AOH :: AEONFLUX.TXT|
SOUND Interview with Peter Chung
by Ed Stastny (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(print version, with picture of Chung and 12 pictures from the
production sketches for Aeon Flux is available for $2 (to cover postage,
packing and issue 10 of SOUND) from: Ed Stastny/ 9018 Westridge
Dr./ Omaha, NE 68124 USA)
note: The final interview came out slightly different than this earlier
draft, but it's basically the same. I changed a few of my own wordings
and corrected some spelling.
note: There should be GIFS to go along with this interview in this
directory. Feel free to download and distribute them. Hopefully I'll
get a wad of them scanned. I'm also sending them to WUARCHIVE for more
When I first saw a commercial for LIQUID TELEVISION's premiere
back in May of 1991, I fell in love with a particular 10 second
clip...that of a dark haired, scantily clad, agile goddess soaring down
the corridor of some megalithic structure dodging bullets and mowing down
guards in robotish masks. It was an absurd display of extreme violence
interplayed with an obvious appeal to carnal lick-chops of the "young
male" demographic by way of the more-flesh-than-not outfit of a viscious
Rambette. That, though, was only PART of it's appeal. The artwork was
like no other I'd seen in any animated short, a very "European" look to
it. Thin, sinewy characters rather than the musclebound look so common
to most animated heroes.
LIQUID TELEVISION (LTV) premiered on MTV in June of 1991, it's
first season featuring six half-hour episodes. It's second season,
consisting of ten episodes, began in September of 1992. Created by
Colossal Pictures and sold to MTV and BBC-2, LTV features animated short
films from all over the world. Eleven of the 16 episodes featured that
hellfire assassin, her leather straps, clacking boots, rumbling guns,
pointy hair and her drastic spin on the wheel of fate. Her name, as well
as the title of the short, Aeon Flux. If you haven't seen it, do. If
you have, you're probably pretty sick of my gratuitous lip-service by
now. Without further a-do-do, we'll get to it...the interview with Aeon
Flux's creator, writer, designer, director and manacurist...Peter Chung.
Chung, 31, was born in Korea but attended high school in
Virginia. He studied animation at Cal Arts in Valencia, California.
From there, he went to work at Disney for two and a half years doing live
action projects. For the past decade, he's been working all over the Los
Angeles animation industry for places like Ralph Bakshi Studios, Marvel
and Colossal, the producers of LTV. His credits include: directing the
pilot of Nickelodeon's Rugrats, character design for C.O.P.S.,
Transformers work and a commercial for Levis. He started to work on a
project called "Secret Agent X9" for Colossal, but it's now dead in the
Ed: "How did this Aeon Flux thing come about?"
Peter: "Originally I had the idea of doing something like Aeon Flux for
quite a long time. It's basically my reaction to seeing Hollywood
action/adventure movies and wanting to do something that kind of showed
viewers what was always implicit but what those films never really
delivered. Which was basically having the main character doing all the
standard heroic things, but doing so in what I would call a 'moral
vacuum' in which you don't really know why she's doing the things she's
doing but you're kind of caught up in the action. And seeing how viewers
would, how far along you could lead them on (laugh) until the point where
she dies in a very ridiculous manner and it's been interesting to see
what people think of that. I mean some people hate to see her die and
other people think it's funny. The intention was to make you wonder
about whether she was a good person or a bad person to begin with...and I
don't know what YOU thought..."
Ed: "I never really made a decision as to whether she was good or bad. I
thought of it as more a barrage of imagery, violent and strange, to
stimulate the viewer to pay attention..."
Peter: "Well, that was an attempt to get it to tie into the whole Liquid
TV concept which was to, basically, do a show that was satire and spoofed
various genres of things that were out there. The thing that I chose was
heroic action/adventure movies. I don't think it's that far from what
you actually see in say, an Arnold Schwartzenegger movie where the
exaggerated level of the one-against-all battle scenes is pretty absurd."
Ed: "Some people took it more seriously, I thought it had a different
level, that it was more than JUST a spoof."
