A concept artist. An illustrator. A designer. Meet Ash Thorp. In this conversation he talks about his concept work on “X-Men”, “Thor” and “Prometheus”, the user interface work he did for “Total Recall”, coming up with creative concepts and bringing his ideas to life, his thoughts on where the human-computer interaction is going and the evolving landscape of making indie sci-fi movies.
Kirill: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work so far.
Ash: My name’s Ash Thorp and I am a designer, an illustrator, art director, creative director. I do a lot of stuff for film, multimedia and video games. I’ve been freelancing from my home studio for almost a year now, and I’ve been in the film industry for about three years. I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. I picked design in college and got two degrees, and after that I immersed myself into the furthering my education via the internet, which lead to me discovering my own voice.
Kirill: Was it your intended goal to get to work on movies?
Ash: I grew up on a really healthy dose of Saturday morning cartoons and anime and film, and I feel that film is a great medium of storytelling. It was always a big goal of mine to do something in film on way or another. It was always in the back of my head that I wanted to do it, and even though I didn’t know how I would do it, I figured out I’d make it happen.
I was working at a design firm down in San Diego doing graphics for action sports. It was fun, but I felt that I wanted to do something greater for myself, on a higher level, for more mass appeal if you will. I decided I wanted to design for film, and I had to figure out the niche I wanted to be in. I started following a few companies doing motion graphics. I suppose I was OK at design at the time – nowhere near where I am now, and there’s always place to grow anyways – and I saw that it was the niche for me. So I gave myself a time limit of three months to build a portfolio. Every time my wife and my daughter would go to bed around 11PM, I’d work until about 4AM on just building the portfolio, making a bunch of projects, which lead to creating the web site with much material.
I put this portfolio together, and I sent it out to around 50 studios. I got contacted back by only one of them directly, and it was Prologue, I was extremely surprised because they were my favorite company. I went there to interview, and they offered me the position of a junior designer. There was a little bit of negotiating, and a lot of talking with my wife. We live in San Diego and Prologue’s office is in Marina Del Rey up in LA. It’s about 2.5-hour drive, so I had to figure out a system to make it work, commuting every day for a whole year, building my skills and getting better at it. It was pretty crazy, commuting six to seven hours every day to work.
Prologue works on tons of films, and there was a lot of opportunity to grow. The artists and creatives there are just amazing, and it was really great to understand what it takes to do design at that level. It was like bootcamp. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life – the endurance of the whole year, not being able to see my family and friends that much, being completely exhausted and drained, working really hard. Prologue is a very intense environment, great for building yourself but really taxing, with extremely rigid timelines. You gotta do a lot of productions and a lot of work. It was good, and that’s how it all worked out. I left after a year, helped out a friend for about six months, and then started working on my own things from my home as a freelance artist for hire.
Kirill: Were you surprised during that first year, working on real-life productions across multiple departments?
Ash: I learned something new every day, a new surprise every day. You know, when you learn a magic trick, it takes the magic out of it, but it’s still really interesting. I feel that the deeper I go into film and understand it, the further I go from the original thing that I loved about it – which is the innocence of being a fan, now that I understand how the things are made.
Kirill: What were the specific productions you worked on at Prologue, and what was your role?
Ash: Some of the movie projects I worked on there were X-Men First class, Thor, then Walking Dead which became concept pitches to the director. Design houses like Prologue compete in this over saturated market where the client requests to see the design vision for a certain production – usually for free, which is pretty crazy. Those were my original concepts and ideas for things that I worked on with a group of people. Each project would change or shift depending on the notes and feedback from the clients and things would move along from then on taking on a life of its own.
Kirill: Do you get some kind of a script outline? What are you working off of at that stage?
Ash: Sometimes it’s nothing at all. Studios are obviously very secretive, because it’s important to protect their product. A lot of times you don’t get the script, and even when you do, you’d be so busy on 4-5 jobs that you don’t get a chance to read it, to understand what it’s about. Every project varies. When I worked on “Total Recall”, the first thing I got was the script and a lot of assets of different places in the film. I had a lot more direct contact. And on other productions I don’t always get these resources, so I’m kind of shooting in the dark, trying to figure it out as I get along.
