Drawn By Pain

Drawn By Pain
Drawn By Pain
Creator Jesse Cowell
Starring Marissa Parness
Elizabeth Plevy
Guy Rader
Michael Speer
Jack Perry
Sharon Hawk
Country  United States
Language English
Original channel The Escapist (magazine)
No. of episodes 12

Drawn By Pain is a 12-part episodic internet series. It is about the spiral into one woman’s search for salvation as her animated madness fights for her sanity in the real world.



A little girl with an abusive father finds a creative outlet for her inner turmoil in personal drawings to escape the horrible reality of her domestic life. In his last fit of rage, her father kills her mother and then turns his attention to young Emily. The illustrations in her sketch book come to life in her defense. Fueled by her rage, Emily becomes her animated dark alter-ego and strikes out against her father, avenging her mother's unjust death. Consequently, Emily's adulthood is as broken as her childhood. A bitter and sheltered woman, Emily's past demons fuel, empower, and push her to be the very thing she once feared: a monster. Publicly quiet but privately vengeful, her animated beasts degenerate others into their ugliest forms. As soon as they become their worst, she destroys them as if were her personal responsibility.

But with this vengeance comes confusion. At first, Emily controls her animations. As her demons grow stronger, she can no longer stop the little girl inside of her from lashing out at the world. She quickly turns from predator to prey as new demonic beings, forged by her own strife-ridden mind, appear and begin to virulently pursue her. Emily struggles to reconcile her brutal past before the animated power triggered by her anguished inner psyche kills her and everyone around her.


From the very start, the Webby award winning 'Drawn by Pain' has been anything but conventional. With its unique amalgamation of animation and live-action, 'Drawn by Pain' has helped revolutionize the independent film scene by building its popular brand online before carrying the original storyline onto multiple platforms.

"I just did my best to tell a story that meant a lot to me," says director Jesse Cowell. "After having met so many young people online who were having trouble moving forward from issues stemming from their pasts, I decided it was time to tell the story of someone coming to terms with themselves; battling the troubles of old so they could live a better, less angst-ridden, tomorrow. 'Drawn by Pain' gave me a way to do that visually as we could actually see the inner workings of Emily's mind (represented by animated archetypes) fighting for control of her in the real world."

The project itself is an archetype which demonstrates the influence of online communities on autonomous filmmakers. Fans of the show were not only able to experience the film's message on a personal level, but also invited to take part in its production by acting as extras, contributing musical talents, and participating in grassroots marketing to help bring the director's vision to its full potential. Now completed, Cowell has turned the web-series into the form it was planned to be from the inset: a feature film soon to be released in many venues.


  • Emily Waters – A troubled girl fighting with and against the trauma of her past.
  • Douglas – A sociable stranger who befriends Emily over a series of brief encounters. His alcoholic mother used to beat him and his brother, who, when he turned fourteen, stabbed her in defense of himself and Douglas. With his mother dead and his brother in prison, Douglas was sent to live with a new family to start over.
  • Morsus – The animated manifestation of Emily's father and the cruelty she associates with him.
  • Father – A brute of a man whose own violent upbringing drives him to abuse his wife and daughter.
  • Mother – The only example and source of love and devotion in Emily's young life. She gives Emily a minor glimmer of hope before her brutal husband wickedly takes her life in front of her daughter's eyes.
  • Steven Coleman – The counselor, whose physical blindness makes him no less insightful, Emily seeks for help.
  • Jonas – A wicked drug-dealer whose witness of Emily's powers drives him to hunger for the talent himself.
  • Pedro – A less-than-innocent bystander who tries to pick up Emily in the deserted streets of New York. When he threatens her with a knife, she takes him as her first victim.
  • Antonio, Jackson, Mikey, Patrick, Tyrell – Troublemakers in the woods who bait Emily into defending one of them in order to surround and attack her. Her wolf animation springs to life to destroy them all.

Cast and crew

  • Jesse Cowell (Creator/Director) – Full bio below.
  • Erica Langworthy (Animator/Designer) – Erica graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a degree in traditional and 3D animation. When the idea of drawn by Pain was presented to Erica, her love for animation motivated her to leave her home in Ohio and move to New York City to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to the film. Langworthy designed the look of the animated characters, created the motion graphics for the title sequences, did the site design for the web and drew each and every frame of animation in the film. In her spare time, she plays video games and works as a digital artist professional.
  • Marissa Parness (Adult Emily) – Marissa is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy (2003) in Michigan and the Circle in the Square Theatre School (2005) in New York with a degree in Musical Theatre. Her acting interests include film, theatre, musical theatre, improvisation, and comedy. Her first breakthrough role was playing Emily Waters in Drawn by Pain. Says Cowell about her performance in the series, "Marissa Parness, in many ways, made the film possible. In every scene Marissa left her heart and soul on the screen and I will be forever grateful for her week in week out effort. If every experience in working with someone is this easy – I cannot wait to make more films. She is currently seeking representation in New York City."
  • Elizabeth Plevy (Young Emily) – Information pending.
  • Guy Rader (Douglas) – Guy graduated Suny At Albany in New York in 1997 with a Bachelor's degree in Theatre, then completed his Masters in acting at Kent State University in Ohio in 2000. In addition to his acting career, Rader works as a director of media services for The FeedRoom, Inc. in New York, a "pioneer in online video communications, and a market leader in live video and rich media asset management." In his recreation, Guy plays washboard and vocals in a NYC-based jug band called "The Drunken Swimmers."
  • Michael Speer (Father) – Michael began acting at a young age but shelved these pursuits for a career in teaching at a high school level. When he decided to return to acting, he preferred the intimacy of the set over the stage and thus auditioned for the role of the father in Cowell's Drawn by Pain. Since this role, Speer has also landed the role of George Mitchel in the 2008 film "Because of You," directed by John Bianco. Speer comments that he prefers to play the role of the villain because "they're fun and nobody really gets hurt, but you can pretend, and that's the beauty: I love to pretend." (6:56 -7:03) Speer finds acting inspiration in the works of Constantin Stanislavski and Michael Chekov. (5:30-5:38) [1]
  • Sharon Hawk (Mother) – Like Parness, Sharon Hawk also graduated from the Circle In The Square Theater. Besides Drawn by Pain, her credits include her role as "Kitten" in the 2008 film "Eat Your Heart Out," directed by James Tucker, as well as the 2010 movie "L.L." directed by Amos Kollek.

