April 24th – 27th, 2008 Bijou Art Cinemas - Eugene, Oregon
Q: Drawn on about 2,300 yellow sticky notes, your film gives a personal timeline and visual reflection on events since 2001. Did you have an audience in mind for this project? Was it mostly for self-reflection?
A: After realizing that yellow sticky note "to do" lists were consuming my life, I decided to visually self-reflect on this filmmaking journey by animating on the same sticky notes that caused me to ignore major world events for the last nine years. When I started out making this film it really was just something I wanted to do for myself. I really had no idea if it would even work considering it was drawn on nothing but 4x6 inch sticky notes with only a black pen. I kept thinking, this could be the biggest disaster of my life or it might actually be pretty cool. I'm glad with the great reception and accolades the film has received since it's release, that people of all ages are enjoying and relating to the film.
YELLOW STICKY NOTES was created out of a response to how busy my life had become after pursuing my career as a professional independent filmmaker. I used yellow sticky notes to organize my daily schedule of 'to do' lists. After realizing one day that my entire workstation was covered with these 'to do' lists I decided it was time to slow down and reflect on the world events I was ignoring because I was so focused on my own life. This self-reflection on world events was achieved by animating directly back on the sticky notes that made me ignore the world around me. The film is an honest and open look at the last 9 years of my life and filmmaking career. Animated reflections about major world events like 911, the South Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, global warming, the Virginia Tech shootings are juxtaposed with actual 'to do' lists of what I was doing when those events happened and how my life was impacted indirectly by these events without my even realizing.
Q: During production, did people think you were crazy to spend so much time drawing on sticky notes? How was "Yellow Sticky Notes" received by other festivals and audience members?
A lot of people thought it was strange I was animating entirely on sticky notes but they were also intrigued by how it would look and turn out. I wanted the film to have a sketchy rough feel, much like someone doodling on a notepad - although these doodles were coming to life via animation. It's important for me to keep creating animation the traditional way - by hand. I try to rely on using as little computer aid as possible. Therefore, most of my classically animated films are hand rendered instead of being rendered with a computer.
When I premiered the film at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, it was one of the most nerve racking experiences I've ever had. I thought everyone would hate the film or not understand it. Although to my surprise, the audience really responded well to the film. I even ended up winning the first ever Animasian Award for Best Animated Film at the festival. It was a great honor especially considering the film had $100 budget and was competing against films with $150,000 budgets. YELLOW STICKY NOTES speaks to the busy and hectic lifestyle many North Americans live and urges people to slow down and observe the world around us. From audience responses, many people have told me how much they relate to the film. I get quite a few emails a day from people who've seen the film at festival and comment how much it made them think critically about the world around them. One festival director told me that she felt that she had had a heart to heart with an old friend after she watched yellow Sticky Notes. This is the reason why I make films! The film is in the official competition at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and I'm really looking forward to seeing how audiences in New York react to the film, especially with a reference to 911 in the film.
Q: Given that this style of animation is so time consuming, how do you choose what to animate? How does the artistic process influence the content?
A: This film took me 9 months to animate the 2300 drawings. Although, this was one of the most liberating filmmaking experiences of my life. I had no budget, no deadline, no broadcaster breathing down my neck. I animated only when I felt inspired. Being created on sticky notes meant I could animate anywhere and while I was traveling with my last film on the festival circuit, I could animate on the plane or in the hotel room. It was amazing just to make a film for me and not have to worry about anything else. The straight ahead animation style I chose was really freeing. If I made a mistake with the black pen I had to throw out the sticky note and start again. I could just self reflect through the process of animation meditation - a stream of consciousness. As I animated, I had no idea of the sequencing the film would take. All I wanted is for the animation to flow from text to imagery. It's a high concept film where I had no idea when I would be finished because I really had no ending. One day I just decided I was done and I laid out all the piles of sticky notes and arranged them in an order that made sense to me. I can't wait to create another film using this method!
Q: One sticky note mentioned how you become more well-known for your mixed-race identity advocacy than for your filmmaking. Did you intend to become an activist through filmmaking? Do you see your activism as separate from your filmmaking?
A: I had no idea after creating my hapanimated film, WHAT ARE YOU ANYWAYS?, that I would become an international spokesperson for multiracial identity. The topic is so hot right now that I was being asked daily to do interviews, workshops, conferences, key-note, university lectures where I would show, WHAT ARE YOU ANYWAYS?, and talk about the issues and experiences I had growing up half-Japanese in small town Canada. It was definitely something I hadn't expected but found myself really getting into discussing the issues and becoming a social justice advocate through the creation of that film. Although, after three years of doing that, it was getting really annoying having to answer the same questions over and over again. So, really the direct response to this was to make YELLOW STICKY NOTES, a film so different from my last animation that I could just escape into it when I wanted to take my mind off things. As a filmmaker, I realized I am a bit of an activist because I believe films should inspire, enlighten, educate, inform, but most importantly entertain because if it's not entertaining it won't appeal to people. The one thing I'll never do in my films is preach to people. I want the audience to form their own questions, think, and go out and seek their own answers.
Q: Your upcoming project, ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY, is a 44-minute live-action with animation documentary on a Japanese-Canadian family reunion. How is production going? How was the transition to live-action direction?
A: Yes, I'm going back to the topic of multiracial identity and interracial marriage in a documentary where I explore the explosive 95% interracial marriage rate amongst Japanese Canadians and look at how issues of multiracial identity have shifted over the years. The film is entitled ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY, combining live action with animation. After attending the reunion, I decided to embark on a journey of self-discovery to find out why everyone in my extended Japanese-Canadian family married interracially after my grandparents' generation and what the future holds for all the mixed-race kids. Through my investigation, animation and narration are used to transition from narrative stories, interviews, and archival photos and film while exploring a unique outlook on Canadian multiculturalism from the perspective of four generations spanning Japanese-Canadian children of mixed decent, interracial couples, and opinions from Japanese elders who lived through WWII. I'm hoping the film will be released in early 2009. Live action is definitely a lot different than animation but it's a new medium and I love the challenge. I really liked how Ann Marie Flemming combined animation and live action with her documentary, THE MAGICAL LIFE OF LONG TACK SAM. I plan on incorporating similar techniques but keeping within my style of experimental and cartoony animation. Check out more at my production blog http://citizen.nfb.ca/blogs/category/one-big-hapa-family
jeffchibastearns - meditating bunny studio
animation + illustration + design + video + story