Injunuity, the new documentary by Adrian Baker (Hopi), captures Native American stories and perspectives in a unique way--animation and real audio.
“We’re using a mix of animation, music and real audio to explore American life from a contemporary Native American perspective,” said Baker, the executive producer of Injunuity.
In most animated productions, the characters, story and script are created simultaneously, Baker said. Injunuity is different. The documentary is made up of animated segments created around field recordings of Native American individuals discussing topics such as Native language preservation and education.
Baker has recorded individuals on the Hopi and Navajo Reservations, areas around Seattle and Minneapolis, and near his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“We come back and I sift through it all (field recordings) and try to find a story,” Baker said.
The field recordings determine the look and feel of the animation. After the real audio is pieced together for a segment, Baker and his team pair it to music and begin the animation process.
“I have always liked animation because I think it’s a really accessible entry point into the mind,” Baker said. “I also like animation because when we take over for our visual story line, we are much freer to do what we want to do, we are not bound by reality.”
After the real audio is recorded, the production of each animated segment takes about 10 to 12 weeks, he said.
The half hour documentary will consist of nine topics divided into two-to three-minute animated segments. Upon completion, the segments “will all be strung together to make one collage,” Baker said.
Despite his love for animation, Baker has no formal education in the field. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in creative writing.
“My forte is storytelling,” he said. I like to say that I’m the least talented person on my [animation] team because I can tell a story, but I can’t draw a story.”
When Baker was studying writing, his dream was to become a great American novelist or screenplay writer. He published some short stories and sold a screenplay, but decided life as a fiction writer wasn’t for him.
“You learn pretty quickly as a fiction writer that you’re going to starve for a while,” he said.
Baker became involved in web animation, allowing him to pursue his interest in storytelling through a different medium. Much of Baker’s creative work has been aimed at giving underserved populations a voice.
One of his early projects was with Youth Speaks, a non-profit organization that mentors at-risk urban youth in cities around the U.S. in the art of poetry and the spoken word. Baker and his animation team recorded a group of Youth Speaks’ slam poets and animated stories to accompany the real audio.
“That played to my sensibilities as a storyteller, writer and to what I was doing with animation,” Baker said.
After working with Youth Speaks, Baker was involved with a web-based animation project called sfON based in his home city of San Francisco. sfON’s mission was to gather opinions from San Franciscans about thought-provoking topics such as spirituality and the environment.
While working on sfON, Baker realized the same concept could be translated to a Native American context. From that idea sprang Injunuity.
“Native Americans are probably the most underserved population in the country when it comes to having a voice,” he said. “I’m really concerned with getting voices out there that aren’t heard.”
Written by Ben Kreimer.
Interviews conducted and edited by Ben Kreimer.