Peter: "I had arguments with MTV about...they didn't understand it and
the only way I was able to sell it to them, to sell them on the idea of
doing it or letting me do it was to tell them that it was a spoof. My
intentions were much more...I guess you'd say academic. I was interested
in experimenting with visual narrative, telling a story without dialogue
and also trying to create a style of telling a story with animation that
wasn't influenced by the usual kinds of things that you see. For me
there is a solid storyline going on under all the action. It's not
really that important to me whether or not everybody agrees on what that
story is. There were very specific demands that had to be met working
for that format. One thing that was very important to me was doing
something that could be watched more than once and that you could look at
again and still read other things into it. Because the fact that MTV's
been running that show over and over and over again and is still going to
do that. And so, I think a way to do that is to get people involved and
thinking about it and talking about it."
Ed: "And they are. I've heard people sit around at parties discussing it
and people on the computer network are putting forth their own theories.
There are a few people I know who watch tapes of Aeon Flux over and
over...in slow motion..."
Peter: "Who are these people!?"
Peter went on to tell me about how he's having some difficulties
getting MTV to fund more episodes of Aeon Flux. Apparently, also, MTV
is entertaining the idea of creating a Liquid Television spin-off series
and is unsure which segment would bring in the most money. They've yet
to offer Chung an "acceptable budget" for more episodes, offering him
less than even the "cheapest" Saturday Morning cartoons.
Ed: "Well, we could just have a huge letter-writing campaign and bombard
MTV's offices with pro-Flux propaganda..."
Peter: "That would be great!"
You can write to: MTV/ Liquid Television: Abby Terkuhle/ 1515
Broadway/ 24th Floor/ NY, NY 10036 OR Colossal Pictures/ LTV/ Amy
Capen/ 101 15th St./ San Francisco, CA 94103.
Ed: "Here's one of the big questions that rose up around Aeon Flux's
seemingly superhuman abilities and her rejuvenations in the second
season....What is she, a robot, cyborg, clone?"
Peter: "Well, um...originally she died at the end of the first season.
My idea was not to bring her back...but they (MTV) wanted to bring her
back. I couldn't really find a credible way to (bring her back), I mean
I didn't want to pull something where you say 'she fell down but she
didn't really die' or 'they put her back together' or something like that
so. I just said 'the hell with it', I'm just going to bring her back,
I'm not going to explain it and she's going to die in every episode."
Ed: "That makes sense."
Peter: "Let people fill in the blanks the way they want. I hope people
aren't thinking she's a robot, I prefer that they didn't think that
because she's much more interesting if she's a real person."
Ed: "I've always subscribed to the clone theory and someday we'd arrive
in some huge cryonic sleep chamber with a bunch of Aeon Fluxes
Peter: "The idea that I was really going to pursue if I were really to
try to explain it is that she was somebody that was able to reproduce
asexually...which meant that she's able to split and become parallel
selves. But I didn't really pursue that but that would have been my
position. There aren't a whole lot of them...during the lapses between
episodes when you don't see it happen...it's like 'sysparis'
reproduction. Cell splitting. I was going to do a think where part of
the body gets cut off...like if you cut off her arm she'd grow a new arm
and the arm would grow a new body."
Ed: "By the way...is the main female's name Aeon Flux, or is that just
the name of the short?"
Peter: "It started out just being the name of the cartoon and then
eventually it stuck, so that's her name."
