PACEMAKER, 9min., UK, Animation
Directed by Brian Vincent Rhodes, Christopher Lennertz
An animated musical about a lonely widower awaiting a Pacemaker to save his life who gets his real second chance at true love by opening his heart and accepting his grandson's identity.
Get to know the filmmakers
Christopher Lennertz - Writer, Director, Composer - CL
Brian Vincent Rhodes - Director - BVR
A Running Commentary - Production Company - ARC
1. What motivated you to make this film?
CL: The initial seed of an idea came from my Father-In-Law, after he had a Pacemaker surgery and his demeanor and energy changed immediately. Then, his health declined again, and my oldest came out as gay. He became more conservative as his well being suffered. Then, a second pacemaker was put in and his open-mindedness followed suit yet again. The more his heart could beat with his own internal rhythm, the more open he was to love, joy, and acceptance. I thought that this was a great analogy for every person’s identity…and also a great lyric for a song, so my son Tobi and I decided that we would make an animated musical, like the ones we loved to watch together, but as an example of trans acceptance that major studios were not comfortable doing yet.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
CL: 20 Months
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
CL: Love & Joy
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
BVR: From a film perspective we were not sure about how to make a short film feel like a musical and not a music video. Looking back I had never really seen a musical animated short, especially at 6 minutes, so it required us to break down what make a musical a "musical". It was fun.
From a budget level, we had a big hurdle. We originally thought we would make the film in the states. We had a shoestring budget, so making it in America would have required outside financing. I had worked with Ben and Alex of ARC in the UK previously on a Netflix project and we really connected. When we approached ARC about the project, they were ecstatic and began thinking through ways to make our current budget work, but it had to be in London and physical production had to be withing 16 months. This was a crunch but we went for it. I'm glad we did.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
CL: I was so thrilled and touched that everything we wanted to convey in the film, seemed to really shine through. The audience members really got our story and message and seemed to relate to our characters. So grateful that they shared with us so honestly.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
BVR: I loved animation since my earliest memories and later comics. It took me a while to come around to the idea of me being the person that made them. Coming from Detroit, Los Angeles and animation felt like another universe. Also I was doing engineering and other things, which made me wonder if I still had it in me draw at that level. It was way into my twenties and didn't act on it till years later. I am beyond happy I did. I love animation.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
BVR: Probably Forrest Gump. Maybe the Dark Knight next.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
BVR: Just meeting other great artists, being inspired by seeing great films and building community.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
ARC: We have found FilmFreeway to be a really useful platform, everything is in one place and very easy to use. A great bonus feature is that some festivals downloaded all of the assets directly from the website which made things very quick and easy for both parties.
10. What is your favorite meal?
CL: I’m originally from Boston, so I’d probably say Lobster…and I’m Italian, so maybe on Pasta!
BVR: HEAVY breakfast person. My favorite meal is probably scrambled eggs with feta cheese. Oh and some grits or pancakes. I'm pretty simple.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
CL: Next for me is finishing writing the music for S4 of The Boys and a new Netflix film called Back In Action, while writing my stage musical BeAPart, and developing a feature length animated musical.
BVR: I am working on a new TV pilot that I am excited about and developing a new feature-length animated musical.