Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Guest Post - Margaret Orr: Animator

It is my delight to introduce a guest writer for my blog today. I was recently contacted by Margaret Orr, an animator and filmmaker from Bloomington, Indiana whose short films have been featured in film festivals around the world. 

Margaret is working to raise funds in order to work with early primary grade students in Chicago Public Schools on a very innovative animation project. As you find out by reading below, Margaret has a passion for animation and truly wishes that all age levels get to experience the magic of creating their own animation project. Click here to visit her Kickstarter page.

And now, the words of animator Margaret Orr:

Film and animation are art forms that are difficult to bring into a classroom. Animation, in particular, requires a level of patience that young children simply have not yet developed. As a result, young children are rarely exposed to this art form, and often miss out on its lessons.

I am not a teacher. I’m an animator and filmmaker. I first taught animation to students when working at summer camps as a college student. In my experience, once students reach about the age of 10, they really appreciate and are sufficiently motivated by animation. They're willing to sit down and draw for hours, sometimes making several hundred individual drawings to tell their stories. But younger students, especially those aged 6-8, tend to get extremely excited about the idea of making a movie, but don't have the patience to express themselves one frame at a time.

An answer to this problem comes from the history of animation, and is the inspiration for a project I am working on called Scribble. Long before Disney, back when film was brand new, innovative artists realized that they could scratch into the emulsion of film stock to draw pictures on film. We’re doing something a little different, but the principle is the same. By drawing onto “clear leader film” (which is a fancy way of saying clear plastic film) the students can create movement quickly in an accessible way. The students can use a wide variety of techniques to animate, depending on their interest levels, patience, and skill. For instance, they can use the film like a canvas and draw across it without concern for where each individual frame is, resulting in an abstract and disjointed animation. Or they can pay closer attention to where the frames are and actually create movement from frame to frame. They can use a wide variety of materials to create the film, including sharpie markers, paint, stamps, allowing for a wide variety of aesthetics and creative choices.
So what do you need to make something similar happen in your own classroom? There’s an unlimited number of ways to go about this. For Scribble, we’re using 35 mm clear leader film, chosen because it’s thicker than 16 mm, and thus a little easier for first-graders to use. But if you’re working with older children 16 mm film will work just as well and has the added benefit of being less expensive. Set up is fairly easy. We tape brown paper on the tables, use masking tape to tape the leader film onto the paper, and mark the paper with each frame interval (for 35 mm film there is one frame for every four sprocket holes). The students draw on the film with sharpie markers. I use a film-to-digital converter to digitize the artwork and edit it into a film, but you could also purchase a projector and screen the film directly.

Out students will have the opportunity to work with professional artists to create a film that will play at film festivals. We’re working with an incredibly talented composer, Aaron Marshall, to create music for the film. I have created four films over the last four years, all of which have played at international film festivals, so I have extensive experience with the festival circuit. We want the kids to be able to see their work on a big screen, with a packed audience to applaud when their names roll across the screen at the end. This project is as much about inspiring the next generation of filmmakers as it is about creating a film.
Examples of film created in the style described in the paragraph above. Very cool!

If you would like to support the project we’re currently raising funds for Scribble on Kickstarter. We’ll be using funds raised to purchase materials (film, markers, a film-to-digital converter, etc.), pay for the time of our composer, and for entry into film festivals once the film is completed.

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