Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Recently, I was asked some questions by some animation students at Emily Carr University about what makes a good director. Here are some of my responses to their questions. Enjoy!
1. What are your fundamental roles and responsibilities as a director?
All films are the direct result of the director's creative vision. The director is in charge of all aspects of creating a good film. It is the job of a director to take a weak script and make it stronger, make sure performances and animation are convincing, making sure the crew is motivated and inspired and overall all elements of music and sound design are working with the visual elements of the film. A director is first and foremost a filmmaker and should be ready and comfortable to wear multiple hats during the production of a film. Sometimes an independent animation director will handle all aspects of story, animation, and production. Therefore, it is important that the director is good at directing his/herself. Which is why I've taken a very
existentialist approach to my own animation and filmmaking.
2. How did you arrive at the position of 'director' for the first time
I became a director when I started making short animated films. Even though I was not directing huge crews, I was directing myself and that is sometimes the most difficult of all directing because you must push yourself towards trying to achieve perfection. Which is always impossible but it's important to stay motivated and focused. This is why I have coined the phrase: "Animation is meditation" Whenever you stamp your film with "a film by" you become a brand and your films become reflections of your creative vision.
3. What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of being a director?
The most difficult aspect of directing is making sure your creative vision is properly represented through the final film. Every film you create becomes an extension of you. If you just pump out films that take no effort, have terrible stories, etc. they become part of your filmography and that can never be erased. Plus you'll start form a reputation for creating bad work. The hardest part of being a director is keeping your integrity and fighting to only make good work. Sometimes that involves a battle with producers and other outside influences and sources. It's best to just stick to your guns and go with your best intuition. If you're losing control of a project of it's not becoming your own, move on and find a new project that you can be proud of.
4. Why become a director as opposed to any other job in the film/game industry?
The director has most of the creative control over a project. You are the boss. The producer can shut you down but if they've hired you, they've hired you for a reason...because they believe in your vision and approach. Therefore, you need to fight for that vision at all cost. For me, I have been fortunate to play the role of director who owns all my content. Thus, I own and control 100% of the project after it's finished. I am in the position to hire my producers which is a different type of approach. I really encourage directors to keep control of their work in this way. That way they know that their vision is properly being represented after it's been created.
5. Where do find you creative spark to create a film?
Creativity comes from the strangest places and at all times. Keep a notepad by you at all times to write down ideas and catalogue them. Find what works best for you and just brainstorm ideas for stories as you think of them. Some of my best ideas while I'm developing a film come just before I go to bed when my brain is racing with ideas and thoughts. I always write them down and organize them in the morning.
When it comes to creating new work, take a look at those archived ideas and go with the one that really jumps out at you a the time. Like I said animation is meditation. I don't listen to music while animating and let my mind and thoughts wonder. Because of that, my animation is strengthened because I'm always reflecting on my next movement. Music or any other sound can distract from that process. Sure it can drive you a bit crazy but make sure to take regular breaks. Other than that all ideas are good ideas...but not all good ideas make good films.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY
85 MINUTE DIRECTOR’S CUT SCREENINGS
2010 Calgary International Film Festival – Sept. 23 to Oct. 2, 2010
SCREENING: September 26, 2:45pm at the Globe Cinema
2010 San Diego Asian Film Festival – Oct. 21 to 28, 2010
SCREENING: Saturday, October 23, 2:10 pm at the UltraStar Theatre - Sharp
BRITISH COLUMBIA PREMIERE:
2010 Vancouver Asian Film Festival – Nov. 4 to 7, 2010
SCREENING: Sunday, November 7, 7:00pm at the Tinseltown Theatre
Public and Cast/Crew Screening – 2 screenings - Nov. 9 & 10 at 7pm
Tickets $10 available at door only - Free for Cast and Crew
SCREENING: Nov. 9 to 10, 2010 - KLO Okanagan College Lecture Theatre 1000 KLO Road – Student Services Building
Q&A with Jeff Chiba Stearns to follow screening
48 MINUTE BROADCAST VERSION SCREENINGS
WASHINGTON DC PREMIERE:
2010 DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival – Oct. 7 to 16, 2010
SCREENING: October 12, 2010, 7:30pm – Goethe Institute
2010 Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival – Nov. 9 to 14, 2010
SCREENING: Sunday, November 14 at 4:45pm - Innis Town Hall – Innis College
ODE TO A POST-IT NOTE
2010 Atlantic Film Festival – Sept. 16 to 28, 2010
SCREENING: September 20, 2010, 7:10pm at the Park Lane - Theatre 4
2010 San Diego Asian Film Festival – Oct. 21 to 28, 2010
2010 Vancouver Asian Film Festival – Nov. 4 to 7, 2010
2010 Anim’est International Animation Festival – Oct. 8 to 17, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
There's lots of cool info, illustrations, and links to my various films.