They give us some information, but not all the way. Sometimes the creative director would tell me that this is the movie, and this is what they’re going for – kind of a rough breakdown. That person leads the job, and their responsibility is to manage the creative part, and the designers like myself pitch ideas to him and develop visuals to present to the director or the executive producers.
Kirill: Would you call yourself a conceptual artist in such a process?
Ash: Very much that. What’s interesting is that it breaks the barrier. There are these different titles, like a concept artist, a designer, illustrator. I draw a lot and I do a lot of design. I don’t really like to put barriers on anything creative, it’s very much creative concepting, really. I suppose I consider myself just a creative person.
Kirill: So in the visuals you’re creating, you’re trying to define this visual world, this visual universe, and then some parts of it find their way into the movie depending on how much the director liked them.
Ash: Exactly. I’ll pitch a concept or an idea based on visuals and the initial treatment. I’ll work by myself, or with a team of talented people, and if the director likes it, he buys into it and they take the assets and the idea and send them to animation. The creative director on the job will make sure that everything is going along the way it needs to until the project is complete.
Kirill: Is that your usual scope of involvement?
Ash: A good example would be the title sequence for “X-Men”. My friend Simon Clowes, who is a creative director at Prologue, got a brief. He started building some of the assets for it, and I expressed interest in helping out on the concept. I went in there and started messing with his assets, building some of my own. Him, myself and one other designer Ji Yun Ha put together the concept, pitched to the director and he really liked it. Then we took all the assets and gave it to an animator. They do a few more rounds of submissions to show how it lives as it moves, and then that animation makes it into the film. So there would be bits and pieces from all three of our designs in there. Simon was the creative director, and he had the final say, while I was helping out.
Kirill: On Iron Man, Thor or Spider-Man you have these characters with well-established visuals and universes around them. And then Prometheus and Total Recall have less of a visual anchoring around them. Do you see them as two different types of productions that affect your exploration process?
Ash: Prometheus was the extended story of Dan O’Bannon’s first idea of Alien. I tried to expand on the idea of that universe and the technology in it. They had a really wonderful brief, really strong key examples of what they wanted in it. It was really great to help on that, it was a fun project. I was hired freelance from my home office, and I was on it for five days, generating the work that you see. The crew of Prometheus liked it enough to take bits and pieces of my ideas and melt it with other design that where apart of the original pitch.
Total Recall is the reboot of the original Philip K. Dick’s story. It was completely rewritten and changed not to be very similar to the original. That project was ridiculously crazy to do. I was already freelancing and working from home, taking my own jobs, working on Ender’s Game. And a guy who I was working with suggested that a friend of his was looking for some help with graphic user interface for Total Recall. I got in contact with Patrick Tatopoulos who was the production designer, went to LA with my friend Ryan Cashman (lead animator on Total Recall) to meet with him, and it was really cool to see everything they were building, to read the script and see the assets. We had a good talk about what he needed, and I just said yes. It was a bit more work that I could handle, but if you want to do something, you do it.
It turned out to be around 200 shots, and just to give you the scale of things, it was just myself as designer and art director, and my friend Ryan who animated it. All those animations went out to other studios that out them into film. Usually there’s a big team that does that, so for me it was a huge accomplishment because I’ve never actually done user interface before. To never do it and then to work on a major film and do 200 shots of asset material is pretty crazy. I was juggling Total Recall and Ender’s Game full-time, working hundred-hour weeks. It was a cool experience, to see it done in the film. It just goes by so fast in the film, but there’s a lot of hard work and thought put into every shot.
Kirill: What kinds of assets did you get on Total Recall?
Ash: Every job is different, and every shot is different. Sometimes I get assets, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get brief, and sometimes a get a written paragraph that says something about what needs to be done.
On Total Recall there was a lot of things that were done by the time I jumped in on the project. Patrick [Tatopoulos, production designer] would give me the briefs, and we’d go from there, developing design and concepts to put into the frame. We had cineSync sessions with Len Wiseman the director.
Kirill: It sounds a little bit unusual to have a significant part of the movie look to begin to take shape in post-production.
Ash: It’s very unusual. For example on Ender’s Game we have so much user interface and graphics, and I’ve been on it from the beginning – with my friend Ben Procter who is the production designer on the film. For Total Recall, coming in at the end it was weird and very hard. The way things worked in that world was already designed, and I had to bend everything to make it fit, to make it work within that film.
