It was on the bus ride to the physical that Lynch’s friend told him about the Academy in Philadelphia. His interest was fired. He gathered together his portfolio and with a little money from his father, he took a bus to Philadelphia and enrolled in the school in late 1965.
“It was a great, great time to be at the Academy”, Lynch recalled. “Schools have waves and it just happened that I hit on a really rising, giant wave. There were so many good people at the school ; it was real exciting. And that really started everything rolling. I kind of got a feeling for things in terms of painting, and my own style kind of clicked in.”
Lynch works in a number of different styles, from what he terms “industrial symphony” drawings, complex mosaics of sharply drawn geometric shapes, to action painting, in which he hurls black paint at the canvas and then adds hard edged elements amongst the spray patterns. “I do a lot of figures in quiet rooms”, he added. “I really like figure painting.”
“But somewhere along the line in the painting I wanted to do an animated film.” Every year, the Academy had an experimental painting and sculpture contest. In his second year there, Lynch entered this contest with his first attempt at animation, not so much a film as a moving painting, a loop which could repeat itself endlessly. Accompanied by the sound of a siren, it consisted of six “figures”, three sculptured surfaces based on casts of Lynch’s head done for him by Fisk, with film overlapping them, and three purely film figures. “It was more like a painting”, said Lynch, with eighteen or twenty animated elements working in it. The figures caught fire, got headaches, their bodies and stomachs grew, and they all got sick.
Lynch’s experience in making this film-painting did not ignite any filmmaking passion. “That was going to be the end of my filmmaking experience”, he said, “because that cost me $200 to do, and that was just too expensive. The sculptured screen itself cost $100.” In preparing for the film, he had shopped around for a 16mm camera, surprised at the varying prices he was quoted “because [he] thought all 16mm cameras were the same.” He finally found a “weird” little camera with a fifty-foot cassette, “a little turret, and a real nice little Cook lens.” It also, of course, had a single-frame capability. The dealer had to show Lynch how to operate it, although even “he didn’t know how to run it really.” : “How am I going to light this business ?” Lynch asked. The man gave him two photofloods and told him to set them at forty-five degree angles to his working surface and to “look out for glares.”