On Jim Trainor

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 11, 2017

Jim Trainor, still from The Pink Egg (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

Our fall 2017 season kicks off this week with a screening of The Pink Egg, the first live-action feature by Chicago filmmaker and animator Jim Trainor.

Featuring his trademark dark comedy and fascination with the natural world, Trainor’s The Pink Egg explores the complex and curious lives of insects by casting humans in the starring roles.

This week, we are excerpting Trainor’s conversation with Irene Borger, writer and Director of the Herb Alpert Awards, of which Trainor was a recipient in 2010.

In this in-depth interview, Trainor discusses his work through the topics of line, voice, sources, animals, and transgression.  


Filmmaker Jim Trainor in conversation with Irene Borger, September 2010.

Irene Borger: A number of your key films have animals as the protagonists and tell the stories from their point of view.

Jim Trainor: Let me start by pointing out that in recent years my films have segued from animal themes to human themes. The Bats [1998] and The Moschops [2000] are anthropomorphic only to the extent that the animal narrators use language–rather fancy, poetic language–to describe their emotions and their life cycles. But their behavior is purely animal. I tell people over and over that my animals really are just animals, they are not stand-ins for humans, but nobody believes me.

People get a little dewy-eyed and platitudinous about nature, so I enjoy troubling them about it. Right now I’m working on a film on parasitic wasps – which Darwin himself said were incommensurate with a benevolent deity.

Since the harmony of nature is actually based on an unhappy system of things destroying other things, I am continually struck and amused by nature documentaries’ almost compulsive tendency to try to comfort us instead of leaving us stranded in existential horror, where we belong.

Still, I am not completely unsentimental, and even I root for the baby lost penguin, or the gazelle that escapes the lion’s claws!

IB: How has your work changed over time? How will the new film differ from–and carry on threads of–what you’ve already created?

JT: Certain artists make the same work over and over, and I think I am one of those. It is as if I’ve found all my themes and will keep working on them, and never be able to get them out of my system. I am very excited about the wasp movie, The Pink Egg. For the first time I’m making a live-action film (with a proper screenplay), with actors (actresses, mostly), enacting the life cycles of insects.In my quiet way I enjoy bossing people around and the idea of directing actors tickles me. Even though I’m going out on a limb here, I’m confidant that this wacky concept will work, and work as a funny, austere horror movie, as improbable as that sounds.

Read the full interview here.

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