Director Biography – Chia-Hsin Lee (IN AN EMPTY WOOD)

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Chia-Hsin Lee is an animation filmmaker currently studying in California Institute of the Arts.

Director Statement

In the summer of 2017, while I was being a volunteer art teacher in Taiwan, I met a fellow volunteer who shared the same belief with me as if we were twins. But instead of being close, we were very jealous of each other, for I used to be a conservation activist which she currently is, and she was once an artist which I currently am. Our path seemed to have exchanged. In the frustrations of coping with this jealousy, I wrote this poem.

During the months of film production, Erin McDermott helped design the visuals, and my CG teachers Dariush Derakhshani and Andrew Bac helped with the technical aspect of making my first CG film. Sound was an important element in this film. Hao Feng provided his voice and acting, Kion Heidari wrote and sang the ambience score, Ben Scanlan was the percussionist, Alberto Cruz recorded the sounds, and Ben Huff did the incredible sound mixing.

And last, thank you, my Blue, whom I believe is doing something amazing on the other side of the world. This film is to you.

Director Biography – Ashley Gerst (THE SPIRIT SEAM)

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Ashley Gerst is a 2D and 3D animator living in Brooklyn NY. She holds a BFA in Digital Arts from Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA in Computer Art from School of Visual Arts.

In addition to her professorial work at William Paterson, Ashley is a freelance animator working for a variety of production companies and clients in the Greater New York City area. She has created animation and VFX for broadcast commercials, TV shows, and documentaries for AMC, VH1, and BET. Some of her clients include Fast Company, Behance, Credit Suisse, Nivea, Nissan, Afrin, Red Bull, Hudson Media, CBS, Nurturing Press, iNomadics, Redwood Living and more.

Ashley Gerst was also responsible for animating the title sequence for the 2018 feature film ‘The Con is On’. The film, distributed by Grindhouse/Lionsgate, is a heist comedy directed by James Haslam and stars Uma Thurman and Tim Roth.

She is currently finishing an animated short film titled the Spirit Seam. The film, taking place in 1952, follows a little girl named Pollywog and her PapPaw as they experience daily life in a small coal mining town in Appalachia. The final project combines a mixture of mediums: 3D animated character, 2D animated effects, and physically constructed sets. The sets were created with a combination of 3D printing, fiber arts, and carved sculpture.

The Spirit Seam’s concept art and set construction has been featured in the article “Explore the World of Fine-Art Animation” in Professional Artist Magazine’s December/January 2017-2018 issue. The sets and embroidery for the film were also in a solo show at Misbits Gallery in 2018 in Oxford Mississippi.

Other animated films created by Ashley Gerst have been screened nationally in several film festivals including Dam Short Film Festival, Tucson Slow Food and Film Festival, Standing Rock Film Festival (Third Place Award). Her films have also been exhibited in the Cleveland Museum of Art and featured in Cleveland’s local newspaper: The Plain Dealer, LA Weekly and Makezine.

Director Biography – Suraya Raja (DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT)

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Suraya Raja is an animator and director, and a graduate of the National Film and Television School, where she completed an MA in Animation Direction. Her films tell stories of the absurdity of human behaviour, the internal and the tragicomic, influenced by her previous work in psychology and social issues, and also by her day-to-day observations of human behaviour.

Director Statement

I get a lot of inspiration from my observation of people, and am really interested in how we think and behave. I have an interest in stories, which inhabit the internal, of mental health, perception and the comedy of human behaviour and interaction. Often my ideas come from social interactions in the mundanity of every-day life, and sometimes from my background of working in homelessness, psychology, substance use and offending.

I am drawn to creating characters that come across as weird or unpleasant, and shifting the perspective as we start to recognise ourselves in them. I am fascinated by the way in which we all think, and how we are really not all that different from one another. I wanted to make a film about a character’s experience of a mental health issue, without it being explicitly about a mental health issue, a story that people could engage with as a story. It couldn’t be educational or preachy, and needed to have a humorous edge, without being condescending.

I chose to make a story of a girl who experiences puro OCD, a form of OCD that is less known about. Intrusive thoughts, generally unspoken of, are something we all experience. My intention was to present these thoughts, often bizarre, taboo and funny, in a way that we can relate to, and to then reveal the more serious and distressing nature of the problem for Layla. I also wanted to really get across the internal thoughts, as they might be experienced, through the use of mixed techniques, contrasting physical textures, and sound.

Layla learns that facing your fears is a way to overcome them. Through avoidance techniques, Layla has learnt to ‘get by’ in day-to-day life, until suddenly she is confronted with her darkest fears. Ultimately Layla makes the decision to face these fears to save Friskies, the cat she loves, and in doing so realises she can trust herself. After the turmoil she experiences in the shed, a terrifying battle with her own thoughts, she is surprised to find herself still holding onto an object that she would have struggled to even look at before. As she looks at the object she experiences a sensation. She is not ‘cured’, but better able to deal with the issue she has.

Director Biography – Arna Selznick (THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING)

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Arna Selznick is an award-winning director and story artist. As a pioneering female director of animated feature films such as The Care Bears Movie in 1984, Arna inspires and entertains families with her imaginative storytelling. Arna’s director credits include: The Care Bears Movie, Little Bear (season 2), and Back to School with Franklin. In addition, Arna’s feature story artist credits include feature films such as: The Nut Job Sequel, Spark, and Rock and Rule; and television series such as: Nerds and Monsters, Kate and Mim-Mim, 6teen, The Animated Mr. Bean, and The Inspector Gadget original series.

