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Island-born filmmaker debuts latest project at Seattle film festival
Animation, once thought of as a medium for the production of children’s movies and comedies, is now being recognized as an effective means of storytelling in more serious endeavors.
Dramatic, horror and even documentary filmmakers are exploring the power of animation in numerous projects, stretching the uses of the medium and creating inventive and effective films that often better convey mood and feeling than even traditional live-action movies.
One such recent project saw Bainbridge Island-born filmmaker Laura Jean Cronin using animation as a means to explore the issue of family homelessness.
Her short animated film, “Home for Sale,” will debut Monday, May 19 at the Harvard Exit Theater in Seattle as part of the larger project “American Refugees,” created as part of Seattle University’s Film & Family Homelessness Project and funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cronin said that the subject matter was fortuitous for her, as she had recently been struck by the number of foreclosed homes while searching for a house to buy.
“There was a preponderance of foreclosed homes,” she explained.
“Family homelessness is a huge issue, and it affects way more families than the average person in the Northwest realizes. It can happen to people who have done everything right, and circumstances put them on the street,” Cronin said.
When she heard about the call for work from Seattle University, Cronin submitted her idea and was ultimately chosen as one of five filmmakers who made individual short films for the project.
Each chosen fellow received a grant of $8,000, as well as Seattle University students from the Digital Design, Film Studies and other programs to work with as production assistants.
The plot of “Home for Sale,” as inspired by Cronin’s own experiences, visualizes prospective buyers walking through an empty home and all the while seeing the family who once lived there and the moments that led to them losing the house.
It was Cronin’s first experience working on an animated film.
“It was quite a bit different,” she said. “I’m used to live action and being directly in the driver’s seat. It was a growing experience.”
Cronin’s technique involved posing the voiceover actors and photographing the scene. Then Debbie Faas, a local oil painter, physically painted the different, separate layers of the images before finally the paintings were scanned and layered images were created.
“Debbie’s an illustrator and realist painter,” Cronin said. “She was fast and could dedicate the time to [the project], and she had the talent to pull it off. She ended up doing 60 paintings in three weeks.”
When directing the voiceover work, another new experience, Cronin said she thought of the production as an old-time radio play.
“The voiceover actors gave such a powerful performance,” she said.
Cronin, a 1982 Bainbridge High School graduate who now resides in Orting, said she was particularly excited about showcasing such an important project so close to her hometown.
“I do hope my old community at Bainbridge Island comes across the pond to see the film,” she said.
Cronin is an award-winning filmmaker and an accomplished artist. Her short films “Leave It” “Free Parking,” and “One Night” have earned national attention.
In 2009, she was one of four directors chosen for the Seattle International Film Festival’s Fly Film Challenge. Her feature-length screenplay, “Princess and Buddha,” has won honors at the Key West Indie Fest, Telluride Indie Fest and Washington State Screenplay Competition. It was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
Cronin is currently developing a supernatural thriller entitled “Whisky Rock.”
“I have a number of feature-length scripts that I’ve written and [that] I’m looking for funding for,” she said.
To learn more about the American Refugees project, and to reserve tickets for the free premiere event, visit www.americanrefugees.org.
To see a trailer for the film, visit www.vimeo.com/92759803.
What: Premiere of “American Refugees,” four animated short films about family homelessness.
When: Monday, May 19 (no specific show time yet announced).
Where: Harvard Exit Theater (807 E. Roy St., Seattle).
Admission: Free. Seating is limited, reserve tickets at www.americanrefugees.org.