Check it out at: http://www.meditatingbunny.com
Friday, May 7, 2010
It's been almost been 4 years since I first started out on my journey to create my first feature length documentary, One Big Hapa Family. It has been a true labor of love!
Here is the synopsis:
After a realization at a family reunion, half Japanese-Canadian filmmaker, Jeff Chiba Stearns, embarks on a journey of self-discovery to find out why everyone in his Japanese-Canadian family married interracially after his grandparents’ generation.
This feature live action and animated documentary explores why almost 100% of all Japanese-Canadians are marrying interracially, the highest out of any other ethnicity in Canada, and how their mixed children perceive their unique multiracial identities.
The stories from four generations of a Japanese-Canadian family come to life through the use of innovative animation techniques created by some of Canada’s hottest independent animators, including, Louise Johnson, Ben Meinhardt, Todd Ramsay, Kunal Sen, Jeff Chiba Stearns, and Jonathan Ng. One Big Hapa Family challenges our perceptions of purity and makes us question if mixing is the end of multiculturalism as we know it.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It's been a long time coming but at least it's here in time for Christmas...Yellow Sticky Notes merchandise at http://www.cafepress.ca/meditatingbunny in Canadian, US, international prices depending on your region! Everything available from t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, magnets, baby clothes, and dog bowls - all featuring the fan favorite 911 bunny.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
BC SHORT FILMS DOMINATE CLERMONT-FERRAND – Kelowna Animator Wins the Prix du Public (Audience Award)
(British Columbia) February 16, 2009 - Short films produced and directed in British Columbia were the only non-Quebec Canadian films to be selected for this year’s prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. The CFSFF, held in Clermont-Ferrand, France for the past 31 years, is the world’s largest short film market and festival - boasting attendances over 137,000, hosting thousands of industry delegates, and representing international films from over 50 countries. Amongst the 4,783 submitted international films, only 74 were selected for the International Competition and 36 were chosen for the Lab Competition. Out of 367 Canadian films submitted, only 6 films from Canada were chosen to screen in the festival’s esteemed competition. The only 3 Canadian films not from Quebec were all from BC.
Vancouver films, Awkward by Kellie Bentz and Engine 371 by Kevin Langdale were included in the International Competition while Kelowna filmmaker, Jeff Chiba Stearns screened his animated short, Yellow Sticky Notes as part of the Lab Competition. The Lab Competition celebrates films using innovative techniques that push the boundaries of filmmaking. Yellow Sticky Notes was the only Canadian winner at the festival, taking home the Prix du Public (Audience Award) in the Lab Competition. The film was also the only North American film to win an award at the internationally renowned 2009 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.
“This is the biggest win of my life!” said Jeff Chiba Stearns after receiving the audience juried award. “I’ve traveled to festivals around the world and the caliber of films at Clermont-Ferrand are the best I have ever seen. These are the greatest short films in the world and it was humbling to even screen next to them let alone win a major award category. It was a huge honor just to be accepted to Clermont-Ferrand!”
Yellow Sticky Notes was animated using over 2300 yellow sticky notes with nothing but a black pen. The film, that has been described as the world’s most labor intensive blog entry, is an animation meditation of Jeff Chiba Stearns’ filmmaking journey as his internal reflection on his role as an artist manifests into a discussion about major political and environmental crises. The film qualified for a Genie in the Best Animated Short category but was not nominated.
