Check out this cool Storify by one of our students, Tiana Quitugua, around American Refugees’s World Premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival! 

On Wednesday I had the chance to make my way down to Georgetown and meet Jon Goff (sound engineer) and Eric Goetz (composer) at Self Adhesive Records to hover over their shoulders and take a few photos while they conjured some sonic spirits. Photos were tough, as the lighting was dim and I left my flash at home, but chatting with the two guys and observing their methods was really neat (they’re real friendly). Unfortunately I missed the window to watch them work with professional musicians as they pieced together the scores for each short film, but the two are undoubtedly talented musicians themselves and I got to see them fill in accents to each piece, using their instruments nontraditionally (e.g. a cello bow on a cracked ride cymbal) to create various eerie and intriguing sounds. I’ve recently been drawn to sound design and film scoring, which is a field I’m pretty inexperienced in, so I hope to spend some more time down at the studio as they go into the final mastering stage this week.


I also went in to help with the stop-motion film, around the same time Bridget did.  When I got to the studio, Sihanouk gave me a tour of their part of the space, including their work area/tables and the room where they do all of the shooting.  It was interesting to see how they set up lighting, and how they angle/place objects so that they don’t look flat on camera. Although Bridget and I unfortunately didn’t go in at the same time, we did manage to tag team some of the props.  

The first time I went in I worked on building/crafting burgers, fries and soda cups as props for one of the scenes (props that Bridget later did a beautiful job painting – see previous posts).  Creating these props was probably my favorite part of helping out at the studio (I have taken sculpture classes in the past, and working on these miniatures gave me a chance to relive those days). There was another person in to help that day, Paul, who worked on the larger props.

The second time I went in I helped break down the old set and began setting up the new one.  Did you know rubbing alcohol breaks down hot glue? I didn’t.  But it came in handy when trying to pry loose lights and stands and had been stuck fast to the floor/tabletop so that they wouldn’t move between shots.   After everything was broken down, I got to play around with creating a sky color, and also got to create clouds to hang in the background.

The experience was great overall, and I got to see just how much time it takes to create a stop-motion film.  Of course you think about how much time is taken by the actual shooting of a scene in stop-motion animation, but the time that goes into building props and ‘stages’ for the characters to move around in is just as demanding.  Every aspect of stop-motion is time consuming – and during the times I popped in to the studio, we didn’t even get enough done to be ready to shoot the next scene.  However, all that time and effort is producing some great results, and the clips I got to see of finished scenes are coming together nicely.


I brought my camera and took some photos of the day’s work on Sihanouk Mariona’s stop-motion film SUPER DADS. I look forward going back and helping around the studio.

- Bridget

I had the pleasure of helping out Chris and Sihanouk at their studio last week on their stop-motion film SUPER DADS. On Friday morning, I went to the studio and got started. We all had different projects going on, as there is so much to do when you’re working in claymation and have to create a miniature world. 

I got a little tour of different environments that had and would be being shot within the upcoming week. The world was incredible. My first task was to paint little miniature burgers, fries and sodas for a restaurant scene. I didn’t quite go blind, but it certainly was a job for nimble little hands.

Secondly, I created a bunch of drawings to decorate the protagonist kid’s room. All I had to do, was pretend I was a 6 year old again - and that did the trick. The last bit I did for the day was create and paint tiny miniature colored pencils as if the little clay kid had created the drawings in the room. 

- Bridget

Bridget’s Thoughts on the Seminar

At our most recent seminar, we had the pleasure of seeing the rough cuts of the four animations focused on family homelessness. Since the last meeting, both the animation artists and directors have been working hard to create a story with voices accompanied by a form of an animation of sorts. What I found to be interesting was the diversity of styles each film followed. Without giving too much away, the mediums varied from clay to oil paintings. While they all differed in perspective and style, all were emotionally evoking. I can’t wait to see how all of the films turn out. 

Victoria’s Thoughts on our third seminar.