Director Statement

When I was 8 years old, I was much like our hero, the Girl in our film. She is a maker of things. She has a best friend Dog, and they do everything together. Yup, that’s how I was then. Me, always drawing and making things, and my dog always by my side. So, I jumped at the chance to direct this short film adaptation of writer/artist Ashley Spires’ book, THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING.

The creative journey is often not an easy one, as Spires so well depicts in the book. When things go right, we feel the absolute joy of creation! But when things go wrong, we might persist and persist, only to reach a point when we feel there is nothing left to do but give up. That’s when the breakthrough comes for our Girl.

As Girl says in our film, making stuff is hard! The process of adapting this book to film was all that and a total joy.

I was honoured to work with my screenwriter partner, husband John van Bruggen, who crafted our lovely screenplay.

I was thrilled to work with Nelvana’s talented Most Magnificent team, who brought the vision of our story to life. Every day, the crew achieved a new level of technical expertise and creativity. We wanted our computer-generated film world to feel handmade, so we designed wonky, uneven shapes. Girl’s ‘made things’ are quirky and incredibly ingenious. Our characters are gorgeously furred. Surface textures are subtle and deep. We animated mostly on twos, like a stop motion film. The animation is sensitive, and the characters feel genuine. Our sound designers included extensive real time Foley and a beautiful score from Judith Gruber-Stitzer.

Our exceptional voice cast includes Whoopi Goldberg as Narrator, Alison Pill as Mom, Lilly Bartlam as Girl, and Tony Daniels as her hilarious friend Dog.

At the heart of our story is our Girl’s journey. It begins with a new toolbox and ends with a new perspective: What’s truly magnificent can be something simple, that is made for a friend.

I hope you enjoy watching THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING as much as I did making it.

Arna Selznick
September, 201

Director Biography – Barbara Peikert (MI DI WORM)

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Baraba-pe was born and raised in Switzerland. Since 2009 she has been working as a self-producer, filmmaker, photographer and sound artist in the art Atelier a./f. As the founder of the theory of Astrazione-fiction, she has been contributing to the development of abstract fictional art since 2005. The fields of interest of the experimental and animated films concentrate on the chromatic flow and the fictive abstraction, holography, photography, light and sound effects enrich the aesthetic perception on the basis of the filmography of ECLAT/ECRAN (Shine/ Screen). She studied at the Masana in Barcelona, at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, at the INA-GRM in Paris in Audio Engineering and Digital Sound Design and was assistant of sound installations at the CRM (Centro ricerche musicale) in Rome. She graduated from the Università di Sapienza di Roma, the ENSAD High School and the Universities of Paris 1+8: Master in Art, Aesthetics and Light Design.

Experimental films:
Cartoons with 2D Animation+3D illusions templates, color, sound:
2018 MI DI WORM no. 10, 1′; MI DI WORM no. 1-19 (year of reference 2015); AF_VOLVERSTOI_no 1-65; AF_ST-TIC_TAC; AF_SAGOMA, 25’’; Periplaneta, 6’ (shooting Spain)
Staging with RGB flow lighting effects and geometric shapes (year of shooting France 2005):
2017/19 AF_EINSTRAHLER (Radiator) 10’; AF_WRACK, 13’; HEXA SEXTA 16’; Bille Balle (BALL BALLOON) 190“; AF_EINäuger (One eye) 10′
Space and time axis model the sequence of the images and stage the discolored color flow
2018 AF_SO_WAL, 4’; AF_SOMONT_NB, 145’’; AF_SOMONT_R, 140’’; AF_SO-RO, 4’37’’
Early Experimental films of astrazione-fiction:
2012 A- SOL_TIC, 2010 WRACK_CUBE, 10’; 2008 Blue-TUONO, 15’; CA-lunatic, 4’; compilation Eclat/Ecran 2004 (Prismis, Bleu électrique, Halo4).

For additional information, please contact me.

Director Statement

The intermittent image sequence is noise for tone painting: rattling noise, rumble, rattle, clatter, jingle, and in part appear to be synchronized with the image sequence of this simulated sound. “Abstract worms” may have last three attempts to call all together with ironic and exotic whistle and rattle noises. The painting seems floating and disappearing in darkness.

The sequences of simple forms transform smoothly into animated films. Geometrically technical composition principles are explored: the self-producing world of images integrates the search for a color logic, conceptual contexts of image design and is automated as a self-emitting reflection, reacting to stimuli with a tone-painting stimulus.
Baraba-pe, 2018

Director Biography – Brandon Swofford (HAPPY THE ANGRY POLAR BEAR)

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Brandon is an Animator, Filmmaker, and Actor in Los Angeles, California and has been furiously drawing ever since he was a fetus.

Don’t worry, his mother is fine.

When he is not drawing away, he is usually performing, watching movies, hiking, exploring the zoo or making videos for his Youtube channel where he serves an audience of over 100K Subscribers.

He is ready.

Director Biography – Juha FIilin (DIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING)

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Juha Fiilin, the creator of Divine Consultants, has 20 years of award winning experience in flm, broadcast and online projects in over 10 countries. Juha lives and works in Barcelona, Helsinki and London.

Juha’s short film ‘Job Interview’ based on Divine Consultants has won 5 times the Best Animation Award – has been Nominated Finalist 5 times and been in over 30 Offcial Selections in film festivals worldwide.

Director Statement

Divine Consultants combines adventure and social criticism in a highly innovative form – something we have not seen before on silver screen, online and television. It’s an entertaining sci-f adventure comedy for young adults.