Even with BC shorts dominating internationally at the film festivals, there was no representation from Western Canada in the short filmmaking categories when the Genies were announced last week - it makes one wonder who’s choosing the nominations at the national level.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
YSN will also be screening internationally at the Singapore Animation Nation, 6st International Film Festival on Peace and Human Rights - Barcelona, Spain, and Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival International Digital Animation Short Films Competition.
Here are a few screening dates and times:
*Vancouver International Film Festival*
Screening with: General Idea: Art, AIDS, and the fin de siècle
• Monday, September 29th 9:45pm
at Empire Granville 7 Theatre 1
• Wednesday, October 1st 3:00pm
at Empire Granville 7 Theatre 1
*Calgary International Film Festival*
Screening with Simple Reflections Shorts
• Saturday, September 27, 2008
5:00 PM – Plaza ($12)
• Screening with Meadowlark
Tue. Sep. 23, 2008
9:45 PM – Globe Upstairs ($12)
617 - 8th Avenue SW
*Atlantic Film Festival*
• Frame X Frame
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
7:05 PM - Empire 8 Park Lane – 7
*DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival*
• Sunday, September 28th, 2008
4:00PM - Goethe-Institut
*San Diego Asian Film Festival*
Screening as part of the Animation Showcase
• Saturday October 11, 2:20pm
• Wednesday October 15, 7:00pm
• Thursday October 23, 9:20pm
*Hawaii International Film Festival*
• Saturday October 11, 12:00pm
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Simply click on the button below and use your credit or bank card to order a DVD - international orders accepted
Also available - DVD's of Jeff's previous award-winning hapanimated film, "What Are You Anyways?" for $14 USD or CAD (includes shipping and handling) - pay via check or PayPal button below
Join the Yellow Sticky Notes fan page on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=542780551#/pages/Yellow-Sticky-Notes/23140210111
Also, become friends with Yellow Sticky Notes on MySpace at: www.myspace.com/yellowstickynotes
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions
Monday, May 26, 2008
I just got back in yesterday from the 61st Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival where my film Yellow Sticky Notes was up for Best Animation and I was up for Best Director Fiction. It is the longest running festival of its kind in North America and is like no other film festival I've ever been to. Yorkton is about a 2 hour drive from Regina. The city boasts a modest population of 15,000 residents but the city itself really embraces this yearly festival. After getting back from Tribeca in New York and Pangea Day in LA, Yorkton was a nice and strange change of pace. Great small town hospitality and warmth greeted all the visiting filmmakers and delegates. The Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival is best known for its prestigious Golden Sheaf Awards.
I was fortunate to win my category for Best Animation...which was the first time in 12 years a non-NFB animated film won. Actually I was up against 4 other NFB animations this year. Funny that a small film with a $100 budget used to buy yellow sticky notes and black markers could compete and win against films with $150,000 budgets. Yorkton wasn't all about award galas and films. I was also there pitching One Big Hapa Family to the broadcasters that were there. I met with Joanne McDonald from SCN along with Sarah Jane Flynn from Canwest where I was able to pitch my new doc. I also met John Dippong from Telefilm Executive Feature Film, Western Region and some great filmmakers like Randall Okita, Penny Ward, Steve Wolfson, Sheona McDonald, and John Bessai. Overall, Yorkton was a great time and unlike any other festival I've ever been!
Golden Sheaf Awards Gala
Partying with the some of the cast of Corner Gas and Jennifer Chen from Ouat! Media
With festival winners Randall Okita and Sheona McDonald
With John Dippong and Joanne McDonald
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I was very fortunate to have my film Yellow Sticky Notes take part in the first ever Pangea Day. From May 8th to the 10th, Pangea Day brought together 100 filmmakers from around the world to participate in an event where these filmmakers came together to create one global film community. They flew me out to LA, put me up in the Sheridan Delfino in Santa Monica and threw some great parties along with a mind blowing filmmaker retreat. The Pangea Day event was on Saturday. All the filmmakers got to go to the Sony Studios - Studio 15 (where the filmed the Wizard of Oz) to watch the live taping of the four hour show that was broadcast live around the world.
