By Arielle Lessard
CALGARY – GIRAF’s 13th Annual Festival is loading up to be a colorful, international and dexterous space. Sean Buckelew, a Los Angeles animator and previous GIRAF participant, is a visiting artist this year who will do a workshop as well as presenting his work.
Known for his commercial and personal projects, Buckelew will explore techniques relevant to producing cinematic quality on a zero-dollar budget without falling into the typical pigeonholes of a DIY aesthetic. “A lot of my work is generally me making films solo and finding ways to make work that doesn’t necessarily feel like it was made for free, even though it was!”
After living in LA for six years, Buckelew says he’s “never gotten a project through artist grants” and doesn’t “pursue funding in that direction anymore… since it’s so incredibly unreliable.” Instead, he approaches the problem as a delicate balance between work and labor of love. “I pursue commercial projects, take that money and move it over into something that’s cool and personal.”
Through compromise and the curation of a certain set of skills, Buckelew maintains his creative flair. “As an animator, it’s this broad thing that could mean you’re a filmmaker or a storyteller. When I do commercial work, with rare exceptions, I’m just a pixel pusher, which I don’t mind. As a filmmaker you’re limited by the craft, so there’s incentive to get better… to facilitate whatever ideas you have.”
This delicate equilibrium is echoed in his work and the ideas that Buckelew engages with. Lovestreams is a short film created as part of a Late Night Work Collective, an animated shorts anthology released over the internet. The name carries the labour involved with liminal and carved out personal spaces, and features a story relevant to how personal relationships, technology and fantasy interact. Buckelew collaborated online for this project, working with remote effects artist and music composers from London, England he didn’t meet until the debut.
In trying to compete with internet fodder, big movie releases, short attention spans, and trying to be a “one-person marketing machine”, Buckelew embraces new media and was inspired by others who use Alternative Reality Game (ARG) techniques to enrich the narrative and fictional worlds he works in. These supplementary snippets play on coupling imaginary worlds with reality that go beyond traditional animation.
Buckelew insists there’s no shame in swinging those tools around in a meaningful way to promote the work as a momentous thing. “Everything you learn you can subvert when you apply it to your weirdo idea that no one can say no to. That dynamic can be fun.”
He compares the impulse to do something really reckless to doing an ambitious solo animation project. “It’s like the antithesis of a commercial, there’s no money in it, it’s purely for the joy of doing it. You need to have a sprinkle of that in your life.”
Sean Buckelew will facilitate a workshop at Quickdraw Animation, followed by a screening of his films November 25 at Emmedia.EMMEDIA, GIRAF, Quickdraw Animation, Sean Buckelew, workshop