Steve Mank, a man who wears many hats at Primal Screen, including sound designer, composer, recordist and copywriter, steps up to answer Five Questions. Also check out some video below that Primal Screen produced for the Sundance Film Festival.
1. What are you working on today?

I'm finishing up some music made entirely of things being tapped or beaten ‘ light bulbs, barrels, springs. No musical instruments. The whole thing grew out of my desire to commit one of my favorite found sounds to music. Take two cylindrical glasses and suspend them by pinching them together at the rim. Separate the bottoms and then release so they clack together. The result is a sharp hit that quickly rises in pitch to inaudibility. No stealing.

I'm also working on some music to go under some ambient motion design and title work we created for The Sundance Film Festival.

2. What have you found is the best tool or innovation that has come out in the last year?

Chaos. The world knows me too well and is all to willing to make recommendations it knows I'll like. YouTube, Amazon, iTunes; they all have me pegged. It's all great, but sometimes I prefer to get out of my own expectations and find things I wouldn't know to find. I like paper dictionaries. I like junk shops. I mourn record stores.

3. The project (film, television, commercial or music video) that most impressed you in the last year? Why?

I'm no list maker so I can't give top rank. I will say I loved the Science of Sleep. I believe some critics faulted Gondry for his mushy articulation of narrative, but I thought it was right on. It reminded me of the Abbey Road medley where any half-baked notion that entered the Beatles' fully-baked minds was given a couple verses and choruses and ushered away before it was asked to explain itself.

4. The best or favorite project that you worked on in the past year? And why?

Cartoon Network had a very short-lived anthology show called Sunday Pants. Primal Screen created three multi-episode mini-cartoons. My favorite was probably Scissor Kid (Video Below) which I conceived, co-wrote, and scored. It's about a boy who runs with scissors for the pure joy of it. In the end he always meets some dire consequence. But the scissors are never to blame. No moral. No lesson learned.

The animation, directed by my pal Jeff Fastner and done by Primal Screen, is hand-drawn with almost no dialogue. The music is a riff-jazz cacophony. I thought it was quite watchable, but alas, no longer see-able.

5. Name the top 4 artists on your iPod.

I'd be hard-pressed to narrow it down to four top genres, much less artists. These are not necessarily faves, but allow me to evangelize . . . I recently discovered an album by the TOKENS who sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It's called Intercourse (yeah, I know!). It's weird and trippy and naughty and naà¯ve. Imagine a squarer version of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys trying to appeal to grubby, sexed-up hippies.

PORTASTATIC's Be Still Please is a tasty morsel. I use to sling toner at a copy shop in Chapel Hill with Mac McCaughan. Couldn't be prouder.

Recently, I was asked by a client to write some music with a "JAMES BROWN feel." I'd already been listening to him a lot because of a reinvigorated interest in drumming and his own funky drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. Then James died. Job cancelled. But I'm still listening.

And if you don't think any of that's very current, get a load of this: I've been on a bit of a Middle Ages kick. It started with re-reading Chaucer and went a little kooky. I dig the art. Architecture-wise they made a darned good cathedral. And Abbess HILDEGARD OF BINGEN is in heavy rotation.

Recent Project


Primal Screen recently contributed work to The Sundance Film Festival as an Official Provider. This marks the third year in a row the Atlanta-based studio has been chosen by the Festival to collaborate on various design projects. This year’s work includes two ambient films, which play before every screening, and title packages for the web-based Live@Sundance, Meet The Artist, and the Short Film Series.

In each case, Primal Screen used fire as a metaphor for inspiration and creation. These flames do not cause things to burn. Instead, they glow independent of their negative connotations.

Primal Screen took two different aesthetic approaches to the ambient films. Fireplay juxtaposes a roiling wall of flame with a dancing ribbon of blaze. In Spark City, tiny imps of flame indulge in the many earthly delights that await festival-goers. Watch carefully and see screenings, junkets, parties, deals and more. WATCH VIDEO

For the titles packages, Primal Screen’s artists created worlds of flame and spark that move and stop as if they are alive. The images call to mind the vastness of the universe or the tininess of atoms.

Work created for the festival was adapted to show on screen s as wide as the theater’s or as small as an iPod’s.


Art Director: Rick Newcomb
Designer: Ben Prisk
Animation Director: Ward Jenkins
Joe Kubesheski
Jeremy Seymour

Joanna Davidovich
Animation Assistant: Teresa Cloud
Technical Specialists:
Nate Foster
Brandon Bentley
Producer: Hunter Matheson
Executive Producer: Susan Shipsky
Creative Director: Doug Grimmett