The Alphabet

After Six Figures Getting Sick, Lynch was reluctant to continue working in film due to the high cost involved. However, fellow student H. Barton Wasserman saw Lynch's moving painting, and gave him $1000 to create similar one. "He (Wasserman) would buy a projector and mount it to the floor next to his chair and it would be bolted down, so he'd just click on the projector and have a screen that this thing would play on. And when the projector was off, the screen would be just like a piece of sculpture."1 Lynch used $450 of the money to buy a used Bolex camera, then went to work filming. After two months of work, he took the film to be developed, only to discover the film didn't turn out. The camera had a broken take-up spool which caused the film to move through the gate freely instead of one frame at a time. When Lynch told Wasserman about the ruined film, Wasserman said Lynch could do anything he wanted with the rest of the money.

Lynch's wife, Peggy, told him of a dream her niece had during which she was reciting the alphabet in her sleep, then woke up and starting bouncing around repeating it. Lynch took this idea and ran with it. First he painted the walls of his upstairs bedroom black. Lynch painted Peggy's face white to give her an un-real contrast to the black room, and had her bounce around the room in different positions as he filmed. This footage was edited together with an animated sequence where the letters of the alphabet slowly appear and a capital A gives birth to several smaller a's which form a human figure. The soundtrack starts with chant of the letters "ABC", followed by a man singing. Mixed in are other sound effects including the wind, crying and a siren. An adult voice reminds us that we are dealing with a human form, which is followed by a girl singing the alphabet song. Lynch recorded his newborn daughter Jennifer crying with a broken Uher tape recorder for the film, and loved the sound it created. Lynch mixed the sound at a lab called Calvin de Frenes, which is where he first met Herb Cardwell who would later shoot part of Eraserhead. Lynch also would later meet Alan Splet there when it came time to mix The Grandmother.

You can purchase The Alphabet on DVD from the store at It's on the Short Films DVD.

1. Chris Rodley (editor), "Lynch on Lynch," Faber and Faber, 1997, p.39

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The Alphabet is copyright David Lynch
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