrained, it requires everyone to innovate and fully optimize their process in order to produce the desired quality of the work. It forces everyone involved to be better, work faster and tighter, and in the end, when the results are up to standard, a feeling of gratitude and satisfaction is always in order. Nothing comes easy.
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Regeneration

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Regeneration was the opening scene in the film and was responsible for establishing the motivations of Decima throughout. From a narrative standpoint, it’s a scene that is dialogue heavy and has flashbacks and sinister provocations of the Vi’s influence over the characters, to allow the viewer to understand that the control comes from above, that the characters are subservient and somewhat vulnerable, yet through their bravery and trust in their convictions that the ultimate goal of illumination is possible.

Aesthetically, the team wanted to lean into production design to create a cellular sequencing machine as a backdrop to the scene, as she awakens from suspension on a bed of light. The machine represents her cellular state of being and the premise of sovereignty over her biological state, which is her fragility in the film.
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Human Dream Field

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The Human Dream Field was the only flashback in the film, and was used to represent the Vi’s motives in their harvesting of human dreams to fuel their algorithms to predict the future. It was also an opportunity to define the Vi’s ultimate goal in harvesting Decima’s soul and it’s purpose, to bring life to their newest creation, the Rune, the Oracle created for their own salvation.

To create this scene, a heavy amount of fog was poured into the space while an intense wetdown created an infinite space for the light energy to perpetuate. An immersive hologram was beautifully designed by longtime collaborator Peter Clark, inspired from the same palette and optics as the red hot lasers emitting from the Vi, surrounding and all-encompassing Eidolon as his pineal gland is slowly harvested by the Supreme.
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The Supreme

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The Supreme was the Shaman of the Andromeda Empire and Supreme Leader of the Vi. There is a very important dialogue between the Supreme and Eidolon in the film that sets the backstory of the Vi’s intention, and also reveals the divergent realities of Decima and her superiors with regards to the impending Ceremony.

The challenge with this scene was having a human actor interact in a dialogue with the Supreme, who in essence was a practical, kinetic machine. They had to time the speech of the machine to generative light patterns in its interior, which was done live and interactively while the camera was rolling. The Supreme’s voice was also captured live, all done with cue points and triggers, so the dialogue is 100% captured in-camera and sought to ‘humanize’ the machines as characters with intention and purpose. 
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Purification

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Purification was a very intimate scene, and had a couple very important intentions for the film. The first was to show the vulnerable side of Decima, someone who had been in Regeneration for decades and had missed the feeling of elemental stimulation on her skin. The scene wanted to humanize her, portray her unguarded self and reveal the purity in her Soul before the passage.

Another was to show the alluring side of her, to present the beauty of the human form surrounding the Vessel, to take a moment to appreciate the purity of her being, to celebrate her in a cross-cutting dialogue with the Eid and Supreme conversation to bring a duality of feeling in the moment. It was a very important sequence in dialing the mood before the ceremony. 
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The Ceremony

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The Ceremony and Soul Extraction was the climax of the film and another scene rife with challenges. The direction of the scene was a constant arc of energy, to build and build through a slow and dreamy entry into the chamber, the Vi slowly coming to life and taking us through a cadence of intensity during the chapters in the procession, and ultimately concluding on a massive climax of energy and spoken word as Decima’s soul is extracted from her body. 

The arc was based around concepts of exposure – at the beginning of the ceremony, Decima was protected and sheathed in a Mylar blanket, to protect her body from the intense laser light raining down upon her, yet also purposed to warm her and prepare her for the later stages. 

Upon exposing her body to the Vi, unprotected now, the intensity in the sequence amplifies as the Supreme is revealed and ignites the Harvest. For the Soul Extraction, the team used Motion Control to get two instances of her, one on the light table, and another in the air on suspended on wires. The team had to synchronize creating a laser cradle of sorts with the speed of her ascension on wires, and then synchronize that to the motion-controlled camera to try and get the choreography right. The light energy around her during her ascension was all captured in-camera as assets and composited around her, nothing synthetic was used as it was primarily optical assets that were shot so everything felt homogenous. 

