Filmmaker Interview: “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!”

On May 28th, the Rooftop Films Dark Toons program will dive straight into the darkest regions of our subconscious. Although not all of the characters are human, these animated short films get right to the core of our humanity.

A perfect example is “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!” directed by Jake Armstrong. This six minute sci-fi film takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride, gracefully navigating from cute and silly to heartbreaking and profound.

Rooftop Films spoke with Jake to find out how he did it.

Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of your film for those who haven’t seen it.

Jake Armstrong: It’s a six-minute short cartoon made entirely in Flash.  It’s about a space bounty-hunter traveling to a lonely planet to do away with a terrible monster.

RF: How would you describe the world of your film?

JA: It’s a kind of 60’s sci-fi comic book world.   The planet is an alien landscape, not so much desolate, but pretty boring.  The only interesting thing is when people come to visit.

RF: What is the relationship between man and beast as portrayed in the film?

JA: I’m not sure, really.  I suppose the main theme I wanted to play with was loneliness in characters.  The spaceman is naturally cold, but a part of society, and the monster is naturally warm, but totally alone.  The relationship when two totally stubborn, lonely, and emotional characters meet seems like it’d just end in a stalemate.  I guess in the end I just thought that idea was both really dismal and really funny.  I’m not sure but I think that makes me a bad person.

RF: Do you think mankind is destined to misunderstand the entire freakin’ universe and get our ass kicked in the process? Do you think that will be funny or sad?

JA: I definitely do think mankind is destined to misunderstand everything outside its scope, but I don’t necessarily agree that we’d always get our asses kicked.  I think we win all the time, or even lose and just think we win.  I think both of those are pretty sad, and maybe a little scary.  It’s losing that’s downright hilarious.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else are you up to?

JA: Yeah, I work full time within the industry, that is, television and advertising.  Right now I’m storyboarding for an awesome cartoon called Robotomy for a studio here in NY.

RF: Describe your next project.

JA: I wish I could!  Right now there’s nothing concrete in the mix.  I have a ton of beginnings and no endings, which I suppose is still a pretty good place to be.

To see “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!” and many other dark and wonderful animated shorts, come to our Dark Toons program on May 28th on the Open Road Rooftop above the New Design High School on the Lower East Side.

Get your tickets in advance before they sell out!