Sam Barnett - 2009, 5:24, Animation, Los Angeles, CA

Everything incorporates some piece of the organisms they consume. In this film we watch the flow of an organism consuming and becoming other organisms it consumes. Its path leads to both entropy and progress.

Breathe is the 3rd in a series of animations by Sam Barnett that utilize sound as a primary force in the narrative. Simple images are made complex by the sounds that define them, turning the ideas in the images into visceral objects and characters.

Sam Barnett is a San Fransisco Bay Area Film Maker. He makes films and animations that attempt to speak directly from the subconscious. his films have been shown all over the US and the World. Work can be seen at


ATA: Is this your first animation using a dry erase board? Did anything in particular inspire you to use it?

Sam Barnett: It is the first time. I made a flip book of a growing amoeba a while ago, and really liked drawing in a way that allowed each new drawing to respond organically to the one before it. I think it helps you see the intelligence of the growth, like a time lapse film of plants growing. I saw someone do a whiteboard animation on youtube I realized this was a much more efficient way to do the same thing.

ATA: The sound in the film is striking. Do you also make sound recordings or write music?

SB: I started out in music, and did a lot of experimental electronic work that has been very helpful in animation. And intact, breathe is the third in a series of films I'm calling abstract motion films. Music is... total abstraction. The notes on a piano are nothing but waves of energy. The combination of these notes becomes representative of an emotional reality. It becomes that state. So i try to think about these films as a flow of abstract images the way a song is a flow of abstract sound.

ATA: The images you use strike me as dreamlike, literary, and grotesque. Can you tell us about some of the sources and influences that come into play when making work?

SB: For this film, i was studying moss, and alternating generations. Every other generation of moss is a different kind of plant. something like a butterfly i guess. anyways i got obsessed with the idea of... life processes divided across generations. and one of the generations being an opening up to the input of completely alien DNA, and this being kind of a violent predatory kind of learning. which is really like evolution sped up allot. I've been obsessed with the idea of humans as thousands of independent systems held together in this form called human. and to breathe, is this constant action that brings the outside world into this mass of systems. and to me, breathing is particularly symbolic of accepting this situation, not sure why i feel that way about it.
As for literary, a running theme for me is the conflict between words and what they represent. i think about words kind of as these destructive boxes that crush the referent, and transmit this crushed form. i don't have many films without boxes.

Interview by Liz Wing of ATA

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