The team also had to figure out how to capture the ceremony without frying the camera sensor. Imagine four laser projectors, mounted on kinetic arms, traveling throughout a scene with a variety of patterns – essentially lasers everywhere. They had grips shadowing the camera lens at all times with a black floppy, and whenever a laser came close, they covered the lens rather quickly. They established ‘dead zones’ of laser activity, and also ‘robots in motion’ activity so nobody could enter those zones. Intense ambition, no matter how challenging, is so rewarding when it’s realized even remotely close to the vision.
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The Typography

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The typographic language and graphic compositions are always the pivotal part of making a Title Sequence great, so a lot of love and attention was given to make sure there were no weak links. Munky collaborated with legendary Title Designer Felipe Carvalho to come up with purposeful and beatiful typographic choices, coupled with detailed animations to bring out the most from the Ceremony, coupling with the laser animations and light volumes to fully integrate into the flow of the visuals.

The structure of the edit was intentionally suited to bring out purpose in the typography and to innovate in the format. The film spent the first half of its duration defining the backstory and giving every element in the story a clear purpose in the larger picture. Once everything was defined, the pivotal moment when the title sequence format resonated was after the second shot of the Vi Toltec spacecraft, it cuts to black and up animates ‘OFFF2022 Presents’ taking the viewer into the Ceremony scene, where the speaker titles adorn the seven minute sequence much like a typical Title Sequence, engaging the audience with the format and setting a more design-centric tone for the rest of the film.  
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Decima & Eidolon

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Casting and performance is everything to drawing an audience into the story in narrative filmmaking. The brief for Decima was a powerful woman, charismatic, engaging, vulnerable yet stoic and purposeful. The production was blessed to have found the amazing Nana Ghana, a fresh face and talented actress who was absolutely perfect for the role. She brought intensity and empathy to the role of Decima and was an absolute dream to work with.

Eidolon was played by Jagger J. Hunt, who was also perfect for the role. Eidolon is an odd character, albino and more machine than human. We wanted him to express in subtle ways, but in such a way that you knew there was feeling breaking through, that he was almost in constant conflict with his emotions of fealty to the Vi and empathy towards Decima – it was a hard performance to nail and Jagger did a wonderful job in bringing Eidolon’s character to life. 

It was an absolute pleasure working with these two talented actors, who brought such vividly disparate performances to the film, but bonded together for the adventure and fully immersed in their roles – the film wouldn’t be the same without their talents.
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The Robotics

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Munky was first exposed to working with Creative Robotics while stationed at Bot & Dolly in 2013 and subsequently co-directing the projection-mapping opus BOX. From there, he went on to work on a few more robotics projects, one for Audi and another entitled Telestron, which was more of a volumetric sculpture / experience than a film.

The best thing about working with these machines is the creative process of maximizing their scale and stature. Once the creative direction is set, the process always starts with exploring the robotic form, and how the poses influence and augment the surrounding space due to their sheer size and footprint. For Decima, the robotics process started on the kitchen counter of Munky’s dearest collaborator Michael Fullman, with a few toy robots, and posing them in various configurations to set the keyframes and distinct chapters of the ceremony. 

From there they went into previs, animating every second of the sequence in Maya and also defining their ‘gaze vectors’, essentially where their ‘eyes’ were looking, as they were outfitted with laser projectors inside their enclosures. Each member of the Vi had a different quality of projector mounted inside, with the Supreme using two-way mirrors to bounce the lasers around the interior and the Shimmers using prisms to create more prismatic effects with the laser light separating into distinct channels, which gave a much more analog and tactile feeling to their light energy. 

Once the movement and vectors were defined and the lighting fixtures were internally mounted, then it became a programmable light show of sorts using the cadence of the light to define the space, to define the varying mood and rhythm in each chapter of the ceremony; to influence the editorial energy and build suspense throughout. 
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The Inspiration

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The inspiration for this film was twofold: one was a deep examination of the feelings of mortality and the desperation for illumination it can create in an individual. The second was focused on Ritual and Ceremony, through the lens of vintage Science-Fiction and Robotics.