The rough cuts are done! And let me say, they look great.  All four sets of filmmakers have been hard at work to meet their deadlines, and a couple of weeks ago (March 12th) we finally got to see what that work has led to.  The last touches are being made on the animation before they are sent off to the ‘sound guys’. 

At the seminar, some of the videos were closer to completion than others, but all four still managed to capture the message each of the filmmakers wants to impart through their films. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are definite themes in each of them: Neely did a beautiful job showing what a community can do to provide support and help families in need; Laura Jean and Goldie have embraced the idea that homelessness can happen to anyone; Sihanouk, Heather, and Chris are working to break down stereotypes, animating the stories of three single fathers raising their children; and Drew and Amy interviewed a young man who has been on and off the streets for nearly his entire life.  These films easily work individually and put the issue of family homelessness into perspective.  However, they work together as part of a set to reiterate the idea that this is an issue that really can affect anyone, or someone you know, and that there are ways you can reach out and help within your community. Like I said, I don’t want to give too much away – you’ll have to see them in person! I will say, however, that I did get a little misty-eyed watching the videos, and I am excited to see these rough cuts develop into their final forms moving forward. 

– Victoria C.




‘American Refugees’ will premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on Monday, May 19th at the Harvard Exit - time will be TBD in the evening. More info available and how you can secure tickets at

BEHIND THE SCENE PHOTOS - Laura Jean Cronin’s Film Project

Here are photographs taken ‘behind the scenes’ on the February 15th photo shoot by Student Fellow Tanya Evanchak. A look at the moments setting up and getting everything ready in-between takes. The photos taken here will be turned into oil paintings and then animated. 

BRIAN’S FIRST DAY ON SET - Laura Jean Cronin’s Film Project

This last Saturday (the 15th that is) Tanya, Nicky and I drove out to the middle of nowhere with Lindy to help on set for Laura’s project. Now, when I say the middle of nowhere, I of course mean Orting, Washington, which is about an hour south of Seattle and sits right in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. The town was fairly quiet that morning and it was really nice to get away from the city for a moment. Unfortunately the sky was blanketed in clouds and it rained for the greater part of the day, so we didn’t have any particularly sweet views of the volcano, but I don’t think you can expect much in western Washington in February. We arrived at Laura’s house and were welcomed by not only her but her three lovely dogs, who were pretty stoked about us being there and took plenty of chances to sit in front of the camera or lay down exactly where we wanted to place a light. Fortunately they’re super well trained and it was never particularly difficult having them move for us, and let’s be honest, they were cute as heck.

I suppose I should talk about what we were actually shooting though… We spent the day taking photographs of staged scenes for Laura’s animator to use as storyboards, to make the animation process smooth and simple. Most of my day was spent assisting with lighting setups and taking some behind the scenes photos. Laura’s family/friends served as actors, who performed quite well and were fun to get to know and talk to a little, despite my social awkwardness towards strangers.

While working with Laura’s friends I realized, in a more emotionally concrete fashion, a key aspect of this entire project on family homelessness. University life often hides us from the rest of society, where people actually live with their families and go to work during the week and spend quality time with family and friends on the weekends. This may sound quite normal – that’s because it is – but while attending a university I live 800 miles from my family and my weekends usually involve working. If I get a chance to hang with friends it will usually be in the evening or late night, because everyone’s schedule really doesn’t make any sense at all. What’s more, when we watch typical Hollywood movies, the actors we see on screen are in no way what we might call normal. Actors are actually usually the most eccentric people you will meet and I think many would fit under the category of “out there.” The sheer normalcy of Laura’s friends just seemed so appropriate to what these projects are trying to convey – it’s not so easy to identify someone as homeless just by looking at them or even talking to them. Family homelessness in particular is especially elusive, as families are often remaining as functional as possible while moving from family members’ homes to family shelters to friends’ apartments to their cars, etc.

These very small details while working on these projects are what are really grasping me and helping me understand how very tangible homelessness is and how much closer it is to us than we think. As I’m experiencing the early stages of the production of these films, I’m excited to see how each filmmaker conveys the minute details that really catch us in ways we didn’t expect.

-Brian Cunningham