All in the Family
By Sam Linton
Family Contact is hard to explain. They’re kind of like a band, but they’re also a sketch-comedy troupe. Oh, and they’re an animation studio, too. The group is made of three core members, Efehan Elbi, Zak Tatham and Aaron Manczyk, plus assorted hangers-on and followers. Their recent projects have included their My Awesome Movie, launched in May of ’09, numerous animated shorts (at press time the most recent was called Gunslingers Go!), and a series of webisodes, all available on their website. In addition to this web content, the trio has rocked live music at various venues since December 2008.
However, trying to get the group to open up about anything they do is a process akin to pulling teeth without an anesthetic, but they do give a cryptic look into their past and process shrouded in half-truths, metaphors, and straight-up vulgarity. According to Tatham, the group formed “in 2006 at a bathhouse, Efehan slipped on a wet towel and we came to the rescue, best buds ever since.” Take what you will from that statement, but it does seem definitively true that the three, at least two of whom are graduates of the Ontario College of Art and Design, have been working on Family Contact for the past three years. When asked how their unique combination of sketch-com, animation and music arose, Zak responds, “It arised the same way a penis does, we stroke them ’til we do, treat them as equal. We all get off. We treat the three all equally, that’s what makes it work.” That one was probably my fault for using a word like “arose,” but from his cryptic response we can glean that Elbi, Tatham and Manczyk have an equal interest in all three aspects of their collective, and see no need to limit themselves. I think.
On who influences them, Manczyk waxes biblical: “Have you ever heard the story of the man that was hungry and wanted to fish but couldn’t. And the man said ‘Do you want me to teach you to fish or just catch it?’ I think that story holds true.” Strong words. Strong, baffling words, but perhaps obscuring a simple truth. That the group prizes experience over influence…?
Finally, I asked what the ultimate goal of Family Contact was, its purpose or its manifesto. While Tatham manically started off, “To have stunt coordinators, pyro-technicians and SFX people ask to work on our films and videos probono since they respect our craft so monumentally,” the other two soon cut him off, answering with refreshing honesty. “It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life; we try to keep ourselves grounded in the subtleties that each day has to offer.” Comedy, music and animation grounded in the subtlety of daily living: the purpose of Family Contact.
As to what they’re currently working on, apart from their upcoming movie, Family Contact keeps their options open. “I’ll cover this one,” says Tatham. “Right now we’re really in need of some work, anything. We’re cheap and like to keep in shape.”
Hear that, world? The boys want to work.
In addition to their main site familycontact.ca, the group maintains a web presence at thegunslingers.ca