Since Munky’s father passed away a few years ago, he has been obsessed with themes of the afterlife and transmigration – as he’s been dreaming constantly about where his fathers soul would be placed next. He’s always had deep questions about Soul Passage and wanted to expand on it creatively through the lens of vintage science fiction – to let the imagination run wild as a sort of expressive grieving phase. Sometimes dreaming and meditating on the unknown, and expressing it through a unique lens is the best medicine.
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The Experience

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Munky first participated at OFFF all the way back in 2002, and also met the love of his life there in 2013. OFFF has flown Munky all over the world and back, and has become close family throughout all the adventures. So it’s safe to say that OFFF has been a massive influence on Munky’s entire life in design, and in love.

So it was the most intense honor to be tapped to craft their 20th Anniversary Title Sequence, given their history and also being inspired by some of their iconic title sequences in the past. It was also a completely surreal feeling to present the titles in-person, with 3,000+ people in the audience, after being locked in for the past two years running away from the Coronavirus. There is a very satisfying end to this story, it couldn’t have been written any more perfectly, no matter how challenging the process was.
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Director

at JOJX
for OFFF Barcelona
Credit List

Production

Director: GMUNK
Screenplay: Shimmerkid
Story: Bradley G Munkowitz
Production Company: JOJX
Executive Producer: Jackson Morton
Executive Producer: Joe Care
Executive Producer: Pedro Aragão De Oliveira
Production Company: Commandeer
Line Producer: Micah Ross
Line Producer: Lars Ruch
Prod Supervisor: Conor Bailey
1st AD: Ryan Lippert
2nd AD: Patrick Gorman
Director of Photography: Isaac Bauman
2nd Unit DoP: Adrien Oniega
Ronin Tech: Andrew Brinkhaus
1st AC: Payam Yazdandoost
2nd AC: Alan Certeza
DIT: Jack Schaefer
Decima: Nana Ghana
Eidolon: Jagger Hunt
Wardrobe Stylist: Michelle Martini
Stylist Asst: Stephanie Porter
Make-Up Artist: Allyson Joiner
Hair Stylist: Bianca Harris
Art Director: Arne Knudsen
Leadman: Steve Tobler
Production Design: VTProDesign
Robotics Studio: VTProDesign
Executive Creative Director: Michael Fullman
Executive Producer: Paul Elsberg
Director of Creative Technology: Matt Wachter
Robotic and Animation Lead: Jordan Ariel
Robotics Design and Animation: Hailey Mendoza
Designer: Tyler Lampe
Art Director: Anass Benhachmi
Laser Operator: Derek Abbot
Senior Creative Technologist: Dom Ricci
Fabrication Lead: Jim Shawhan
Motorized Precision Director: Sean Brown
Motorized Precision: Shepherd Duff
Motorized Precision: Brian Davidson
Key Grip: Adam Kolegas
BB Grip: Daniel Tucker
Grip: Casey Slade
Grip: Mike Gray
Grip: Izzy Ernst
Grip (Pre): Johnathan Gonzalez
Gaffer: Paul Monroe
BB Electric: Taylor Freeland
Electric: Connor Burns
Electric (Pre): Theo Hyppolitte
Electric (Shoot): Nick Riportella
Stills: James Heredia
BTS: Aaron Marcellino
BTS: Andrew Curtis
BTS: Scott Middow
Sound Mixer: Houston Guy
Medic: Michael Smith
SFX Rigger: Pat Romano
PA Office: Olivia Tripp
PA Truck: Tristan Copeland
PA Set: Colby American

Post Production

Editor: Matt Berardi
Composer: Ben Lukas Boysen
Sound Design: Jochen Mader
Post-Production Studio: Psyop Berlin
Executive Producer: Justin Stiebel
Creative Director: Stefan Susemihl
Lead Compositor: Stefan Susemihl
3D Artist: Thomas Sali
2D Compositor: Thomas Sali
2D Compositor: Florian Dehmel
Hologram Designer: Peter Clark
Concept Art: Toros Kose
Concept Art: Nicolas Lopardo
Colorist: James Bamford
Titles Typography: Felipe Carvalho
Titles Animation: João Vaz Oliveira
Producer: Jodi Kraushar
Producer: Matthias Bauerle