In this episode of short films, seven Pacific Northwest filmmakers use the power of animation to tell their stories.
About the Films
In this special episode of six animated shorts, Pacific Northwest filmmakers show how animation can be used to tell stories to stunning effect.
What drives someone to become a filmmaker? That’s the question asked in “Debut,” an award-winning short film about the agonies and joys of moviemaking.
A young boy receives a brand-new camera for his birthday and eagerly sets off to find some directorial inspiration. Unfortunately, there’s nothing interesting for him to film and the boy soon falls into a deep depression. Only when he looks outside his window and sees the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest does he finally discover the inspiration he was always looking for.
Watch "Debut" here.
About Filmmaker Ryan Rosendal
Ryan Rosendal is a filmmaker, artist, and animator. Born in Mukilteo, Washington, he graduated from the University of Washington in 2010 with a BA in interdisciplinary visual arts. At UW, he was a part of the Computer Animation Capstone, a program dedicated to creating student-made animated short films. He also served as the school newspaper's political cartoonist for four years.
In 2010 Rosendal made his directorial debut with the aptly named "Debut," a short film about the trials and tribulations of a young filmmaker. The short went on to win the Washington Filmworks 2010 Viral Video Competition and had a two-week run in a number of art-house theaters in Washington State.
I can actually recall the moment when "Debut" came together. On September 20, 2010, I received an email from Washington Filmworks announcing the 2010 Viral Video competition. The goal of the competition was to create a two-minute short film that answered the question, “How does living in Washington State affect your filmmaking process?” Only a few days earlier I had been staring out of my bedroom window and admiring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I thought to myself at the time about how lucky I was to grow up in such an artistically inspiring place.
Reading the email triggered that memory and the short’s message came to me in a flash: the natural beauty of Washington State is inspiring to young filmmakers. From there the basic plot of the short came very quickly and I decided I had to make a short film for the contest.
As a student at the University of Washington, I participated in the Computer Animation Capstone, a program dedicated to producing student-made short films. Barbara Mones was the instructor and taught me everything I know about short filmmaking. Brian McDonald, writing teacher extraordinaire, was a story consultant on our short film and his incredible understanding of story structure and storytelling proved to be invaluable for what I was about to do.
With my knowledge, experience, and passion, I was ready to make the plunge into short filmmaking. One problem though: the email I received was announcing the beginning of the Viral Video submission period. Filmworks was accepting submissions from September 20 to November 1, leaving me only six weeks to create something. Because of this I had to create limitations for the short: it had to be drawn (I don’t have time to rent a camera and find actors), there could only be two locations (less stuff to draw), it had to be in black and white (color takes time) and it had to be as simple as possible.
As I storyboarded and illustrated the short, the limitations were something I kept in mind all the time: the short’s message had to be strong and it had to be told with an eye towards clarity. Any complication in the story would not only cost me time but would dilute the message as well. I forced myself to remember I’m showing people why the beauty of Washington State’s nature is inspiring to young filmmakers. If that didn’t come across, I’d be sunk.
When people talk about how “story is king,” “Debut” is an example of what they mean. The short is so basic; there’s actually no animation as it just advances from one still frame to another. But I’ve never heard anyone complain to me about this. Nobody ever feels cheated, and that’s because the story sells the film. The story and message of “Debut” are told in a very simple, very clear manner and the audience always knows what the character wants, why he can’t have it, and how he eventually gets it. The short plays fair and I think audiences really respond to that. By the end of the film you understand why Washington State’s natural beauty is so inspiring to this kid and others like him.
After six weeks of tireless work, I submitted “Debut” to Washington Filmworks on October 31, and on December 13 “Debut” was announced as the winner of the 2010 Viral Video competition. I was awarded $3,000 and the short ran for two weeks in a number of Seattle art house theaters including the SIFF Cinema and the Northwest Film Forum. I’ve been amazed and grateful for the reaction to the short and I still can’t believe all that has happened. There’s nothing as quite satisfying as entertaining people and I hope I can continue to do that for as long as I can.
About "History Is Us"
A young man and his grandfather are trying to decide what to do one afternoon. When the young man brings up the idea of visiting a museum, his grandfather expresses his utter disinterest in museums and history. What follows is a humorous and high-speed trip through human history.
“History is Us” won Best In Show in the first-ever History Is _____ film contest put on by the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.
Watch "History Is Us" here.
About Filmmaker Drew Christie
Drew Christie has been making films and animations since the age of 5, when his father let him take control of the family camcorder. He studied experimental animation at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, graduating in 2007. His award-winning animations have been screened in festivals and programs around the world. Christie works as an illustrator and animator in Seattle. His blog is Democracy for the Cartoons.
