Hold Me Down, 2022

Hold Me Down is told through the warring perspectives of a mother and daughter struggling with one another’s view of the world and how each seeks to reconcile its impending ecological doom. Gail, our protagonist, is an astro-botonist of incredible accomplishment selected to lead a humanity-saving mission to colonize Mars. We follow her downward spiral fueled by scientific hubris as she pioneers methods to remove plants from nature and embed them into technology. Her own achievements are plagued by memories of her nameless mother – a surprisingly whimsical and airy antagonist whom Gail feels superior to and frustrated by. Her emotional confrontation of this relationship (as well as the ecological context bubbling under the surface) results in Gail’s psychological deterioration deep in outer space. Covello’s and Schneider’s animation practice illustrates ecological and scientific concepts through the lens of experimental animation.

Forgive Me, 2021

Forgive Me, an animation by Michael Covello and Elizabeth Schneider, is a darkly-comic fever dream born out of the current ecological anxieties of our times. Constructed of traditional and digitally drawn imagery, it depicts the struggles of the emotionally vulnerable and socially adrift Sherman as he quests to overcome a toxic, sinister force in his life that could be real or imagined. At once playful and terrifying, the discombobulated narrative unfolds to depict a haunting landscape of encounters told through dream sequences, drug-induced hallucinations, delusions, and a magically unsettling version of reality.

Experimental in its handling of dialogue and text, challenging in its narrative construction, and thoughtfully rendered in washy inks, scratchy lines, and atmospheric charcoal scrims, Forgive Me is a complex visual feast that questions our relationship to nature and our active role in the world.

Disappearing Pathways, 2020

Disappearing Pathways is an animated film by Michael Covello and Elizabeth Schneider.

It is a meditation on what it feels like to both belong and not belong within a community. The voiced narration in Disappearing Pathways explores issues of mental health, in relation to hallucinations, dreams, addictions, and family entanglements. We all carry baggage that is inherited through family and how we maneuver through the world is tied to both upbringing and genetics. Who we are is shaped by the past. Family history inevitably repeats itself as we strive to both maintain traditions while also attempting to embrace individuality and break the cycle of our ancestors.

Throughout the animation, we use symbolism involving our interactions with nature, representing the passage of time as well as shifting notions of importance. Culturally, plants can be both coveted or undesirable simply by virtue of perspective. When dealing with categorization, our first question was: when does a plant become a weed? And then we began to think about how the symbol of the weed could be used to examine our own role in society. When does a “human” become a weed? Is this tied to how we navigate and understand community and communication? In relation to mental health, when does a thought become a weed in one’s mind?

Disappearing Pathways is our poetic exploration of these questions, and an examination of how perspectives can shift depending on where you are standing.