Kirill: So all the things like phones embedded in the palm of your hand, or every glass surface that can be used as a communication screen were already there, and you created the actual visuals around the filmed interactions with empty surfaces?
Ash: Exactly. They already have the actors touching the glass and interacting with it, without anything there obviously. So the concept was to take that idea and extrapolating it with the design that fits with the way the story was told.
Kirill: Was it a very limiting thing for you to work with?
Ash: Every project’s different. The thing is not to fight it, but rather develop yourself along with it. I tried to figure out clever ways to work around those limitations, to help the story along. That’s why I’m paid, that’s my job on these films. To help the director to tell a story. The graphics and the style have to fit the realm, the mythology of that world.
Kirill: Was there any specific guidance to make it look like an everyday thing, with nothing flashy, nothing jumping out at the “user” and demanding his attention, nothing holographic for the pure sake of holographic?
Ash: It was off and on. We had 200 shots in this film. It was the two of us, me and my friend Ryan, and each shot was very different. We tried to work out every little aspect and each little bit. We were challenged to figure out every shot, it came at different ranges. For example, the hand telephone thing had to feel complicated, interesting and intriguing, but also had to feel like a Skype conversation and to fit that world. Thankfully my first design for it was rock-solid and everybody liked it. I just had to remove a couple of elements, but for the most part that whole concept was greenlit pretty instantly, which is great because it took care of a lot of shots.
And there were things that had a lot of back and forth. For example, the body scanner had five rounds of design submissions, talking directly with Len Wiseman. That was cool – to be able to talk directly to the director, and not to the producer or somebody else. And being able to do it from my home through video chat was amazing. I was able to spend more time working instead of driving and meeting with him up in LA while he was editing. It was a cool progressive way of doing it, and it’s a sign of how things have changed. I’m just one guy in my home office working on a lot of shots for a huge motion picture, and I’m able to communicate directly with the director, and he’s able to draw on my stuff while we talk, and we throw ideas back and forth.
Kirill: Looking at the images for Total Recall you’ve put on your portfolio, you started with pencil sketches, and then transitioned to pure black-and-white diagrams of all these interfaces, long before going to full-color mocks. What’s the intent behind stripping away the color?
Ash: The original idea is in my head, and as I come from illustration background, I try to get the idea out as fast as I can from my mind, because there’s enough energy there to attract my mind to that idea. So I try to quickly connect my brain to my hand to the paper to get the idea out, and that’s why I show those sketches. They’re really horrible sketches, but I want to show that I don’t just sit down and make it on the computer. I sit there, I think about it and I draw it out, and then I take that sketch and I look at it, and I build it out in Illustrator or Photoshop. It’s to get the idea out as fast as possible, and if it looks good as a really crappy sketch, it’ll look much better when it’s refined and put in the computer.
And then not all the time, but I start with black-and-white. I have a problem with color in interfaces. It quickly goes bad if you add too much color. In my opinion it looks like a kids play set. This is my own preference, I like limited palettes is user interface. I build it black-and-white, or add a little color, and I bring it in Photoshop, and then I alter it to refine it, and then back to Illustrator, and back and forth until it feels right. It’s kind of like sculpting, trying to find that shape that works right.
Kirill: As you said it was all in post-production, and all those interfaces had to be grafted onto the empty surfaces that were already filmed. Did it happen that things that looked nice in the big Illustrator window didn’t work out well on smaller surfaces in the overall frame?
Ash: You have to pick your battles. There are so many things that I think are important, but others probably don’t. There were bits that I would like to have had changed, but there’s also things that look good. The body scanners turned out really nicely. I wasn’t excited about the color of it, as I was going for more teal-gray palette, instead of the green option they altered for the final print of the film. That’s why I make them all black-and-white, as I was not super excited about the color choices in the final output. But you know, they change it and that’s it. It’s all fictitious make-believe stuff, it’s about people telling their story. Usually it doesn’t really have to reflect on reality [laughs].
Kirill: What about creating a consistent universe within a specific film?