Pangea Day can be described as a global event bringing the world together through film.
Why? In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it's easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
Starting at 18:00 GMT on May 10, 2008, locations in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked for a live program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The entire program will be broadcast – in seven languages – to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.
The 24 short films to be featured have been selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from over one hundred countries. The films were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person's eyes. Details on the Pangea Day films can be viewed here at www.pangeaday.org
The program will also include a number of exceptional speakers and musical performers. Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, musician/activist Bob Geldof, and Iranian rock phenom Hypernova are among those taking part.
The Filmmaker Retreat featured many guest speakers including Deborah Scraton, Matthew Modine, Lee Daniels, Duncan North, Lawrence Bender, Marco Williams, Carline Baron, Alex Gibney, Chris Anderson, Jehane Noujaim, Queen Noor, and Ken Ralston.
The entire three days was amazing and the Pangea Day wrap-party was a blast. I met some amazing and inspiring international filmmakers during those three days, and at then end, we were all a sad to have to go home. Everyone went away from the event inspired and honored to have had the opportunity to interact and learn from each other. It was truly one of the most magical experiences I have had so far as a filmmaker!
With Ted Chung and Marc Osbourne - Director of Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda
Filmmakers at the Filmmaker Retreat
The Filmmaker Retreat setup at the Sony Studios
Pangea Day set
Actress Cameron Diaz
Actress Meg Ryan
Dave Stewart performing at the Pangea Day event
Pangea Day finale
At the Pangea Day Wrap-Party in Beverly Hills
With Matt Groening - creator of The Simpsons
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This year I had my US Premiere of my animated film Yellow Sticky Notes at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Truly one of the biggest film festivals I've participated in, I was able to attend the full festival run from April 23rd to May 4th.
Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture. The Festival’s mission focuses on assisting filmmakers to reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promoting New York City as a major filmmaking center.
Yellow Sticky Notes played in the Window Seat shorts program. 4 of the 5 screenings sold out. The screening that didn't sellout was still 3/4 full. The film screened to great reception from the audience and we had some great Q&A sessions. Almost every filmmaker who had a film in the program was present for at least 2 or 3 of their screenings. Since I was at Tribeca for the full run of the festival, I was able to be at every screening.
The parties, galas, and receptions were nothing short of amazing. Lots of free booze, free food, and tons of smoozing. I met a lot of talented filmmakers, press, distributors, festival directors, and film lovers. It was a great atmosphere. Even though every day was filled with interviews, press, screenings, receptions, and parties, I still managed to find time to do some tourist stuff. I attended tapings of the Late Show with David Letterman, Conan O'brien, checked out a Yankees game, walked around Central Park, and saw the Statue of Liberty.
Overall, it was a great experience. Enjoy some of the photos from my trip!
With Saturday Night Live actress Molly Shannon
With Jessica, Brian and Joe - filmmakers in the Window Seat Shorts Program
View from the Tribeca Shorts Filmmaker Party
Hanging out with some filmmakers at the Tribeca Short Filmmaker Party
Baby Mama Gala Party - April 23, 2008
With animation filmmaker Bill Plympton - Bill has been a big inspiration to my work and is one of the reasons I wanted to create independent classical animation!
The Entertainment Weekly Shorts Interview - check it out at http://www.ew.com/ew/video/festivals?lineupId=1519676937&videoId=1536208306
Actor Robert De Niro - Tribeca Film Festival Founder
The Awards After Party at the Mansion
Awards Wrap-Party - with Shiloh Strong, Rider Strong, Sheryl Santacruz, and Leetal Platt
Me with Genevieve Vincent - Yellow Sticky Notes' composer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Here's some screening dates for the US...if you have friends in these areas please tell them to come out and see Yellow Sticky Notes! Thanks for the support!
