By Ariel Noltimer Strauss, Spring 2017 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellow04.11.17
Hi! I’m Ariel. If you’re reading this, you’re on the Jacob Burns website (I presume) and I’m super excited to announce that I am the new Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellow (long title = importance), which means I get to make a project over the next couple months with the help and support of this center - which is incredible! I’ve been working at the center for approximately two weeks and I couldn't be happier. Everyone is so cool and smart, and I’m honored I get to use their help to make a project and become part of this community!
So, to tell a little about myself, I finished art school over in Providence, RI at the Rhode Island School of Design last spring, where I studied in the film, animation and video department (FAV as we liked to call it). This will be the first project of my own work I’ll have done since school. It’s fun and exciting for me to have had a little break from school and that environment but being able to really utilize what I learned while I was there on something new.
While I was in school I kind of found my “voice” if you will, or I guess just what I’m excited by, and am still excited by right now (which is a bunch of things but anyways—relevant to this): First, stop-motion animation and second, telling narratives via a visual language. I’ll go into a little detail on both:
- Stop-Motion: I really like stop motion animation and I’m grateful to have found it at school. I really like working with my hands and having control over things, and stop-motion animation is a medium in which you essentially play God over a tiny universe that you build from scratch. It’s really fun to be able to imagine something and then try with your best ability to bring it to fruition. Sometimes it comes out as what you imagine, and sometimes it takes on a totally different life of its own, which is a cool way of learning. The other big thing I really like about “stop-mo” is the sort of freaky and unnatural quality of movement it has, which is so different then a kind of movement you get from computer and digital animation. I think the quality touches on something humane and for me helps add to a narrative in reflecting more accurately what life feels like: oftentimes awkward and a little clunky.
- Telling Narratives via Visual Language: I am someone who is very visually-oriented, and I’m really excited about the idea of using visual language such as material, texture, color, form and movement as a vehicle for telling a narrative. This goes perfectly with creating things by hand for stop-motion. Inside a stop-mo set, a material is shot and looks almost as if it’s through a microscope while on screen because of the scale stop-mo works in. This allows me to experiment with different materials and different processes of making, which is one of my favorite things. While I was in school I got really into glassblowing in the latter two years and it helped me realize how much I love material exploration. Glass blowing takes years to get good at, and so much time and practice—which I didn’t have—so my approach was always that of an amateur. My partner and I (you always blow in a team, and my partner and I are good friends that both came over from the FAV) weren't as invested in being “good glass blowers” as we were in just playing with the material and letting the process and material have more agency, than trying to fully manipulate the material into an idea of what I wanted it to be. I realized a process I enjoy a lot is the process of making like an amateur and following “happy accidents.”
I am excited to say that the project I am working on as a fellow will include both of these things, as I create a short stop-motion puppet ballet. To follow the process and making-of over the next few months, you can follow me on the gram (Instagram handle @Ariel.Biz) or check out my other work at arielcassandra.com!