Ash: A good example of a movie where they did a lot of great pre-conceptualization and thinking was “Minority Report”. And the reason why that movie’s so strong was that they had a really good foresight to hire a bunch of futurists and technology developers, bringing them into a room for a weekend, and discussing the practicality of how things would possibly work. In that realm they spent more time and effort and money at the beginning stages of the development of the technology, which made that film so pronounced. It felt like it was a technology that was just ahead of us, that we could understand it. And on Total Recall it was more about the design and helping the story, and less about progressing the technology. I didn’t have the chance to sit there and develop the technology. Ender’s Game is a little bit different, where I have a little bit more say in the concepts, the idea of what the technology is and what it means and why these worlds exist. Every project’s different. The idea of Total Recall of what the future might be is interesting, but may be not super accurate.
Kirill: What are your thoughts on stereo productions, or the recent wave of 3D re-releases?
Ash: My first take on 3D is that I don’t actually like it at all. I find it more of a nuisance as a viewer than anything else. I went to watch Jurassic Park pretty recently and I felt they did a good job with that. But I felt that that movie is just a fun movie to do 3D with. And I thought they did a good job with Avatar, but I’d rather just sit down and watch a David Fincher film and not have it in 3D, just have it look beautiful. I feel like it gets in the way of what you’re trying to do, and it’s more of a cheap trick to me. It’s not doing what I think it should be doing.
Kirill: Do you see holographic projection or some kind of 3D interaction in everyday computing a few decades into the future?
Ash: There already are things. I don’t think it’s going to be as eye candy as Tron where it’s beautiful glowing lights and particles. If you think about it, there’s already a lot of stuff that’s happening, but you don’t necessarily see it. Companies like Leap that gesture program, and Alpha which has the setup where you can reach into your screen and work with that. I’m not sure if I believe in the idea that holograms are going to be the answer, or even be viable for interactions. Possibly. I could be wrong. The projection system in Minority Report was pretty cool.
I’m not sure if I’d care for holograms in my own life. I don’t know if it’s necessary. It depends on the situation and the scenario. The idea of living within your technology is a really beautiful thought. If it’s done right, it can really powerful. It’s so unique to each situation in my view.
Kirill: Do you see anything in the technology world right now, even in the exploratory stage, that you would want to see available?
Ash: That example that I was talking about, very much in the early stages right now, of being able to put your hands behind your computer screen and have your computer recognize your gestures, allowing to manipulate things on the go – that’s great. I’d like to see technology not just do things for entertainment, but to do things to help out, help the world, be a little bit better, a little bit faster. I have a couple of ideas for pretty crazy applications. There’s a lot of things, for example the Leap concept was pretty cool. I like the idea of things that are hardware destroyers. The things where you don’t need the keyboard anymore, and I don’t need Cintiq anymore, and I can have something around me that can record my gestures and data. It’s where I can draw on paper and it’s recording my movements, and it’s able to make that into data so that I can go back to my computer and manipulate it. Wacom and other companies are doing that.
We have virtual reality rigs. It would be cool not to have the computer display, but rather put on something that isn’t super cumbersome, something that you put on your head and work in that realm, even laying down and building things. It’s not about holding an iPad, but rather about immersing yourself more.
Kirill: How realistic is it to expect heavier applications – such as Photoshop or Illustrator that you’ve already mentioned – being slimmed down into environments that don’t have the current crop of hardware peripherals?
Ash: Can you imagine how far we’ve come now, and it still feels rudimentary. The idea of erasing the keyboard, if you look at the hardware design of Leap, it basically records your finger motions, which is very finite. The idea I have is that if you know where your fingers need to be for typing, you use any surface and it’ll know where your hands are, and it’ll understand which key you’re trying to hit. You can also do that with voice recognition, but the idea that I thought would be interesting was that you could pretty much erase the keyboard. Remember when we’ve first had cellphones, and they had a lot of keys on them, and text messaging was through numbers, and it was crappy to do. But now with the iPhone people would complain at the beginning because there were no keys, but once you get used to it, it’s like anything else. Like riding a bike and eventually getting good at it.
What I like about hardware destroyers is that it allows people not to waste products. Think about how much plastic and metal is wasted to make keyboards for everybody so that they can use their computers, and imagine not having a display, and not having a keyboard, and having an office that is just your books, your papers, and your computer which is kind of in the cloud, and all you have is this headset and your gestures. You sit back and relax, and I think it’s fantastic – this idea of creating things at that level is interesting.
