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An Interview with Animator Juliet Schneider, Director of “Ova”

June 2, 2009

A couple months ago, Denise Kasell, Executive Director of The Coolidge Corner Theater, initiated a new policy for showcasing short films. The first series, WGBH’s Poetry Everywhere, played through April. And now the second series, Women in Film & Video: New England’s Shorts ‘R’ Us, which began May 15th, will play through June.

Among the films featured in the Shorts ‘R’ Us series is Ova – a 4-minute stop-motion animated piece by Juliet Schneider.

Ova premiered earlier this year at the Woods Hole International Film Festival. And a few months back it was featured at the Northampton Film Festival.

Here at Beanywood, we love it when one of our friends and members get the recognition they deserve. We know how hard they work. Needless to say (but we will anyway) we’re proud of Juliet.

We recently spoke with her about the making of Ova.

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BEANYWOOD: Where did the idea for the story of Ova come from?

SCHNEIDER: From a childhood experience of mine.  I found a robin egg on the front lawn the morning after a thunderstorm, and I brought it inside and set up a little nest and incubator for it on the upstairs hallway nightlight.  I was always performing experiments as a kid, back then I wanted to be a scientist.

Anyway, my mom was very indulgent of my scientific aspirations – and allowed me to tend to my charge for a week or so – which involved me constantly reminding everyone in house not to turn off the nightlight, hovering over the egg a lot, and reading about birds.  When it became apparent the egg wasn’t going to hatch – I sadly buried it outside.  When writing Ova, I decided to make the ending happier and more poetic/surreal by having the bird hatch and immediately fly away.

BEANYWOOD: What sparked your interest in stop-motion animation?

JULIET SCHNEIDER: I’ve loved it from my earliest memories of watching Jules Bass and Art & Gloria Clokey specials on tv.  I’ve always been fascinated with small worlds that you can see, but not physically inhabit, like dollhouses, dioramas, and scale models.

BEANYWOOD: What are your favorite stop-motion animated films?

SCHNEIDER: Some all-time favorites would include: The Cameraman’s Revenge, Fleur de Fougere by Wladyslaw Starewicz, Alice, Little Otik by Jan Svankmajer & Eva Svankmajerova, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, Street of Crocodiles by The Quay Brothers, Nick Park’s The Wrong Trousers, Tim Burton/Henry Selick’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and Henry Selick’s recent Coraline.

BEANYWOOD: Is stop-motion animation necessarily an obsessive art form?

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

BEANYWOOD: How long have you been animating?

SCHNEIDER: I would say I only have about five practical years of direct animation experience. But I’ve been experimenting with it off and on for the past 14 years.  I worked solely in static media prior to that for about 10 years.

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BEANYWOOD: What is the creative process for you?

SCHNEIDER: It depends on so many factors.  Each project is different and I always have multiple projects in the works.  Sometimes I’ll start with a specific idea, sometimes I’m more inspired by an object or mood.  Once I have that initial seed or spark – I try to let the piece develop and unfold in it’s own time.

BEANYWOOD: What objects do you prefer to animate with? Figures, props, sets?

SCHNEIDER: Well, all of the above really – because the sets contain the props and figures.  Though I’m currently working on animating drawings.

BEANYWOOD: What was the most challenging aspect of creating Ova?

SCHNEIDER: Working with outdated software on a slow computer.

BEANYWOOD: Where else has Ova played theatrically?

SCHNEIDER: It premiered at the 2008 Woods Hole Film Fest, then played at the 2008 Northampton Film Fest.  It was shown at The Brattle Theatre during the 2009 Mayfair Film Program, and it’s screening at The Coolidge Corner Theater through the end of June – as part of a new program showcasing short works from emerging filmmakers prior to feature screenings.  This second series showcases work from members of Women in Film and Video New England – WIFV/NE, including: Kakania by Karen Aqua, In The Street by Nicole Prowell, and three by Gina Komentsky: A Little Pet Story, Einstein’s Riddle, and The Work-a-day World of Mechanical Confection.

BEANYWOOD: You recently met the Quay brothers. As an animator, what do you find fascinating about their work?

SCHNEIDER:
Yes!, that was one of the most thrilling ‘Art Moments’ of my life.  They are phenomenal animators and very personable as well.  I only met one of them though, Stephen.  But I got to hear them talk about their work, and their experiences as artists – which was hugely informative and inspiring. I also got to examine some of their sets up close which was the most amazing part – experiencing their incredible precision and artistry in person.

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BEANYWOOD: With which medium to you prefer to work: film or video?

