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Behind the scenes of ‘Submarine Sandwich,’ PES’ new stop-motion masterpiece

Animator PES used Kickstarter to finance his latest project, Submarine Sandwich


Allen Weiner


Posted on Dec 10, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:32 am CDT

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Adam Presapane, who prefers going by mononymous handle PES, views crowdfunding as more than a means to get a project off the ground. Thanks to his successful Kickstarter campaign, “Submarine Sandwich” hit YouTube today with a large built-in following ready to click.

“Using Kickstarter was a great experience,” PES told the Daily Dot. “Putting content out in an oversaturated world, you have to get people involved at an earlier point to build anticipation.”

“Submarine Sandwich” is the third in his food trilogy, which began with “Western Spaghetti” and was followed by “Fresh Guacamole,” a 2013 Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Short Film. In the six years since “Roof Sex,” his first animated project, PES has become an icon (a humble one to boot) in the world of stop-motion animation. His painstaking stop-motion process of moving objects by hand for each frame results in flawless artistry which is the perfect complement to his wry humor.

Developing a trio of films related to food is perhaps a tongue-in-cheek homage to the plethora of food and cooking shows available online.  “Up to the time when I made ‘Western Spaghetti’ in 2008, I had substituted food to represent other objects in my work.” PES said. “In ‘Game Over,’ I used a pizza to represent Pac-Man.

“I figured that one day I’d flip the tables and make a film about food and not use food,” he joked. For example, in “Submarine Sandwich,” one minute and 50 seconds of animated brilliance, PES displays a sense of irony when the deli man puts white tube socks into the slicer only to have White Sox baseball patches come out the other side.

PES said he goes through a casting process when devising the elements of the film. When casting for the part of onion rings, PES looked through the items he had foraged (such as a ton of clothing patches), in search of something that would not only portray onions but also connote the item in question. Hence, tube socks equals White Sox.

Some of the visual elegance can be linked to PES’ brand spanking new Nikon gear, which the camera company gave him when it learned the animator uses Nikon lenses but on a Canon camera body. Nikon did not ask for any in-film credit or product placement, but camera company has used its association with PES for some good publicity.

Going the crowdfunding route may represent a new direction for PES. In previous projects, such as “Western Spaghetti,” he received money from filmmaker Mike Judge, and with “Fresh Guacamole,” he relied on funding from Showtime. With that premium cable deal, Showtime had the rights to the end product for one year which limited PES’ ability to offer his work to the world. Kickstarter funding—in this case to the tune of 163 percent of his ask—enables PES to launch his film on YouTube as well as testing other revenue sources.

One of the Kickstarter rewards, for those who pledged $35 or more, is a limited edition T-shirt which PES said tied to his background in screenprinting. For pledges of more than $65, PES teamed up with the online custom print store Frame Factor to offer limited-edition prints of single frames from the new animated film. In both cases, PES says he could see those perks as future ways to make money.

In his relatively brief career, PES has seen the content business dramatically change. “Our sense of time has shifted over the past few years,” he said. “Things out for one week are considered old.”

To that end, the 41-year-old New Jersey native wants to use more crowdsourced funding and ancillary revenue streams to enable him to increase his output of work outside of his commercial spots. His 2008 ad, Human Skateboard for Steve-O’s Sneaux Shoes drew millions of views on YouTube. PES likes the money but his heart is in his art.

“I want things to be more about giving myself to the world rather than work for hire,” he said. “I want to put more things in the world because the system today rewards frequent content creators more than it does someone who does one film a year.”

Photo via PES

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*First Published: Dec 10, 2014, 5:12 pm CST