Like everything in technology, there’s upside and downside obviously. But I feel that the upside for me – and I’m a bit optimistic about the future – far outweighs the negative. Those kinds of things excite me because I can see it already happening, and it’s just a matter of waiting for a kind of Christmas.
Kirill: Would you be interested in working on a production that would give you a way to introduce these interactions as part of that movie’s realm?
Ash: Totally. I’ve been lucky enough to be contacted by Apple to co-develop their OS, but I’m a little bit more focused on working on movies, so I didn’t end up working on that project. I like to live in a fantasy world where I make stuff up as I go, and the idea of the labor of making something happen isn’t necessarily my love. I probably wouldn’t find myself as a design development guy, that probably wouldn’t be a role that I would focus on. I do appreciate it, and I think it’s really cool.
Kirill: So you don’t necessarily need to create a full end-to-end story, but rather bits and pieces of it as required by the particular productions.
Ash: It allows me to just dream, and work completely freely. The idea of bringing this stuff to life and testing – that’s such a headache. I love technology, I love the future, I love the romantic side of it, but the idea of developing a final product for customers is not necessarily a dream of mine. If Apple were to hire me, it would be more for my design sense and ideas, I suppose. But the idea of working on something that takes five year to develop and make and put to public is a very challenging thing to take on. But I love it all, and I just enjoy it. The whole process can be a little grueling at times, but it’s enjoyable.
Kirill: Going back to Total Recall, how did you approach creating the visuals that are running on the “inside” of Synth robots’ helmets? The very idea of having such visuals runs a little against how image scanning and recognition would be performed by a machine.
Ash: I had a bunch of different ideas on how they would see things. I didn’t want to do the Terminator thing, although I loved that. We didn’t have a lot of time, and I had a couple of ideas where I wanted it to be more digitized, to pick up things like a lidar scanner – not seeing things but data. We tried to develop that, but we just didn’t have enough time and money. So we had to go back to the original concept of optical sensors that act as our own eyes, a camera with aperture exposure, opening and closing. It was me thinking weird ideas, pushing the envelope with something different. That was one of the things where I really wished I had more time. There were a lot of such things, as I didn’t have much time on the project itself. I wish I had a lot more time to develop, but I think it is OK as far as the design goes. The point-of-view was to emulate the idea of what our own genetic development in our eyes perceives light.
Kirill: What was your involvement with Iron Man III?
Ash: That was all concept stuff, and nothing made it into the final film. It was stuff that I made for pitching the title sequence. I had fun doing it, and I’m proud of it. I do projects that don’t go into the portfolio until the movie releases. By the time I’m able to show it, it might be a year old which is a total bummer. That’s just the nature of it. By the time the film is released I’ve already outgrown it as an artist, as a creative person. I usually do the work and hate it a week after [laughs], so a year after I usually don’t like it. But I do show it, because it’s my way of expressing what I’ve done, and I’m able to continually get work out of those experiences. I’m pretty hard on myself as a creative person, I just always want the best work for myself and for the client I work for. Each project is like a relationship, and each relationship is completely different. It’s just a different experience.
Kirill: Where are you going?
Ash: All this stuff is projects where I’ve worked for other people. My real goal right now is to develop stories and concepts and movies of my own creation with some friends of mine. Anthony Scott Burns and I are developing a bunch of ideas, and that’s where everything is going. I do think it’s cool that I can work on people’s projects and get hired by the studios, but at the end of the day it’s their stories, and I’d like more control over that aspect. This is why I’m trying to push for that next level of growth.
Kirill: But it’s not at a point where software tools allow smaller teams to create big-scale visuals?
Ash: I disagree. It’s already there. Anthony just finished this short film that we’ve been working on and I wish I could show it to you. It all comes down to how hard you want to work, and your understanding of what you’re doing. I’ve had Anthony on my podcast for many reasons. He’s incredibly talented, part of a new wave of talent that is able to use all these tools that are readily available to make stuff at the level of Hollywood really. I might be eating my words, but I think it’s already here. Things are changing constantly, and they’re even going to start changing even more as they progress. More people getting access to the tools, more people understanding the tools, more people being able to tell their own stories.
Kirill: But the cost of mainstream sci-fi productions is not really coming down, as the directors are pushing for more complex visual effects.
