We spent a good chunk of the weekend watching and loving and rewatching My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, the new animated film from celebrated comics artist Dash Shaw (see full review). The tale of a high school that quite literally sinks into the sea, the film is the culmination of nearly seven years of work from Shaw and his wife Jane Samborski and is one of the most delightfully bizarre and brilliant things we've ever seen. Obviously, we called the guy. (Alex De Vore)
Would you say the movie is based on your own life or experiences?
The joke was that it's kind of combining the two opposing schools of comics from when I was a teenager. The majority of comics in the '90s were the autobio comics, like Crumb, and I loved those comics. At the opposite end of the spectrum were the boy's adventure or superhero comics. The joke was that it would be an autobio comic, but clearly warped into a boy's adventure world where it has an extremely unreliable narrator. It was a joke, but also I was on the school newspaper and I had friends like those friends. So parts of it are real—I think I was kind of mean in the way that teenagers are mean, but I made [the main character] meaner because it seems like that was a part of it ... (I was) the person who would decide to make a movie where they're the hero.
The film is in your style, but also other people obviously worked on it. How much did you draw or animate?
A whole lot. It was primarily made by Jane Samborski and myself in our apartment. We're married, and we drew most of it in our kitchen. It was a very small operation. The script was written in 2010, but I feel like if I say 'six years,' I'm exaggerating to make it sound more, ... I don't want to make it sound like it took longer than it did. Everything about the movie was based upon what I thought was possible with limited means. I thought about it like Evil Dead where the director has a cabin and a couple actors and it kind of gets by on its energy. The story is simple, it has a video game-like progression. The characters don't change clothes, so you don't have to worry about keeping track of outfit changes in different scenes. I thought the main joke or the dissonance in the movie is that it's a disaster movie, but they're still talking about high school stuff.
Do you think that creative types or outcasts will find solace or inspiration in a film like this?
Well, that sounds nice. I guess that would be nice. I When I look at it, it feels like one of those movies that was very meaningful to me at a young age, like when I saw Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. Maybe 'anti-establishment' is too strong a word, but it has, at least, a contrarian sensibility. I didn't try to think of an audience, I didn't play-test it for people and try to think of an audience. When it was finishing I thought, 'This feels like a movie I would have really liked at a young age if I had come across it.' I hope 16-year-old nerdy kids who are into art will find it.