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SCAN (trailer) directed and animated by Jonathon Stearns
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ABOUT SCAN - by Jonathon Stearns
SCAN began with a last-minute idea to do a dash-cam time-lapse film of a road trip I was taking from Idaho to Los Angeles. I set up a makeshift camera mount with a gorilla grip and some duck tape. Once I got going the camera was shaking and jittering...I doubted the footage would be usable but kept it running anyway. There were great cloud formations and I hoped for the best.
I had thought the car had satellite radio, but it didn't. With no CDs or phone audio adapter, I spent the drive scanning the airwaves with the car radio and worrying about the jittery camera. As I got into the more remote areas I predictably found less and less to listen to... mainly conservative talk radio. I was bombarded by weird anti-liberal conspiracy stories I'd never heard of and a lot of paranoid fear-mongering.  It was an odd juxtaposition to the serene landscape I was traveling through; the open expanses and big empty skies were actually jammed with this invisible airwave pollution. I heard one caller propose that the USA do a Nuclear strike on the Middle East to "get rid of them once and for all."  An angry stream of intolerance was my traveling companion for a lot of the way. Stopping and getting out of the car was a scary proposition, and I’m a white man, one of their own. As it went on it became increasingly preposterous and surreal.
After a while the desert gave way to the Sierra foothills, and even the hate machine had a hard time reaching my little car radio. As night fell there was a rainstorm and all I could get was static. I felt alone. I found a hotel near Carson City Nevada. Everyone I encountered was kind and decent. They must not have radios.
The time-lapse camera was already running when I emerged in the morning and started up into the Sierra Mountains. It was a spectacular drive, the clouds were dramatic. The radio was more varied, there was still the hate-speak, but now it was competing with college radio and pop music, oldies and high school sports.
I hit a big thunderstorm. Severe weather warnings were popping onto my phone and it wasn’t clear if some of the mountain passes would be closed. The magnitude of a thunderstorm in the mountains was intimidating, the wipers were barely able to keep up.
I reached the California border fruit inspection station, manned by a lonely law enforcement person exercising his petty power. With a calculated air of suspicion he slow-talked to the thousandth nervous traveler who just wanted to get it over with.  The sound of a radio was coming from his little booth and I wondered if he suffered paranoid visions of ISIS climbing through his kitchen window to steal his guns and make his children gay. Was I a terrorist, did I have any contaminated fruits or veggies? Neither was true, and whatever red flags he was trained to react to weren’t triggered and I was on my way.
I passed more incredible mountain-forest-lake scenery and a series of towns, little Mayberry kind of towns that seemed like anyone who lived there would be happy just on circumstances. But people aren’t all that easily pleased. I saw a black guy at the gas station and wondered what his traveling experience was.

The rain started to die down as I descended from the mountains into the Mojave desert. Los Angeles radio stations started to trickle in from a hundred miles out. There was NPR and Banda and I knew I was getting closer. There was more of everything; more people, more buildings, shopping centers, and more radio. Getting to LA it was a cacophony, a different kind of surreal, so different from the open desert I'd crossed to get there.

When I looked at the time-lapse footage I was happily surprised the shaking hadn’t been an issue; it was rock solid. The clouds were spectacular. But I really wanted to add in more, I wanted to turn it into a film that reflected my surreal experience. A few months later SCAN emerged. I continue to think of new ideas for what SCAN can/could be, other thematic visual and audio elements, but done is good. I hope you enjoy it.  - Jonathon