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Spotlight: Secret Circus ‘This time without you’

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Submitted Photo Dusty Deen is seen here at his studio in Roswell, Red Roadrunner Film and Video Production, working on his next animated project.

Secret Circus’ new video collaboration with Roswell’s Red Roadrunner Film

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Klas Åhman and his brother Joel Åhman are the faces and voices behind the indie music band Secret Circus. The duo is well-known in the New Mexico music scene with Klas Åhman having lived and worked out of Roswell and Ruidoso and his brother joining him as often as possible from Sweden. They have been working during the pandemic remotely on their new songs and music videos, “This Time without You,” is the newest project and will be released Oct. 2.

Submitted Art
Seen here is a sample of one frame for an animation film by Dusty Deen.

“For the new Secret Circus video, we’re again working with Dusty Deen from Roswell who’s making an analog handmade animation for the entire video,” Klas Åhman said in a message. He is one of Deen’s greatest fans, having used his and his film studio Red Runner for the last several projects. “Dusty’s work is truly amazing, the result is unique and brilliant, the process is absolutely insane. He literally spent over a month in his back house printing, cutting and scanning paper to make a handmade analog music video. This kind of zen master craftsmanship should be highlighted. My goal with my endorsement is to never be able to afford his regular price again,” Åhman said.

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Åhman had been a promoter of New Mexico musicians and artists with his studio Third Eye Switch, previously known as Secret Circus Studio. Åhman is so impressed with the filmmaker, that he kicked off a new series, featuring Dusty Deen as the first guest. The video clip introducing artists is called “Here and Now” and is available for free via thirdeyeswitch.com/dusty-deen or over Secret Circus’ Facebook page.

Deen was available for an interview where he talked about his life and his career. “I’ve been a filmmaker for the past 20 years, 15 professionally, which means I got paid for it,” Deen said and chuckled. “I’ve always enjoyed documentary, worked in college and always loved filmmaking. From the documentary side, I’ve always produced and made documentaries in my spare time, while also as a filmmaker, working for TV stations. When I first started out, I made TV commercials, getting a lot of experience as far as shooting and editing videos and it all compiles in one big thing: Animation, editing, director/photography, directing, producing videos, just a little bit of everything.”

Deen said that he works for clients from his studio in Roswell, Red Roadrunner Video and Film Production, thanks to modern technology. His job varies, some clients he said hires him as editor, others as director of photography or animator. “It really keeps me available for a lot of job opportunities,” he said.

Originally from Texas, Deen considers himself New Mexican, having graduated from high school in Lovington and continuing his education at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

Asked why he moved to Roswell to have his studio, Deen said, “I’d done internships in Austin (Texas) and lived in North Dakota and in Minnesota for a while doing different jobs and getting different experiences. We were getting ready to move, I had a young child and got a job opportunity here at a TV station, so we moved here. We moving away a couple of times, but ended up coming back because it’s just a good home base for my kids and family. It’s a smaller community and I am able to raise my family and also able to do jobs for people all over the world. People — if they want me to photograph something or be a cameraman — they fly me out, which I have done. Or a lot of editing they can send here; animation I can do just out of my studio here.”

Deen favors a classic artistic approach to his art. “Anything that I create is kind of handmade,” he said. “The shooting of videos and editing is very digital and advertising is often very digital, so music videos are my passion because a lot of it is drawn by hand. The new Secret Circus video is cut out frame by frame, using an X-ACTO knife and paper, several of the newer ones have been hand-drawn or handmade and mash that up a little bit.”

Deen enjoys challenging himself, as well. For 500 days, he has been putting up different art styles and projects on his Instagram page. This is how many advertisement agencies find him, he said. Deen also follows freelancing websites and corporations putting out bids. Music bands and musicians find him, “Musicians talk,” he said and laughed.

Asked about his other projects, Deen said, “I did work on a documentary film recently I did several animated parts on. It’s called “Narratives of Modern Genocide.” That will be released on Kanape, which is an educational streaming service, and Amazon in the fall. It’s about survivors of the Cambodian genocide; of the Hutus versus Tutsis in Africa (Rwanda), so it chronicles their stories of surviving the genocide and they both live in Texas now and how their lives changed and adapted. I did all the animation for it, there (are) about 15 minutes of animated segments where the people are telling their stories, and I animated what they were saying. That one was very stressful because some of the stories were heartbreaking. People were burned alive and just amazing stories of escape and things they have seen, and now I’ve got to draw that all day? That was a hand-drawn rotoscope and that’s, on average, two seconds of animation in two hours of work. So, a long time hearing that. It was pretty gruesome.”

Other projects took him to Alaska where he was hired as film director for a documentary called “Between Earth and Sky. Deen said, “We traveled all around Alaska going up between the sea and Russia, talking to the people whose islands have been taken away due to climate change. Seeing that first hand was interesting. Then from that project, I did a long project called “Global Weirding,” which is about the social aspects of climate change and what happens. That was with Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist out of Texas Tech. Seeing and hearing all that stuff and animating that was a process. It is very eye-opening, but also how do I make an animation out of that?”

Being a filmmaker is a passion that Deen enjoys sharing with the next generation. “I’ve done stop-motion graduation classes for youth ages 8 to 15, and that’s usually a weeklong summer thing I’ve done down in Hobbs at the Center for Arts. A weeklong camp they call it, two hours a day, the students come in and teach some of the basics. Also, I’ve done some adjunct teaching at ENMU-R (Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell) and have had apprentices and internships on and off for several years.

Asked what he would tell any young person who would like to get into the profession, Deen said, “A good basis in the arts is a good start. That’s just from painting to drawing to sculpture. Having that basis of understanding on how art works and what is appealing to the eye is helpful when you try to grow and create things, even videos and animation. Having a good foundation is very important. It really helps you to see things from a different perspective. When I was in school and started college, that was where they started out. You don’t start on the computers, you start with your hands and learning how to create, photography and that sort of thing. And that really stuck with me and that’s been a really important part of my process. Anybody who has an interest in video, theater or film, I say get a foundation first and then build from there.”

Deen now has three children, ages 13, 11 and 8, he said, and they do follow in the artistic footsteps of their father. “My oldest loves to illustrate and draw. She is also in theater, so she has been in a lot of plays and productions around town. She was doing them with Neverland and a couple through Roswell Community Little Theatre.

For more information, visit redroadrunner.com.