SOLSTICE, 7min., USA, Animation
Directed by Justin Vu
A young woman and her husky dog take the long journey home on foot through the Alaskan wilderness, with all its beauty and all its danger.
Can ONE animator create a cinematic character-driven adventure film in a year? For my capstone/thesis project, I put that to the test.
I believe this film can give a glimpse to the brighter future of indie 3D animated film, where the tools to create cinematic level work are more accessible, and where large crews and studios are not a requirement.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
As more people become more reliant on electronics, I reflect on all the good times and lessons I have had without such conveniences. Perhaps the thing that motivated me the most was trying to help people imagine how their lives could be if modern electronic conveniences were suddenly unavailable due to real cosmic phenomena such as a Carrington Event.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From idea to finish was just over two years. Character sketches and storyboards started during Summer 2020, 3D animation production began in Spring 2021 and finished Spring 2022.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The technical learning curve. When I began 3D production, I had less than 1 month’s experience using Unreal Engine; a program used primarily for making videogames, which I would rely on to create scenes quickly. In an industry where animators are expected to create 3D feature quality animation at 3-5 seconds per week, making a 5 minute short (which would balloon to 7 minutes) in 1 year was madly ambitious.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was grateful that the thought and effort I made for story, theme and design were being recognized. I appreciate the various commentators for their openness and insight. When I saw people would be recording their feedback, I was nervous for myself and my film at first. Overall, the reception and feedback was better than I was expecting.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Like many people, I grew up enjoying films. But a film that moved me to begin seriously consider film-making was “Waltz with Bashir” by Ari Folman (2008). The use of heavily styled animation to explore such heavy topics such as war, psychological trauma and disassociation all helped me imagine how I would tell the history of my own family living in a warzone.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Perhaps my most re-watched feature film would be “Garden of Words” by Makoto Shinkai (2013). To me, it’s an exciting yet easy re-watch for its relatively short length (45 minutes) and that it really lives up to the “every frame a painting” expression. Like most animated film, every stroke and line is made by design. Natural phenomena are animated and illustrated with such high fidelity and style it almost FEELS more real than reality. For anyone who wants to venture into making animation, every shot has something worth studying. My only complaint would be about the how the visual motifs can be a little too subtle in the way they support the story.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Film Festivals should be a way for filmmakers to directly connect with an audience and to have dialogue over the work. Your festival is further ahead than many others in this regard with the feedback reels which are insightful and succinct
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Overall, the experience has been positive. I appreciate how streamlined the process is in finding audiences and applying.
10. What is your favorite meal?
It’s a tie between Pho and American Thanksgiving, but not for their similarities of which there are few.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Working on paid gigs with the skills I learned and sharpened from this film. That college debt isn’t going away by itself! Still, I got other film ideas I think I can carry most of the way by myself, including some sci-fi and action thrillers.