The Illumination of Jim Woodring

This elegantly profound documentary explores the award-winning, mystical work of American comics creator, cartoonist, and painter Jim Woodring. As an artist that has astounded the world for three decades, he has also suffered from hyper-realistic hallucinations and visions since he was a child - eventually diagnosed as autism and prosopagnosia. His artwork has been lauded and collected by cultural luminaries such as Jeff Bridges (actor), Paul Allen(co-founder, Microsoft), and filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather). Audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with Woodring’s work will be fascinated by this powerful, cinematic biography which details the artist’s haunted youth and his attempts to make sense of a world that seemed less real while dealing with the challenges of his autism and spiritual curiosities.

  • Chris Brandt
    Director
    Comic Book Independents, Closing Time, Hidden Figures, Dream Corp LLC, St. Vincent, Dance Voldo Dance
  • Miguel Cima
    Producer
    Dig Comics
  • Chris Brandt
    Producer
    Comic Book Independents, Closing Time, Hidden Figures, Dream Corp LLC, St. Vincent, Dance Voldo Dance
  • Jim Woodring
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    Cartooning, Art, Comic Books
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 37 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 15, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Chris Brandt

Chris Brandt is an award winning multi-media artist, and works as a professional illustrator and storyboard artist (HIDDEN FIGURES, DREAM CORP LLC). His film and video productions have been featured on the Independent Film Channel, in the San Jose Museum of Art, the Cartoon Art Museum, and in universities around the world. His 2003 machinima video "Dance, Voldo, Dance" went viral pre-Youtube, with over half a million views; and his first feature documentary COMIC BOOK INDEPENDENTS (2007) has been in distribution since its release. Chris holds a B.F.A. from U.C. Santa Cruz, and is a member of the Art Directors Guild.

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Director Statement

I was first introduced to Jim Woodring's cartooning and comic books in 1993. I had just graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree focused in sequential illustration and visual storytelling. The recreation of his dreams were a revelation to me. Much as he speaks of his own influences in The Illumination of Jim Woodring, I saw in Jim's cartoon stories a kindred spirit. My own dreams were of a similar nature and tone, and Jim's presentation of his dreams seemed to hint at an understanding that I blindly labored to attain. I imagined Jim to be a man who had wrestled with the same existential demons that plagued me, and that he'd won. That his ability to put his past struggles on display with such skill and clarity proved he'd found a path to "Ultimate Knowledge": A living, modern Buddha.

Being a comic book (mini-comic) creator, myself, I had many opportunities to meet and speak with Jim over the years, the most intimate being for my 2008 documentary, Comic Book Independents, in which he was just one of dozens of represented artists. In 2012, at the Small Press Expo in San Jose, Jim gave a slide show presentation entitled Please Stand By. I was in the audience, video recording for myself, as Jim revealed intimate details of his childhood, psyche, and influences. Days later, once home, I emailed to ask JIm about sharing the video online. He asked me not to, but this was the beginning of the conversation that would lead to The Illumination of Jim Woodring.

In preparation for our days of extended interviews that would culminate in Illumination, Jim and I had many correspondences and phone calls, but I never did divulge my ultimate impression of him nor my true reverence for his work. As my Executive Director, Miguel Cima, and I drifted on the ferry crossing Puget Sound toward Vashon Island, hot chocolates warming our hands against the morning fog of the late Seattle Fall, I felt the electric anticipation of finally being able to respectfully put to question my revered guru.

Did I find my answers there in the wilds of Vashon? I did. And, once home in Los Angeles, after watching and cataloging the five days of footage, I was struck by the feeling that I had gotten everything I needed to from my experience. Meeting and interviewing Jim Woodring at length, asking all of the questions that had plagued me over twenty years, that I'd never felt comfortable to ask in the past...that had been it for me. Watching the video capture was like revisiting a home movie, and the challenge of compressing the intimacy of the experience was...not daunting (though it certainly was), rather I didn't feel any need to share it with anyone. I had gotten what I needed from it.

However, I had several friends who knew of my endeavors, and their interest in Jim's revelations rallied my enthusiasm, which enabled me to create a final product that compressed the thirty hour narrative into a running time digestible to wider audience. This documentary truly is created for you, the audience. My needs were fulfilled as I crossed back to the mainland on that last shooting day in 2015. Every additional effort that went into making a documentary less than thirty hours long was for you and you alone. I hope you find it enlightening.