For her next trick, Rookie editor and overall teenage sensation Tavi Gevinson plays a medical student in the Academy Award–long-listed film Cadaver, written and directed by Jonah D. Ansell. Raised "on a lyrical diet of Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and Positive K," the earliest version of Cadaver was a poem Ansell composed for his "kid sister (a medical student) on the day before she cut open her first anatomy-lab cadaver at Chicago's Northwestern University." It became a book, and "as soon as I uncovered the emotional core of Cadaver, I set out to identify the most effective medium to convey it. I knew the story would spark to life as an animated film" that "navigates the tragedy of the human experience in a light-hearted, sophomoric way." Both Christopher Lloyd and Kathy Bates lent their voices to the short, and Tavi also does some singing (which you can hear in the trailer above) — "Heart" by the Pet Shop Boys and "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young. We stole a few minutes of Ansell's time to ask him what it was like behind the scenes.
How did the film come about?
Tavi and I are old friends from Oak Park, Illinois ... [we] had previously collaborated together on my first film, a bittersweet love story entitled First Bass. She was the first person I reached out to when I completed the Cadaver script. She loved it — called it "the least sappy but most tender love story I've ever encountered," and came aboard to play the lead ... Tavi is an incredible creative collaborator. She brings an intellectual and emotional understanding of the material to the material. And although some may blame her for inspiring bloggers across the globe to perpetually drop the word wunderkind, I will simply say that Tavi is a sharp thinker, a gifted problem solver, and a tender soul who I'd trust at my side before setting out to tackle any creative endeavor.
I then reached out to Amanda Dunham Ely, a great friend of mine from USC, and asked her if she would like to produce it, she said yes, and off we flailed. I trusted the learning curve would be grueling. I had never made an animated film.
What was the casting process?
We made a ridiculous wishlist of actors that should have by all means rejected us. We then sent blind, sappy, and embarrassingly passionate e-mails to them — the type of e-mail that you send to an ex-girlfriend at 2 a.m. only to regret it for the next six months of your life. To our surprise, our top two actors (Back to the Future's Christopher Lloyd and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates) said yes.
What was it like on set?
The set was incredibly relaxed. We recorded with Tavi on Easter Sunday in a friend's basement on the North Side of Chicago. We were holed up behind soundproof walls, hoping and praying that Tavi's dialogue and performance would sync up with Christopher Lloyd's dialogue (which we had recorded in sunny Santa Barbara just a week earlier). In fact, the hardest thing about the film was that the actors were never in the same room at the same time. To capture the physicality of the dialogue, Tavi and I acted out a few key scenes. I stood in for Christopher Lloyd and Tavi used a yellow highlighter to cut my heart out of my chest.
The production itself was hectic but fun. We enlisted Seattle-based artist Carina Simmons to create our characters entirely from hand — using only Sharpie markers. We then enlisted San Francisco filmmakers (and fellow Amherst College grads) Tim Hahn, Eric Vennemeyer, and Abe Dieckman to help animate the film.
Was Tavi nervous about singing? Or did she just go with it?
Tavi did a wonderful job performing the vocals to Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and Pet Shop Boys' "Heart." The most challenging part: transforming the Pet Shop Boys' furious dance song into a fragile ballad to capture the emotional core of what I sought to convey when I first wrote the script to Cadaver. Tavi is lauded for her powerful voice, but we challenged her to exercise vocal restraint, while still finding a way to sing from an honest and emotionally powerful place.
What's next for Cadaver?
William Morris Endeavor is actively shopping Cadaver as a feature film and Broadway musical. And we're particularly thrilled, because Christopher Lloyd and Kathy Bates are onboard to reprise their roles. So, if the nameplate on your office door reads Harvey Weinstein, Ron Howard, Megan Ellison, Tim Burton, or John Lasseter, please help us bring this humble story to the silver screen! We're still just a few Midwestern kids trying to jump through Hollywood hoops.
Most Viewed Stories
Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna Reportedly Broke Up
Donald Trump Spent the Morning After the Debate Fat-Shaming Miss Universe, Again
Hillary Clinton’s Sickest Debate Burns
Ask a Boss: My Co-worker Wants Everyone to Call Her Boyfriend Her ‘Master’!
2009 Called — It Wants Its Vogue-Versus-Bloggers Fight Back.
It’s Finally Possible to Understand What Happened to Amanda Knox
Former Miss Universe Becomes U.S. Citizen So She Can Vote Against Trump
Area Woman Interrupted by Man 25 Times in 26 Minutes
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Our Scowling Hero Breaks a Smile
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
Latest News from The CutSerena Williams Refuses to ‘Stay Silent’ About Racial Inequality
“It’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go.”Young Girl Calls for End to Police Brutality in Heartbreaking Speech
It’s a devastating plea.The Y Has Returned in a Big Way to YSL
This is what Saint Laurent looks like post-Hedi.The Most Dramatic Backstage Photos You’ll See All Fashion Month
Preview the book Landon Nordeman: Out of Fashion.Even 100 Years Ago, People Were Worried About Technology Ruining Relationships
An old cartoon echoes some very modern anxieties.This Lipstick Was Designed by a Woman Who Can See 100 Million Colors
Maureen Seberg can see so many more colors than you.Brad Pitt Skipping Premiere to Focus on ‘Family Situation’
The actor may be gearing up to tell his side of the story in the tabloids this week.Please Help Wesley Snipes Find His Leather Jacket
He will be cold without it.The President of NARAL on What Abortion Means in This Election
It signals how the candidates feel about women.YogaToes Cured My Lifelong Fear of Bunions
The stretch feels like a backbend—but for your feet.
She’s the first woman to land on Forbes’s list of the highest-paid comedians.The Very Uncomfortable Experience of Rewatching Election in 2016
An ambitious woman and the angry men who want to stop her.Ivanka Trump Is Great for Women, Says Man Married to Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump is the perfect person to handle “women’s issues,” according to her husband.World’s First 3-Parent Baby Is a Healthy Boy
He was born in Mexico to Jordanian parents.Nation Recovers From Post-Debate Hangover With Mary J. Blige and Hillary Clinton Memes
“What will you do to fix the national epidemic of hateration in this dancerie?”The Hottest Party of the Year Is This 6-Year-Old’s Drake-Themed Birthday Party
It has everything: an OVO cake, Drake balloons, fake money.See Haute Couture’s Most Romantic Looks
Intricate pieces, out for a stroll around Paris.Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna Reportedly Broke Up
TMZ reports that all the baby-shower drama stems from a breakup.Fashion Bloggers Do Not Deserve This Backlash
Neiman Marcus jumps on Vogue’s bandwagon and blames social media for declining sales.6 Hip-hop Influencers Wearing the Season’s Hottest Puffers
Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” look is back.