Squiggles: Clyde Petersen on 'Torrey Pines,' Star Trek, and Shouting at Richard Simmons

After touring around with Kimya Dawson and crafting countless music videos, the local animator is making a stop-motion feature film revisiting that one time his schizophrenic mom kidnapped him.

In this bi-weekly column, we'll be highlighting doodlers, scribblers and scrawlers from the Seattle area. If you have any comics or animations you think we should know about, email ksears@seattleweekly.com.

Clyde Petersen is making a movie about the time his mom kidnapped him.

"I know it's like, 'how can your mom kidnap you?'" Petersen laughs. "But when you just take off on a road trip across the country with your kid when legally they're supposed to be with their dad and you tell nobody, it's pretty much a kidnapping."

Torrey Pines, the upcoming paper cut-out feature length from the local animator/musician, won't be the first time he's made art about the odd, scary, two month long childhood expedition that found him stuck in a car with his schizophrenic mother.

After going to school at Western Washington University for documentary filmmaking, Petersen spent the next ten years touring around in various bands, chiefly in Petersen's own group Your Heart Breaks. "Torrey Pines," a tune from 2008, was the first time Petersen decided to tackle the unsettling episode.

"How do I tell the story of my mother gone crazy?" the song begins.

"I grew up with Riot Grrl culture and DIY stuff, where people talk about their lives through art in order to find a solution," Petersen says. "With K records and Kill Rock Stars there's a really strong Northwest tradition of storytelling, so I decided to write a song about growing up and tell my own story."

Petersen sent the song on a whim to then "just barely a friend" Kimya Dawson, famous for her hit "Anyone Else But You" that took off thanks to a feature in the movie Juno.

"She got back and was like 'OHMYGODILOVETHIS, and I totally already wrote lyrics to the second half of the song!' It was so awesome" Petersen says.

After Juno, Petersen toured extensively with Dawson, playing the song around the world. Audiences quickly responded to the tune's honest retelling of a troubled home life. People would often stop Petersen after shows to talk about their own backgrounds growing up with schizophrenia, alcoholism or depression in the family.

"After years of having that experience and communicating with people about it, it just had a big effect on me," Petersen says. "It can be scary to talk about that stuff at first, but Kimya was like 'Just say it!' It's that easy once you push past the fear."

After working as a production assistant on a Washington State Lottery commerical with local rockstar animator Britta Johnson, Petersen fell in love with animation and quickly found himself making music videos for bands he toured with like Laura Veirs, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, and The Thermals.

Above: Petersen's video for Your Heart Breaks' song "Harsh Tokes & Bong Jokes"

When Petersen began working on a small eight person team producing a feature length film, he was inspired to make his own. Torrey Pines, taking its name from the unique trees that grow near Petersen's childhood home in San Diego, will be his first feature length. The retelling of that strange childhood road trip promises to include "lots of hallucinated sequences, escapism, thoughts on growing up queer (Petersen is transgender), nostalgia, and plenty of sci fi references."

As a self proclaimed Trekkie—Star Trek: Next Generation will feature heavily in the film. Petersen's mother would often tell him that Deanna Troi, the Starship Enterprise's betazoid counselor, could read his mind from the television, an early indicator that schizophrenia was setting in.

"She would talk out loud all the time to herself and laugh at things. When there was more talk about government conspiricies, I began to realize something was up," Petersen says.

Star Trek was an escape for Petersen, who appreciated the show for its utopic visions of a peaceful future where "we're not at war anymore, we're explorers."

"I definitely though about that a lot as a kid of divorced parents. You know, 'when's this gonna end? When am I gonna stop going back and forth and hearing things about my other parent?"

Above: The Kickstarter trailer for ​Torrey Pines

Petersen is drumming up his Kickstarter campaign to fund the two-year long project. In the next six days, Petersen has the challenge of raising $9000 to reach his goal. All the Kickstarter pimping has taken the animator to a whole new domain—Twitter.

"I discovered the fun part is yelling at famous people," Petersen says. "I yelled at Roseanne Barr and she was like 'Hey!' And then I yelled at Richard Simmons about the project and he was like 'that's so awesome!' It's like the internet is the grand canyon and I've been yelling into it and I can't tell if anyone is hearing me or it's just the donkey at the bottom. I think I'll yell at Tim Gunn next."

 
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