Every year the Sundance Film Festival committee selects a group of filmmakers who usually have day jobs. These are the short filmmakers -- often first-time directors who had no reason at the start of their process to believe they'd reach the public at all, much less at the best-known film festival in the country. The HuffPost Culture series "The Sundance Diaries" will investigate the "short" path to Sundance with regular diary-style entries from many of the 32 storytellers, animators, and documentarians whose shorts were selected this year out of a pool of 4,038.
I got the call pretty late the night before Thanksgiving day. I saw the words "SUNDANCE INSTITUTE" on my buzzing phone, which was pretty weird. I don't remember much of the conversation. But I remember my girlfriend looking at me, wanting to know what the good news was. Whatever the news, our turtle did not seem to care.
Making an animated film is like making a regular film, but much slower. Like millions of tiny decisions adding up into something watchable. It took me about a year to storyboard and animate "Dr Breakfast." I live in New York and commute daily to Connecticut, where I work as a storyboard artist at a feature film studio. So "Dr Breakfast" started as a little project to keep myself occupied on the train. I just plugged in my laptop and lightbox into electrical outlets on Metro-North. Save a few friends for voices and some awesome music and sound design, the entire process was extremely solitary. And I think the story really reflects the more solitary aspects of the creative process.
Given the film's humble beginnings, the phone call from Sundance was even more of a surprise. I know I would still be making films without Sundance, but getting that sort of acceptance really does help you know you're not crazy.
I called my parents right away, already in bed. My dad is a commercial writer and producer, and my mom is a wonderful painter -- as an animator I am every inch their mutant son. We exchanged Happy Thankgivings.
The next day we hosted friends and family at our Brooklyn apartment. Going around the table, we listed off the things we were thankful for: Loved ones, good food, jobs, "and my film got into Sundance," I said. I know I have much to be thankful for this year.
It's been a strange journey -- hopefully I can use this blog to update other animators and filmmakers on my journey. Expect a little introspection, a little behind-the-scenes, and the occasional crazy doodle.