About "I Saw U"
A Seattle filmmaker explores stories of dreamers who seek connections through the classifieds.
Watch "I Saw U" here.
About Filmmakers Maile Martinez and Lane Stroud
Maile Martinez and Lane Stroud, the directors of "I Saw U," are members of Union Street Films, a group of women filmmakers and youth media educators who are current or past mentors or staff at the Seattle-based Reel Grrls. Reel Grrls is a nonprofit filmmaking and media literacy program for teenage girls.
In 2008 the team at Union Street films joined together to enter the International Documentary Challenge, a timed filmmaking competition. Their entry that year, "Click Whoosh," won the top prize for best film. Since then their art documentary films have made it to the finals of the challenge each year, screened at film festivals worldwide, and won numerous awards.
For more than 30 years, Seraphim "Joe" Fortes, born in the West Indies, swam in Vancouver's English Bay every Wednesday afternoon. He was a self-appointed lifeguard, taught thousands of kids to swim and saved over 100 lives. In the beginning he wasn’t paid for his work at the beach, but his exploits became so famous that the city of Vancouver finally rewarded him with a cottage and a small salary for doing what he loved best. Yet there were people who did not respect him because of his skin color. Through his determination, kindness, and love for children, Joe changed attitudes.
This bright and lively animated film brings to life a remarkable person and introduces a whole new generation of children to a hero who was part of the early history of Vancouver.
Watch "Joe" here.
About Filmmaker Jill Haras
In 1983, Jill Haras graduated with a BFA in film and animation from the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. She spent several years operating the animation camera stand for the National Film Board in Vancouver, as well as working freelance on independent productions as a camera assistant, picture and sound editor, and storyboard illustrator.
About "The Nature of Battle"
In an empty and dystopian war-torn world a new hope arrives in the form of a seed.
Watch "The Nature of Battle" here.
About Filmmaker Nat Dart
Nat Dart studied animation at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, graduating in 2009. He created "The Nature of Battle" as his final project. Featuring a mixture of various digital animation techniques, "The Nature of Battle" is a poetic statement about war and environmentalism. It premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival and has gone on to screen at film festivals internationally.
Since 2006 Nat has led a successful career as an animator and graphic designer in the video games industry, working with companies such as Disney Interactive Studios and Magmic Games. Recently he moved to San Francisco to work with Telltale Games as a user interface artist. His website is www.natdart.com.
About "Yellow Sticky Notes"
Blinded by overwhelming "to do" lists, a manic animator re-examines his life by drawing on over 2,300 4x6-inch yellow sticky notes with only a black ink pen. A small internal reflection on one’s role as an artist manifests into a discussion about major political and environmental crises all told through the medium that once threatened to consume him.
Watch "Yellow Sticky Notes" here. .
About Filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns
Jeff Chiba Stearns is an award-winning animation and documentary filmmaker. Born in Kelowna, British Columbia, of Japanese and European heritage, he graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a degree in film animation in 2001. Soon after, he founded Meditating Bunny Studio Inc., which specializes in creating animated, documentary, and experimental films geared to both children and adults.
Besides “Yellow Sticky Notes” (2007), his films include “Kip and Kyle” (2000), “The horror of Kindergarten” (2001), “What Are You Anyways?” (2005), “Ode to a Post-it Note” (2010), and “One Big Hapa Family”(2010).
"Yellow Sticky Notes” is a classically animated film that was entirely hand-drawn. The film is a voyeuristic look into nine years of my animation filmmaking career, when I went through many ups and downs. My life was incredibly busy, and I relied on yellow sticky note “to do" lists to keep me organized. The only problem was that I was so busy trying to accomplish my sticky note "to do" lists that I was ignoring the world around me and major world events. This is an issue that most everyone in the world can relate to -- being busy and not being able to slow down.
One day I cleared the massive amount of sticky notes from my desk and decided I would finally self-reflect on the world events I had ignored for so many years. I chose to self-reflect through a process of animation meditation where I would animate directly onto the sticky notes that had made me ignore the world around me for so many years. As I started to animate, I realized that many of the things on my “to do” lists had direct connections to the major world events going on around me.
“Yellow Sticky Notes” juxtaposes text and animated sequences that are weaved together through morphing transitions. The entire film was animated directly onto 4x6-inch yellow sticky notes with only a black Staedtler permanent fine-tipped marker. Twenty-three hundred yellow sticky notes were used to complete the film and the process took nine months to complete. Animation was captured using a digital Canon SLR camera and camera stand. The film’s budget was $100 and was used to buy sticky note pads and black pens. The final digital cells were color-corrected in Photoshop and then compiled in Final Cut Pro.