You did documentary filmmaking and queer studies at Fairhaven College in Bellingham. What was the first film you ever made? I think it was called Sex Trek. It was a Star Trek puppet show. I was 12, and I made it with my best friend on his dad's crappy camera. I wish I still had it.
You've made a bunch of music videos—for the Thermals, Kimya Dawson, Quasi, Deerhoof, Sean Nelson, and many more. How did you get started with that? I started making videos for bands in about 2004. I had been touring with my band [Your Heart Breaks] for a few years. Eventually, I ended up back in Seattle and started working with Laura Veirs. During those early tours, when she'd just been signed to Nonesuch, we'd just pile into a tiny car, and I started filming those tours with a Super 8. After about four tours, I put one film together, and the record label was really in love with it, and that kind of kicked it off. Then I started making stuff with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Eventually, I was working so much for Kill Rock Stars that I said, "Hey, why don't you just put me on salary for a couple years?" And they did! I've designed record covers and made a bunch of T-shirts for bands. I used to make zines and comic books—just your basic DIY kid.
What are you working on now? I'm in the calm before the storm of making my first animated feature film. It's called Torrey Pines, and it's going into production next year. I'm fundraising, but I'm also finishing storyboards, and starting to build characters and sets, and contacting musicians I want to work on the soundtrack of the film, and building a team.
What's the film about? Basically, it's the story of growing up with my mom, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, but undiagnosed and untreated. My parents split when I was about 6, and the courts gave custody to my mom, because no one really knew she was sick.
So I grew up with a single mom in Torrey Pines in San Diego, in a shitty surfer shack, not knowing things were any different from any other person's family, except my mom would always say crazy shit like "Deanna Troi can read your mind." A lot of it is about watching TV with someone who's schizophrenic. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Beauty and the Beast with Linda Hamilton. Watching Terminator 2 with someone who's schizophrenic—that was a really weird moment in my life. I would definitely put my mom on the same planet as Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. That actor's portrayal is pretty accurate to what I grew up with.
It's also about the politics of the world, Bush to Clinton to Bush, and about the time when cell phones became really prevalent. When you live with someone who talks to themselves out loud all the time, and then all of a sudden the entire world is talking to themselves out loud all the time, it's a real transformation. There's a lot of material.
What movie would you cite as your biggest influence? The biggest influence for me, in terms of what I'm doing now, is probably the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special. My uncle taped it and gave it to me, and I watched that tape so many times. It's SUPER gay. There's so much animation and creativity. That's what my brain feels like—the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, all the time.
Aside from money not growing on trees, what's the greatest hindrance to your creativity? Time. There's just never enough time to do everything I want to do.
Keep up on all things Clyde Petersen at torreypinesfilm.com.