Short of the Week

Trusts & Estates

A hand-drawn animated documentary satire adapted from a conversation overheard in a Santa Monica restaurant in 2011. Four lawyers engage in a bantering dinner conversation that quickly devolves into a grotesque and brutal comedy of cruelty and hypocrisy. Warning: Incredibly foul and inappropriate.

As the above disclaimer indicates, this short film hinges on a conversation that is extraordinarily awful and should not be heard by respectable ears anywhere.

It is of course, also extraordinarily funny. So if you’re still with us, you’re a bad person, but let’s discuss the merits of Jeanette Bonds’s hilarious depiction of men behaving badly.

What we on the SotW team found refreshing about the film was the inversion of the one-dimensionality of many animated pieces. Concerned overly much with style and prettiness, we’re often left with a work that for all its gloss, is fairly bland. Bonds’s work is the flip of this, drawn in spare B&W lines, the film is essentially talking heads. That is not meant to minimize the expressiveness and preciseness of Bonds’s character designs and expressions, which are integral to the overall feel the piece and serve to distinguish what might otherwise be homogenous characters, it is however an honest warning that eye candy is not in store for you.

Bonds’s estimates, in a great Q&A conducted by our Rob Munday for Directors Notes, that 75% of the dialogue in the film is taken from the actual conversation that she heard. Perhaps we cannot give her much credit for the phenomenal content of the dialogue, but judge her instead on documentary grounds: the efficacy in which she edits the conversation and her masterful work in directing the performances. Both are skills that are unusual within independent animation, and are carried out with aplomb. Again I reference back to the Q&A, where she mentions the iterations of the recording process; originally she tried to record lines separately which is standard in animation. However the result was flat, and ultimately she brought all the actors into the room. This lead to a much more lively reading, and allowed for improvisation, which made up the other 25% of the dialogue. This kind of directorial approach is in vogue within comedy currently, but is difficult to pull off. These results are wonderful however, as the dialogue zings along with a Mamet-style pace and intensity.

So, while the tone and content is resolutely R-rated, for bringing a sensibility to her Cal Arts grad film that is rare in her medium, and of course for making us twitch uncomfortably in our seats while suppressing inappropriate laughter, Jeanette Bonds’s Trusts & Estates receives a hearty recommend. You know, aside from the fact that no one should watch this filth.

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Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • Abe Froman

    There might not be eye candy but there sure is EAR candy!

  • Philip Kidd

    THIS is what madmen was missing!

  • Philip Kidd

    THIS is what madmen was missing!

  • Sausage King

    Why don’t you take the kids and go back to the clubhouse.

  • Bob Woodruff

    Oh it’s extraordinarily awful alright.

    As for the extraordinarily funny? That depends on whether or not your sense of humor is stuck in the eighth grade or not.

    Jesus! If there was ever a perfect advertisement for the phrase “never trust a lawyer” this is the thing.

  • Ed Ayres

    I see a good look at how the depth of one’s intelligence cannot be measured by the level of their education.

  • seagoat8888

    Extraordinary conversion to overhear, but doesn’t have legs as a film.