Ready, set, stop.
This was the routine for a group a of 11- through 15-year-olds who were creating stop-motion animations during a recent workshop at the Kalispell ImagineIF library.
After partnering up, participants walked over to stations set up around the room. With a tablet, pan of kinetic sand and an empty basket set up at each station, students were given a blank slate to fill with their imaginations.
Picking up the baskets, participants shopped from a variety of materials — plastic figurines and toys, colored presentation boards, cloth, bubble wrap and other materials to use in telling their stories.
Since the group had about an hour and a half to think of a story, decide how to manipulate the objects and photograph each frame, ImagineIF Youth Services librarian Ellie Newell refreshed the group on story structure. She encouraged participants to think about how to tell a complete story in about a minute or less.
“What kinds of things would you want to think about if you were telling a complete story in matter of seconds?” Newell said. “I think one of things a lot of groups have found to be true is that you want to get right to the action, you don’t want to do a lot of exposition.”
She also touched on how the stop-motion filmmaking technique was used in a time before computer-generated imagery technology was available. She used the 1930s “King Kong” as an example of a movie that used stop-motion combined with live action to pioneer some special effects.
Back at their stations, each group began brainstorming.
Participants Taeyana Gesker and Tessa Alton started staging the objects around the sand in front of the camera. Gesker summarized their story idea up to that point.
“So this guy, he like washes up on shore, ‘pa-pow,’” she said moving a figurine over a crumpled blue T-shirt in the foreground, which looked like water on the tablet screen. “He washes up on this beach and all these dogs and goats ... they find him.
“They’re like ‘hey... he’s on our island and they take him away and they boil him,” she said dropping the figurine into a tub-like object.
“He finds his way out — and he fights his way off,” she said, uncertain at the moment of what the ending would be.
Nearby was a sheet of bubble wrap, which she held up to the camera lens thinking it could possibly be used to create an effect of water splashed onto the screen in an opening frame.
Gesker and Alton have created stop-motion animations before in school for science and social-studies classes.
In stop-motion animation, the filmmaker takes a photo each time an object is manipulated. The sequence of photographs are played back, creating an effect of movement.
“So like if you want to move something you have to try and make it realistic,” Alton said. “You have to take a photo of it like literally a centimeter and another centimeter,” Alton said.
This was the first stop-motion film project for participants Zeke Martin and Noah Shows. After selecting several preying mantis figurines, Martin and Shows wanted to do an alien/“Godzilla” type of story.
“The animals have mutated to become gigantic by ‘the cube of power,’” Martin said, lowering his voice for effect and placing a black cube near the camera lens.
In front of them, Newell visited with participants Jordyn Nelson and Lily Amundson, whose story involved a tornado that created a sinkhole to another dimension or universe. The pair hung pieces of cotton balls with string onto a blue backboard to represent clouds.
“How are you showing movement into the next universe? I think some things that would be really interesting to manipulate would be the light,” Newell said, offering a suggestion by placing a board over their backdrop to create shadows and darkness.
At the end of the workshop, participants held a film festival to vote on one to receive the Golden Popcorn award. Newell said the animations will be uploaded to YouTube under ImagineIF’s account.
“I think one of the things that is most important to me as a librarian is that young people have a chance to share their stories and to tell their stories and that those stories are listened to by the broader community,” Newell said.” “So that’s one of my goals for this program is that young people have the opportunity to tell their stories and share them on a legitimate platform.”
The “Stop Motion Film Festival” is part of the library’s “Teen Summer Experience,” which are workshops designed for grades 6 to 12. For more information visit imagineiflibraries.org.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.