SHORTS + Q & A - Skeleton Girl

Skeleton Girl - A cautionary tale where little Millicent discovers why it isn't a good idea to steal from the dead.

Directors/Animators: Steven Hanulik, Leo Wieser
Writers: Steven Hanulik, Lisa Godwin, Leo Wieser
Composer: Tomasz Opalka
DOP: Aaron Bernakevitch
Editor: Brock Roberts
Narrator: Elinor Holt
Producers: Becky Scott, Leo Wieser, Skeleton Girl Productions

Funders: bravoFACT, Alberta Multimedia Development Fund, NFB

Grayden Laing: How did you decide to produce this particular film?

Becky Scott: Leo (founder and co-owner with me of Bleeding Art Industries and co-director, producer of Skeleton Girl) and I always had in the back of our minds the desire to create and produce our own work under the Bleeding Art name.  By bringing together the expertise and resources the company had, teamed with the talent of others that came on board we felt that there was a positive environment to move forward. Above all we wanted to create visually compelling, good stories that would resonate with people; and ones that would have a bit of a darker edge to them. Skeleton Girl was born out of a love of the medium and of the darker films that didn’t always have a happy or easily resolved ending (think original Grimm’s only not as gory!). We also wanted to attempt something that could be constructed and filmed in house with the resources at our disposal without having to rent location space, bring in a large shooting crew, or be answerable to a lowest common denominator mentality. And we figured that shooting a short film with inanimate objects might be easier as our first film out the gate than shooting a feature with live actors!

Grayden Laing: How did you raise the money for the film?

Becky Scott: We applied for grants and received them from Bravo! FACT, the Alberta Media Fund, and the NFB. You don’t see the grants until the film is complete so we raised the interim financing through private funders and investors, and out of our own pockets.

Grayden Laing: What aspect of shooting a 3D Stereoscopic film was the most difficult to overcome?

Becky Scott: At the time we began to think seriously about this in 2009 / 2010 there were so many unanswered questions.  Many people claimed to be experts, but in the end the technology and culture of 3D was changing daily; in many respects it still is.  We could not get clear answers to how and what calculations should be used for our inter-ocular (IO) distances.  I was told that certain things would and wouldn’t work both stylistically and physically.  There was very little software that could handle our 2K files in 3D and the people at Mark Roberts were writing code for the slider overnight while we tried to keep a workflow going.  Simply put, we were working as the technology was progressing.  The final lesson was to know what the end goal is.  We created our film for the festival circuit and big screen theatres so our IO was based on a 35 foot plus screen.  For that reason – and with the encouragement from the experts to ensure a gentle 3D was used – our IO was too slight for use and saleability on small platforms, therefore limiting the saleability of the work.

Grayden Laing: What is it like to produce an animated short film in Alberta?

Becky Scott: This is an interesting question.  In a market as small as Alberta we are looked at as an oddity. Animated short films are viewed more as art pieces and personal labours of love.  Thus the kind of people who are creating them are artist driven with very little background in the film industry.  We on the other hand know the art, and work in the business, which makes us a fish out of water in a number of camps.  We in fact had a representative from the NFB sit at a local museum’s discussion panel on stop animation, all while we were in production for Skeleton Girl, tell the assembly that western Canada was not known for any quality of stop animated work.   This was quite disturbing to us and a challenge to prove him wrong.   I know that a lot of people viewed it as a crazy venture, especially when hearing it was in 3D, but it has been a critical success on a number of points and has distinguished itself for over a year and a half on the festival circuit and that is enviable to a lot of short films.   We are also able to crow that it is the first native 3D stop animated film produced in Canada.   I think what is most interesting however is not an Alberta specific issue, but a Canadian issue.  We have received much more attention on the world market and generally get passed over by Canadians.  I wonder if it really is a case of being from somewhere else is better to the psyche of Canadians.  Thus the brain drain of talented individuals and companies is a fait a complete under this kind of environment.  I find this both sad and wrong.

Grayden Laing: Did you go to any of the international film festivals your film screened at and, if so, did your being Canadian affect how people responded to you or your film?

Becky Scott: We attended the world premiere at Be Film The Underground Film Festival in New York, Screamfest in Los Angeles, and of course the local screenings at the International Festival of Animated Objects and the Calgary International Film Festival. Amanda Rye – one of our crew and Bleeding Art employees – attended HollyShorts in LA. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend the European and Australian screenings. At every screening we did make it to, it was a really interesting experience to see how people responded to the film and engaged with it. People had so much to say about it and were coming to all sorts of conclusions about what they thought some of it was about. I loved that; to have people discuss and argue about your film and what it means tells me it’s a good film. If I go to a movie and never talk about it again, to me that’s not a good story because something hasn’t resonated with me. The only comment connected to us being Canadian was how fortunate we are to be able to access some of the grants we got. In the US, those don’t exist. Other than that, people are surprised that a company such as ours exists in a place like Calgary. It’s not like we’re the hotbed of innovative filmmaking – yet.