Ed: "What exactly was your intended plot for the first season's
Peter: "She was entering the fortress to assassinate the person who's
picture she carries around on the map. Her objective is to reach the top
of the fortress, where he is. Along the way she kills everybody in her
path. She comes across two people fighting over a briefcase...and
assuming that there's something of value in there she takes the briefcase
away from them. Opens it up and finds a bottle, doesn't know what it is
and throws out the contents. And puts a grenade in the bottle and kills
the other guy who we show is dying of a disease which is also afflicting
all the other soldiers that are her victims. Along the way she
encounters the man, whose name is Trevor Goodchild in the script but of
course the names are never mentioned. You get a sense that they know
each other, or that was the idea. She doesn't attack him, in fact she's
kind of aroused by watching him lick his girlfriend's ear in the
elevator. So what happens is that she reaches the top of the building
and she looks in the window and the guy, Trevor, you see him with the
same liquid that you saw earlier (that the two men were fighting
over)...then we see on tv, a news report comes on showing that all these
people that are laying dead that we'd previously seen killed by Aeon Flux
are revealed to have had this disease where green lines appear on their
skin. The virus is shown to have been spread by these little insects
that we saw the Trevor character put into his finger. So the woman
(watching tv) makes the connection and Trevor goes after her and gives
her a shot of the vaccine. The idea there was that I wanted the news
report to contradict what the viewer had already seen. Suggesting some
kind of....well you can interpret it either way you want....but it could
be seen as a cover up because she'd gone around killing all these people
but no mention was made of the fact that they'd been shot to death, it's
all attributed to the virus. In a way, rendering everything she'd done
up to that point futile. When she looks in the window, I don't know if a
lot of people see this...but...the guy in the photograph (on her map) is
laying dead on the bed of the bedroom. Some people picked that up.
There's a picture of the old man on the wall...right next to the picture
is the old man laying dead on the bed. That's one case where, after the
fact, I kind of regretted that I didn't linger there longer...or truck in
some more to emphasise it more. That was actually a pretty important
plot point that kind of got buried."
Ed: "After that, people were supposed to see Aeon Flux's mission was
Peter: "Yeah, that was really the whole point. Basically about the
futility of violence, that kind of heroic violence. She falls off the
ledge and they, the mission control people, get rid of her body by
blowing it up and get rid of where she lives and the only thing that's
left of her after she's dead is the picture of her on a foot fetishist's
Ed: "I thought that might have been part of her 'heaven' or 'dream'."
Peter: "Oh no...see, you've got to understand that the production process
toward the end of the series was really rushed and I was running out of
money and kind of had to slap it together. I'm not really satisfied with
how the ending came out. There were some things that were in the
original storyboard that didn't make it in the film. There's a bed in
her apartment and a camera pointing at her bed....the view through the
camera is the same view that we see on the magazine cover, of her
tickling her foot. There was supposed to be a feather on the bed but
that got lost along the way...would have helped it."
Chung had a few problems selling MTV on some of the imagery and
actions in Aeon Flux. Several things were cut from the original script
he'd made for the short, mostly due to financial and schedule
limitations. There were a few philisophical differences, though. He
fought MTV over a few little things, but ended up getting mainly what he
wanted. For instance, MTV had a problem with the scene where Goodchild
slits open his finger to release the bug and then scoops it's eggs from
the wound and eats them on a cracker, but that scene made it to the final
aired version. In that same scene there was a woman scrubbing the back
of another woman in a bathtub. It was suggestive, but not explicit.
Chung's original plans were to have those women naked together in the
bathtub massaging one another. There was another scene of sexual
explicity that was toned down. In the large elevator where Aeon watched
Goodchild as he licked the ear of the Breen woman, that scene started out
as being far more erotic. Interestingly enough, despite MTV's objection
to overt sexuality in Aeon Flux, they had no complaints about the extreme
level of violence depicted in the gunfights and slaughters. What does
that say to Chung? "This is America, is what that says."
Ed: "Does the plot from the first season carry over to season two?"
Peter: "The character relations do, but not the actual plot...What's
interesting to me about filmmaking is that it's not a literal, linear
medium...that's not to say that books necessarily are, but the
psychological dimension of a story told in film is something you have to
provide yourself. Because you can't really get inside a characters mind
the way you can in a book....it's all external imagery, it's all
physical. When you start to feel really intimate with what's happening
in a film...is when a film is really working. What that is is a process
of the viewer creating meaning, basically, out of connecting images that
are on the film. That's basically what drives my motive to make
films...all the films are mainly driven by that need."
Ed: "To create meaning in the sense that you dictate what the meaning is
or to create a MEANS by which people can extract meaning?"
Peter: "I think to provide for the viewer to sit down and use his
faculties for getting meaning out of something which, basically, could
just be images flickering on a screen. It's as much what the viewer does
in putting those images together in his head, using his analytical
interpretive faculties. When that happens, that, to me, is when the
process is complete. What I do is I just spew the images out there.