Drawn by Pain: The Webseries

Episode Original Air Date Title
1 March 17, 2007 Emily Waters
2 March 17, 2007 Drawn By Pain
3 March 23, 2007 Not Entirely Alone
4 April 1, 2007 On A Mission
5 May 1, 2007 The Dissent of Emily
6 June 7, 2007 Emily Is Not Crazy
7 July 5, 2007 Only Safe In The Shadows
8 September 21, 2007 Enter At Your Own Risk
9 December 18, 2007 How Do You Fight The Enemy When You Are The Enemy?
10 February 4, 2008 See What You Fear
11 April 11, 2008 Step Into The Storm
12 August 26, 2008 What Goes Around Comes Around

Acclaim and Recognition


  • Drawn by Pain hits iTunes "What's Hot List." (February, March, and April)
  • Toon Boom Animation runs in-depth "case study" on Drawn by Pain and its creators on their website and newsletter. (May)
  • The New York Post mentions upcoming Drawn by Pain screening in "The Starr Report" television column. (October 10)
  • New York's Courier Publications/24 Seven spotlights Drawn by Pain and Jesse Cowell in a full-page feature story. (October 12)
  • Jesse Cowell and animator Erica Langworthy are interviewed live for WOR Radio for a national broadcast. (December 6)
  • Independent Film Channel (IFC) airs interview with Jesse Cowell at the New York Anime Festival on their website and YouTube channel. (December 10)


  • Drawn by Pain is short listed for Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics in the 12th Annual Webby Awards. (February 11)
  • Drawn by Pain is officially nominated for the 12th Annual Webby Awards in its category. (April 8)
  • IFC debuts Cowell's interview/appearance on their new daily online show "Lunchbox," discussing the Drawn by Pain creative process and the Webby nomination. (April 11)
  • The New York Post runs an item on Jesse Cowell's IFC Lunchbox appearance and the Webby nomination in Michael Starr's column, "The Starr Report." (April 11)
  • MSG New York features Drawn by Pain in a segment. (April 20)
  • Drawn by Pain officially wins Webby People's Voice Award.
  • Escapist Magazine syndicates Drawn by Pain. (May 19)
  • Mediaweek highlights dramatic content with high production value, featuring Drawn by Pain. (July 28)
  • Cowell appears on nationally syndicated Fangoria Radio Show with Dee Snider. (September 7)
  • The Lean Forward Movement features Drawn by Pain for its stylistic excellence. (December 29)

The Evolution of Drawn by Pain


  • Drawn by Pain (the webseries) makes its debut, launching the first of twelve episodes at www.drawnbypain.com. (January)
  • Cowell hosts screening of the first eight episodes at Tribeca Cinemas, attended by fans from all over the world.
  • Drawn by Pain exhibits at the New York Anime Festival. (December 7–9)


  • Drawn by Pain is a featured exhibitor at New York ComiCon. (April 18–20)
  • Cowell presents at the Independent Feature Project (IFP) panel on "When film and web collide."
  • Drawn by Pain appears at Big Apple Con in New York. (June 7)
  • Cowell presents on a New York Television Festival panel for their first ever "digital day" representing the most innovative cinema on the web. (September 16)
  • Drawn by Pain has first private screening of feature film version at Tribeca Cinemas, filling two theatres to capacity. (October 13)


  • The feature version of Drawn by Pain officially announced for the festival and distribution marketplace. (January 1)

Director's Bio

Jesse Cowell grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan New York. As a child, when he wasn't being read to by his novelist mother or chasing fires and SWAT teams with his news photographer father, Jesse spent four days a week watching movies at his favorite neighborhood theatre. In the years that followed, Jesse followed his dream to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California's (USC) acclaimed Cinema School, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Cinema/Television Production. Along the way, he won several Cine Eagle awards and a student Emmy.

At this time, Cowell formed his own banner, Jeskid Productions, and mounted his first feature film, the highly irreverent comedy Shades of Gray which launched exclusively online in 2005. By releasing his film on the web, Cowell built up a very significant fan base and was even awarded the Audience Choice award for Best Director's Site by Movies.com. This led to Shades of Gray jumping to the big-screen as it was awarded Best Comedy Feature Film at the Microcinema Festival in Chicago that same year.

Throwing caution into the wind with the existing fan base 100 percent behind him, Cowell then mounted up with state-of-the-art HD equipment and began shooting what would be his most accomplished piece yet: the Webby Award winning Drawn by Pain. He took his creation and teamed up with cutting-edge animator Erica Langworthy while filming on the streets of New York. Cowell solely controlled the casting, scripting, shooting, directing, and editing aspects of the project, yet the series has the look, feel, and production quality of a thirty-man crew. Langworthy then creates her intense animation in sync with Jesse's unique vision. Drawn by Pain tells the story of Emily Waters, an eight-year-old girl who witnessed her father's brutality toward her mother, resulting in an ever-growing rage within her that manifests into the real world with vengeful anime characters.


  1. ^ http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/drawn-by-pain/120-Episode-Eight-Commentary

External links

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