Minnesota-based designers have made Heravision Television the home of experimental animation

Heravision Television is a series of interactive events that allow artists to create short animated clips.

According to organizers Peter Steinek and Michael Van Swearingen, Heravision is firstly a production opportunity and secondly a screening opportunity, open to any interested artist. The program began in 2017 and since then 18 episodes have been produced.

Hellavision's latest episode, "Earth," is currently available on Youtube and includes shorts from over 80 animators; LA-based filmmaker Dave Marson Hess has been a contributor to Hellavision for several years and has been featured in the 2020 He produced the music video for Los Mundos' "Frutos Rojos," which was selected as a Cartoon Brew pick for 2020.

In addition to running Hellavision, Steineck and Van Swearingen run their own production company in the Twin Cities called Heck Studio. We recently interviewed them and Marson Hess to talk about "Earth," running an animation studio in Minnesota, and what they have learned in putting together 18 episodes of Hellavision over the past six years.

How do you separate Hellavision's work from running a commercial studio - and what are your long-term goals with Heck?

Peter Steinek: We try to be as upfront as possible about the nature of the project and the fact that Hellavision is a free We try to be as upfront as possible about the nature of the project and the fact that Hellavision is free. Hellavision has to be unique and we have to separate the two. I don't think we understand that yet; the nature of Hellavision being open to everyone develops community and relationships. We are trying to make Hellavision more faceless and more community oriented. Ideally, Heck will be able to get creative work and rely on this huge community of animators to hire people directly through Heck, creating opportunities for artists who have contributed to Hellavision.

Michael Van Swearingen Heck is ideally to be a character animation studio. However, the industry is fizzling out, so we kind of cast a wide net with motion design to keep us busy. We both have strong motion design backgrounds. I have a strong 3D background and Peter has a strong design background.

So it sounds like Hellavision is also a networking and recruiting tool.

Steineck: Yes, it is. Many times someone has looked at our page, found an artist who appeared in Hellavision, and approached us. Sometimes artists think we've told them about them, but that rarely happens; Hellavision is a network used by the industry.

Van Swearingen Everyone's website and information is available on Youtube so everyone can access it directly from the episode. One of the hardest jobs is organizing everyone's names and getting all the credits on there.

Running an animation studio in the Twin Cities must be a challenge. How has Heravision helped you connect with larger animation hubs around the country? Everyone in Minnesota is so isolated that it's hard to get MCAD [Minneapolis College of Art and Design] animation grads to stay. So we have focused on being social. Sarah Schmidt of Mort Adult is a wonderful Social Butterfly Animation Curator. She has really got us thinking about networking.

Van Swearingen: Having five weeks to follow a prompt means you're kind of busting your ass the whole time, and you quickly develop friendships with the people you share that experience with. Over time, you build those relationships online, and when you finally get together in person, it's like you have a little traumatic bond from those five weeks.

Dave, when did you first hear about Heravision and how did you become involved? I was overwhelmed by it. I thought it had a raw and strange energy that web-curated animation didn't have, and Hellavision pushed for immediacy and a personal style rather than sticking to technology and production values. It had a very exciting, punk rock feel to it, and I loved it. So I started submitting in episode 3.

Michael and Peter, you have each put together a lot of Hellavision episodes. 6]

Van Swearingen: Some very high energy, some low energy. I have planned quite a few episodes and it has always been intuitive. That said, capstones have always been kind of my favorite. I was always trying to figure out how to get the viewer's attention with a cold opening that introduced what they were about to see. And then to close the episode, I want to leave them with something to think about or chew on afterwards.

Steineck When I was producing the show, we always played with the format. I think it's episode 4, but the main title card doesn't appear until the middle of the show. I also like to approach it from a comedic point of view, so I'm always looking for the most effective way to land a joke on people. That's a big thing for me.

And Dave, what were some of the difficulties you faced as a newcomer to this process--

Marson Hess: It was my first time looking under the hood. As a submitter, I was amazed at how much thought I had to put into understanding what was being submitted. I had programmed screenings before and there was a sense of curation. You can choose what to accept and what to exclude. Heravision is based on a radical invitation to participate in the show as long as you respond to the prompts and create a project that follows the guidelines. Therefore, it took a lot of time to get all of them to participate. In the first pass, we tried to categorize the works by theme. Then, I was really conscious of the audience experience and thought about the pacing so that the audience would not get tired of watching this. If there was a short piece with no dialogue and a purely visual experience, I could put it after a hilarious post with a drop-off and transition into something completely different.

This was the first episode curated by a featured artist.16]

Van Swearingen: This was our longest episode at 1 hour 15 minutes. I was nervous because some episodes were slow and some were exciting. But I have to give Dave credit. He really had a good flow this time around, and it's impressive how he was able to keep the 1 hour and 15 minutes of experimental animation flowing in an exciting and fresh way.

Steineck The pacing was very good in this episode by breaking it up into parts. Episode 8 is the next longest one, and it was hard to watch in theaters; if you only watch the two-minute clips, it just becomes a barrage of random ideas, which can feel like too much.

Hellavision's next episode will be open for submissions this August. For more information, visit the Hellavision website.