SCHNEIDER: Digital video.  I first started working with moving images in grad school, in 1994.  I experimented with Super8 film, but couldn’t really afford to keep working with film at the time – and video was so immediate and technically pliable – I just went with that.  But I won’t shoot any more stop-motion in standard definition video, because the detail is just not there.

As soon as I can save up for a new HD level video or digital SLR camera – I’ll make more stop-motion work.  Until then I’m doing 2D drawn animation – because I can do that in high resolution using either scanned work or a digital drawing tablet.

BEANYWOOD: Have you tried to develop an idea for a longer film; a half-hour, or even feature length?

SCHNEIDER:
Not yet.  I’m mostly interested in making really short content.

BEANYWOOD: For your readers, how would you best advise a young filmmaker interested animation to begin their studies?

SCHNEIDER: Watch as much animation as you can.  Study how things move in the real world.  Experiment a lot.

Join Our Team! Beanywood Seeks a Film Critic and Movie News Blogger

May 12, 2009

Love Writing About Movies? Want to Blog for Beanywood? Well, now’s your chance, because we’re looking for a few good writers.

Mind if we ask you a few questions?

Do you know movies?

Do you love following news about movies coming out over the next year?

Do you love seeing movies before they open and receiving DVDs for free?

If so, then the Beanywood crew wants to hear from you.

Tell us why you’re qualified to blog for Beanywood and how you can to help us deliver excellent content (news, reviews, etc) to our readers. And if you have previously published material or a movie blog, send us a link or two.

Send your email to beanywoodeditors@gmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Mass Movie Mavens Podcast – Films Heading to Beanywood

May 11, 2009

Beanywood‘s Chuck Slavin delivers the latest news…

See Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control” Free at The Brattle

April 30, 2009

On Monday, May 4th, you can see a free advance screening of Jim Jarmusch’s new film, The Limits of Control, at The Brattle Theatre. That is, if you arrive early enough.

The screening is at 7pm. It’s free and open to the public. That being the case, you won’t need a ticket. All you have to do is show up, and seating is simply on a first-come, first-served basis.

So get there early and tell the Brattle Theatre crew Beanywood sent you!

Now check these out. Two brand new preview clips to get you jazzed for the screening. (In both clips, notice Jarmusch pans his camera behind Lone Man before greeting his company.)

“Blonde (Tilda Swinton) Meets Lone Man”

“American (Bill Murray) Meets Lone Man”

The Limits of Control Trailer

David Kleiler Interviews Bestor Cram

April 24, 2009

Beanywood Interviews: Amy Grill, Director of “Speaking in Code”

April 23, 2009

Making its premiere tonight at the Somerville Theater is Speaking in Code, what may be the most in-depth expose on the techno music scene ever filmed.

Director Amy Grill, an Emerson graduate, and her husband David Day, entertainment editor of Boston’s Weekly Dig, and a techno VJ himself, spent three years crafting a film that consumed almost every aspect of their lives.

“It was almost non-stop,” says Grill. “We’d dream, eat and sleep to this music and everything about the scene.”

The inspiration to make Speaking in Code didn’t entirely derive from a desire to document the emergence of trance as a respected musical art form. “It was about finding out who these artists are,” says Grill. “And it their story that would take us and send us in the right direction.”

Grill also noticed there was “a glut of low production value” in the existing techno music documentaries. “They’re fine, but they didn’t go too far. And there’s a lot of depth in this music scene. A lot of fascinating, bizarre people. It’s deep.”

Having filmed hundreds of hours of footage, Grill and Day realized they were essentially “camera testing” the artists who would be featured in Speaking in Code. She says, “By doing that we knew we could find the characters We were able to find out which artist would open up and reveal themselves. Some did. Some didn’t. We went with the one’s who did.”

Being already immersed in the techno music scene, the filmmakers knew they had a terrific vantage point from which to give an audience an insider’s glimpse. “The scene is so much about socialization and connection,” says Grill. “There’s intimacy, honesty, and trust. These artists, all of them – Modeselektor, the Wighnomy Brothers, Ellen Allien, everyone – they had to trust us. They had to feel comfortable in order to reveal themselves so that we could learn from them.”

When the music starts, there’s a meaning. There’s something that each of the VJ’s are striving for. And there’s the hope that perhaps there’s one track that will transform an audience.

“We filmed hundreds of hours of material. You can’t use everything. Our goal was to take the track that best represented that particular show. So, in Speaking in Code, we captured that emotion and that power.  Feelings shift, moods changes, and so does the music. But it’s always the case that good music is good music.”

Speaking in Code premieres Thursday (4/23) at 7:00 pm at the Somerville Theater.

“Speaking in Code” Trailer

April 19, 2009

April 26th at the Independent Film Festival of Boston…