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Savannah Film Festival: SCAD student shorts, Part One
Claire Almon's "Grampa Kavorkian"

There are 13 student–made short films in competition at the 2010 Savannah Film Festival. Of these, seven were made by current or recently–graduated SCAD students.

Over the festival’s eight days, they’re being screened in groups, as addenda to various features, and as part of the SCAD Student Showcase on Nov. 1 (see our Screening Schedule for details).

We spoke with all seven of the SCAD short–makers. Look for the remainder in next week’s issue, as we cover Part Two of the 2010 Savannah Film Festival.

En Route

A live–action short, it begins with the horrific, burning image of a downed passenger jet. Then we see the pilot’s life in reverse – including jobs, marriage and school – going all the way back to his boyhood fascination with planes and flight.

Filmmaker: Colin Levy

Age: 22

Hometown: Lutherville, Md.

At SCAD: Film & Television program

Where’d the idea come from?: “I like the idea of following somebody’s life visually as they find their niche in society. Visually, there’s a lot you could explore in a short film: A kid who loves the water ends up being a marine biologist. A kid flying a kite ends up being a pilot. But it wasn’t until I found the twist, the reverse–chronological approach, that I felt this was a movie I had to make.

“It’s interesting to contemplate how the decisions you’ve made in your life have built upon each other and, bit–by–bit, assemble your present self. Even the smallest decisions could have unexpected and unlikely implications; a choice between, say, Raisin Bran and Fruit Loops may actually be a choice between two diverging futures. With this film I wanted to explore fate and destiny, chance and possibility – raising questions more than making a particular statement.”

How was it made?: “We set out to capture some pretty ambitious images in the making of En Route. My visual effects supervisor Sandro Blattner led over a dozen artists on the visual effects for many months – every one of them deserves a lot of recognition. A lot of the live–action cockpit footage was shot on green screen. The plane crash was almost entirely CG. The plane and debris were modeled, lit and textured by hand, smoke was simulated and rendered at high resolution, the live–action elements were painstakingly rotoscoped, and final touches, including falling embers and heat waves, were composited in to give you the finished shots.”

Grampa Kavorkian

A charming, hand–drawn black–and–white short in which children share their memories of their late grandfather (they are the filmmaker’s siblings).

Filmmaker: Claire Almon

Age: 29

Hometown: Augusta

At SCAD: Working on her MFA in Animation thesis at the Atlanta campus

Where’d the idea come from?: “Aram Trevor Kevorkian was my maternal grandfather. He was larger than life, charismatic, generous and the patriarch of the family. To his grandkids, he was almost magical. In my eyes he was full of gentleness, laughter, and joy even though he could be stern at times. We had a special relationship of mutual adoration and love that really can’t be described in words.”

How was it made?: “I animated the piece by drawing each frame in Flash and then I painted every frame digitally in Photoshop. So even though it was digital it was all hand drawn with a Cintiq.  My goal was to achieve the look and feel of pen and ink wash.

“I wanted to evoke the bittersweet feeling of remembering someone we’ve loved dearly and lost. The end goal was to create an emotional experience that an audience could share in, rather than presenting a play–by–play retelling.”

Mon Monde

In this delightful hand drawn/cut–out animated short, a boy and a girl meet, and as the hands of a clock move forward in time they each live a separate life, eventually maturing, growing old ... and coming together again.

Filmmaker: Chrystin Garland

Age: 22

Hometown: Elk Grove, Cal.

At SCAD: Graduated last spring with a BFA in Animation

Why this subject?: “I am a really big romantic, so it was inevitable that I would gravitate towards something about love and loss. The image of a wooden cuckoo clock came to mind. There are some clocks that have a bird pop out and chirp every hour, while others feature a little boy and girl emerging from the clock. Regardless whether they kiss or dance across the stage, it got me thinking ... ‘What happens after they go back inside?’

“I thought it was kind of sad that the couple only saw each other once every hour, only to immediately return to their own separate doorways. I know that if I lost someone I loved, I’d want to search for him as long as I could. This film is kind of an exploration of that.”

How was it made?: “After a lot of brainstorming, we decided that animating the film in Adobe Flash would be the best production method. Once the characters where moving properly, a team of artists and I would break up each piece of the character to color on separate layer. This way we could create the illusion of a ‘cut out’ puppet with separated joints. The whimsical background pieces were all created in Photoshop, and later composited in Adobe After Effects, where some very talented compositors added paper textures and shadows to all of the characters and environments. This stage of post production is also where effects, such as the twinkling lights and moving cog pieces, where added.”


A very short short done with computer animation. A spaceman lands in an alien world, only to be challenged by an odd, enormous monster who seems to be made of magnetic rectangles and squares.

Filmmaker: Alex Knoll

Age: 23

Hometown: Holland, Mich.

At SCAD: Graduated last spring with a BFA in Animation

Why this type of animation?: “I’m drawn to computer animation primarily because it’s like an infinite space in which I can create and play with ‘toys,’ definitely a childhood dream of mine.

“Most people who go into this field and similar ones, all probably aspire to shoot for the very top of the chain, wanting to direct or be the producer, but I really just want to work as a regular animator on fun projects with fun people.”

Was it fun or arduous?: “My original project I had roughly eight months invested into working on it, primarily by myself, when I realized it was too ambitious and wouldn’t get done. I had the space guy already finished, but everything else was a disaster and I had to scrap the whole project. So besides the space guy I made this entire thing from scratch in just over 24 hours (since I had to have SOMETHING done in order to graduate). I worked with a sound guy for a few months after that and had some time to clean up some of the effects, but the bulk of the project was done in only a day (something I will hopefully never have to do again).”