Tribeca Film Festival - Manhattan, New York
As part of Window Seat Shorts Program:
Friday, April 25, 1:45 pm, AV7-04
Sunday, April 27, 6:45 pm, A19-03
Tuesday, April 29, 3:45 pm, AV7-07
Saturday, May 3, 11:15 am, VEC-03
Sunday, May 4, 7:00 pm, VEC-05
AMC Village VII (AV7) - 66 Third Avenue (at 11th Street)
AMC 19th Street East (A19) - 890 Broadway (at 19th Street)
Village East Cinemas (VEC) - 181 Second Avenue (at 12th Street)
Order tickets at http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org
Newport Beach Film Festival - Newport Beach, California
As part of the Animate Me Shorts Program:
Friday, April 25 at 4:15pm
Order tickets at http://www.newportbeachfilmfest.c
Disorient Film Festival - Eugene, Oregon
As part of Homegrown Shorts Program:
Saturday, April 26th at 1:15pm
Bijou Art Cinemas
Order tickets at http://www.disorientfilm.org
VC Asian Film Festival - Los Angeles, California
Dates to be announced:
Check out http://www.vconline.org/fe
Good news! Yellow Sticky Notes has recently been awarded the:
- 2008 Youth Jury Honourable Mention: 12th Freeze Frame International Festival of Film for Kids of All Ages
- 2008 Remi Award Winner for Best Animated (Classic Cel Animation): 41st WorldFest - Houston Remi Awards
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Here's an example of my first post on February 15th, 2008:
Being based in Kelowna, I’m heading off to Vancouver tomorrow to meet with my producer, Ruth Vincent about my documentary One Big Hapa Family. This will be the first time we will have met after I revised my original proposal a few weeks ago. Needless to say, after I revised the proposal, it was over 7 pages long…and according to Ruth, 4 pages too long.
So far I’ve secured funding with my first version of the proposal last year by obtaining grant money from the British Columbia Arts Council, National Association of Japanese Canadians Endowment Fund for Cultural Development, and the National Film Board through a Filmmaker Assistance Program grant. The original proposal was intended to make a short documentary. Around 8 - 12 minutes long. After some discussion with Ruth a few months back, we decided this concept could possibly work for TV. So I went about revising the proposal for a 44 minute broadcast hour documentary. We’re hoping to submit the new proposal with the hope of obtaining a pre-license fee and maybe even securing a second window broadcaster.
Here’s a synopsis for the revised One Big Hapa Family documentary:
One Big Hapa Family is a 44-minute high definition live-action with animation documentary that highlights a Japanese-Canadian family reunion. The documentary explores why over 95% of Japanese-Canadians are in interracial marriages, the highest out of any other ethnicity in Canada, and how their children perceive their multiracial identities. Animation and narration are used to transition from narrative story structures to interview formats while exploring a unique outlook on Canadian multiculturalism from the perspective of Japanese-Canadian children of mixed decent, interracial couples, and opinions from Japanese elders who lived through WWII.
This blog will be a diary focusing on the pre-production, production, and post-production One Big Hapa Family. Being half-Japanese and half-European decent, the topics covered in One Big Hapa Family are very personal to me. In my animated film, “What Are You Anyways?” I explored my own experiences growing up of mixed-Asian decent in the small Canadian city of Kelowna. The film had phenomenal success screening at over 40 international film festival and winning 7 awards. Recently I just finished a new classically animated film, Yellow Sticky Notes, which premiered at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival where it won the Animasian Award for Best Animation. The film was created using over 2300 yellow sticky notes and animated straight ahead with only a black ink pen.
My filmmaking is created using thousands of hand drawn images. With One Big Hapa Family, this will be my first venture into the realm of live action. I’m bound to make a ton of mistakes along the way and I know making this documentary will be a true adventure that will push my filmmaking to the limit. This blog will serve to entertain, educate, and inspire people to see just what it takes to make a long form documentary from a guy who’s used to making all his films by hand with a pencil and some paper. This blog will be candid, honest, and real and highlight the process of creating a broadcast documentary from a guy who knows nothing about making a documentary!