Ash: I have a lot to say about that. Alien cost $11M to make, Blade Runner cost $28M, and both are staple films for inspiration and benchmark. And films nowadays cost $170-$200M that don’t necessarily do as good of a job. There are so many factors about that, but when you have an actor like Robert Downey Jr. that charges $30M to be there, that’s a ridiculous part of your budget. It’s crazy to think about. It varies per project obviously, and it varies per team how talented and creative and crafty they are. It breaks down to the choices they make. If the director wants an actor that costs $30M, well then the movie jumps from, say $70M to $100M just because of that one choice. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but at the same time they know that big-name actors like Brad Pitt draw a crowd. It’s just a matter of choices I think, what the director and the producers decide on.
Kirill: So you’re saying that it’s getting simpler and more reasonable for small teams to make a big impact?
Ash: Absolutely. There’s a lot of people creating their own short films, going to Sundance or independent festivals. If you look at District 9 that was reported to cost $30M. To me it looks better than most of any other sci-fi in that range and time. I enjoyed it as a filmgoer. It’s just a matter of choices. Neill Blomkamp [director/screenwriter] had the help of Peter Jackson who was really connected with Weta, so they were able to utilize it as an amazing creative tool to develop things. I really think that it all breaks down to choices. A director can be smart about that executive producer that he puts in charge, and the producers are either smart about what they do, or they’re not. There’s a lot of variables that play into it. I firmly believe in the idea that movies that are done right nowadays can cost fraction of the price. At the end of the day, all the money aside, I don’t care about all of that. I care about telling the stories that resonate. That’s all it is, that’s all we’re doing. We’re not trying to just impress one another, and that’s what it comes down to, trying to impress or making cool-looking worlds – which is cool, but only lasts for so long. Story is king.
Kirill: What about the distribution then? How do you tackle the cost of getting a movie into the big chains, which can adds tens of millions of dollars to your cost. Is the solution to go to direct web-based downloads, to a more direct connection to the audience?
Ash: People like to go to the movie theaters and be entertained, but the platform is constantly changing. There are different ideas, with social media, or Kickstarter going directly to the fans. I think it’s beautiful. But I do enjoy going to see a movie in the theater. Some part of me thinks that this distribution makes sense, but at the same time I don’t feel that I agree with it. I would love to make a film based on the love and money of direct fan, get that to them directly, and then also give them production gifts, like “The Art Of” books. That sounds like wishful thinking, but if you do it right and you’re smart about it, it’s definitely a possibility. You’re just trying to connect the people who’re interested in what you’re doing with yourself. And if you can do it in a clever and smart way, that’s definitely possible. Your only limitations with this stuff is yourself and the team you choose to surround yourself with.
Kirill: That can kind of connect to that headset you were talking about earlier, where it brings the widescreen directly to your eyes.
Ash: You can be just laying in your bed in relaxing, and you get that full experience. But it’s not the same. I just went to watch a movie in IMAX, and it was so beautiful in such a large format. But it’s constantly changing. Things are going to be moving around and shifting. It’s oversaturated, the world is getting overpopulated. There’s a lot of people trying to tell stories, people are trying to make a buck by making better products. It’s very competitive. It’s a natural turn of events.
Kirill: But for now it takes a lot of money to make a lot of money. Throwing a couple of random numbers around, if it takes you $5M to make a movie, you still need to get it into the current distribution pipeline, you still need to get it to the audience to not only to tell your story, but also to make that money back at least.
Ash: Totally, The way that they do it, the channels they’re using. The movie Moon is a good example. I think it took $14M to make it, and I believe it made its money back at the box office even with the distribution costs. But it wasn’t a huge film, it wasn’t distributed everywhere. It was a smaller film. And then a movie like Prometheus costed $120-130M to make, and it made $400M at the box office reportedly. And I believe it was all due to the marketing. It was phenomenal, it was so well put together. There were so many people that wanted to see Alien again. That’s a crazy thought to think that it cost $120M and it made $400M just at the box office, before DVD and BluRay.
In this world you have to put in what you want to get. You have to give to receive. If you want to make a lot of money, you have to spend a lot of money, and that’s the scary part. With movies it’s so uncertain about how it’s going to come back, and how you do it, because there are so many factors and moving parts. It all works out, in the end win or loose.
Thank you for having me on and taking time out of your day to talk with me about the things that I love. Also a BIG thank you to anyone who actually read this and got to the end.