Parasites, Mushrooms and Mind Control: Inside the Brain of Operator

Hello. My name is Christine Cangelosi, producer of Operator the web series. For all of you new to the wild world of Operator, I sat down with writer and director of Operator, Sam Barnett  to ask him a few questions about Operator the short film and the up and coming, Operator the web series. Here are some highlights from our chat….

C: Sam, what inspired you to create the original Operator?

S: I was inspired to make Operator by a few things: parasites like the cordyceps mushroom, which controls the brains of ants so it can use their bodies as food while it spreads its spores as far as possible. Also, what I like to call “parasitic ideas.” Our minds are made up of ideas that come from all over the place. And somehow once we accept an idea it feels like its part of who we are, even if that idea ends up being terrible for us.

The point is that we grow up with this idea that there is a clear barrier between ourselves and everything else. Operator is a story about a world in which that barrier is ripped to pieces and the boundary between what is and is not us becomes very unclear. It is told from the perspective of characters that have very little power, struggling against a massive corporation that is trying to destroy them. It is a story that I am passionately committed to.

C: Holler holler. When did you decide to turn Operator into a series?

S: After receiving an incredible response I immediately set about expanding it into a web series. I’ve spent the last two years writing a full season of 15 episodes with one overarching story. Developing new characters and fleshing out a much larger world.

C: Sick. Why did you choose Stop-Motion, as opposed to another medium of storytelling?

S: In stop-motion, everything is very specific.  Anything you animate is a real object that is not only full of imperfections, but a history of the things it has been through. It is very hard to create this feeling of history in 3-D. (although 3D is getting better all the time, and I am excited about its possibilities). There is also something incredible about animating in a linear way. In stop motion the shot is completed from start to finish.  In computer animation you make a version and then work and rework and rework each moment. Somebody comes in later and adds texture, someone else lights the scene, another person still moves the digital camera. It’s much less organic. If I did 3D I would I think I would collapse into a rabbit hole of infinite revisions.

C: That’s cool, that makes a lot of sense….given the nature of the story itself, and its inspirations. Can you talk a little bit about the process of creating each episode?

S: Everything in stop motion is individually crafted: each puppet has to be sculpted, each mouth and hand and prop and set piece is created.

C: Wow. We need to see examples of this. Are you doing all of this work yourself right now?

S: Currently: yes. It is quite time-consuming, but there is no way around the fact that making great animation takes a lot of manpower. This is the main reason for our Kickstarter. If we reach our goal, we will be able to afford to hire a few very talented artists to help bring the series to life. With funding, the work will be even stronger and we will be able to get it to our audience faster.

C: Awesome. Well, here is to reaching our goal. Check out our Kickstarter for Operator the web series here!!