It's why I think filmmaking is interactive and why I'm not such a big fan
of all this new media that seems to be coming out....interactive cd-rom
Ed: "Too limiting in choice, is that what you're saying?"
Peter: "Well, it's presuming the wrong thing. To say that 'we're now
going to do interactive movies using this new technology, cd-rom', I
think is presuming that movies aren't interactive already. To me they
are...a good movie is. It doesn't...what's the word....isn't
declamatory, doesn't announce it's ideas. Lets the viewer...evokes an
experience in the viewer in an honest way."
How long does it take to make something like Aeon Flux? For
Chung, it's broken down into a fairly modular process. He spent about a
month writing and revising the script. Another month he took designing
the characters and backgrounds. For about a month after that, he was
working on the storyboard, a sort of preliminary layout and blueprint of
how the actual film would finally look. The following month encompassed
the actual laying out of the scenes and the process ended with two months
in Korea doing the actual production. This six month process resulted in
the first season's short that was broken down into six shorter episodes.
Chung has a project outside of Aeon Flux that he's being pretty
secretive about. He did give me a few tidbits to chew on, though. He
tells me it will be more "provocative" than Aeon Flux. He describes this
"secret project" as "surreal, sci-fi, sorta political and perverse".
Keep your ears pricked.
WORDS TO THE ASPIRING
"Self teaching is the best kind", claims Chung of learning to
animate. He attended Cal-Arts and studied animation, but says it only
"teaches you how to work in a studio" and not really create your own
films. He advises upstarts to merely practice animation techniques and
experiment with drawn motion, like he did while in high-school, rather
than jump into any huge projects. If one does opt to tackle a complete
film..."Plan everything thoroughly," he says, "nail it down in
storyboards and layout first."
For those of you wondering if there is, or ever will be, an Aeon
Flux comic book, Chung offers a firm "no". "I did a two-page comic once,
animation's far more satisfying to me." he explains. He emphasises that
Aeon Flux is purely cinematic and wouldn't translate well to comics. Not
writing off comics altogether, Chung does accept the possibility of doing
some other story in comic form. We tossed around the concept of an "art
of Aeon Flux" type of book, he was interested. The actual publication,
of course, would depend on if he could get it funded. Chung did mention
a comic called Hard Boiled, which he describes as the closest comic book
equivelant to Aeon Flux.
THEATRE OF THE MIND
Much of the architecture and imagery in Aeon Flux reminds me of
those within my nocturnal dreams, so I asked Chung if dreams influenced
the creation of his film. Not only did his dreams influence Aeon Flux,
they built it. Most, if not all, of the film is based on Chung's
dreamstate. He cited the whole grappling-hook-gun-
climb-to-the-catwalk-while-being-shot-at scene was straight out of a
dream. The "erotic elevator" scene, though toned down substancially, and
the megalithic structures were dream inspired as well. He doesn't keep a
dream diary because he believes that writing things down destroys your
actual memory of the event adding, "I remember what I need to." If the
hallucinations of his subconscious can influence him so much, the logical
progression in my mind was to hallucinagenic drugs. Regarding that,
Chung stated, "Drugs have very little influence on what I actually end up
doing, but they can be inspirational during the development process."
THEOLOGY, SOFTDRINKS AND CONCLUSION
Ed: "If you could say three words to God, what would they be?"
Peter: "'Thanks for nothing'...or, if God really existed and I were to
actually see him (instead of just addressing the 'idea' of God)...of
course I'd say something a little different, like, 'try harder, God'."
Ed: "What is your favorite softdrink?"
Peter: "Aquarius Neo (available in Japan and Korea, similar to Pocari Sweat
but less salty - an ion-supply drink). Stateside, Jolt Cola.
Grab your Jolt and settle down on the couch for some passive
ingestion of some LTV on MTV, that's an order. LTV plays on Tuesdays at
9pm, Sundays at 4:30pm and various other times on the rarely predictable
(special thanks to Mr.Stone, sound editor on AF, who made this interview
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