A film students journey from Ashcan to RISD to NYU

Julia S. is an Ashcan graduate who got one acceptance letter after the next when she applied to art schools, including The University of Southern California, RISD (where she did her first year), The University of Michigan and Pratt and Carnegie Mellon ART- both with an impressive scholarship award. Now she’s at NYU where she’s majoring in Film and Television, working on stop-motion animated films. I am happy to see that her knack for storytelling through art has taken a turn towards film, it seems to me a natural step. She’s so sweet and was a joy to have as a student at Ashcan. I loved the work she made here, each piece was like a glimpse into a fascinating fairy tale. She has continued to come to Ashcan sporadically ever since she graduated from here in 2012. Because of this I have been able to hear about her new projects and the puppets she makes by hand for her films.  I enjoyed sitting down with Julia again to hear more about her new ideas and processes.

Hayley Palmatier

Director, Ashcan Studio

Hayley: Where do you study now and what year?

Julia:  I am at NYU, as a first semester Junior Film and Television Major focusing in Stopmotion Animation and minoring in Web Design & Computer Applications.

Hayley: We’re both really interested in puppets and stop motion animation, so it has been fun talking with you about it and sharing films and resources with each other. What film are the photographs of the puppets from?

Julia: Yes it has! It’s always nice talking to you. I always learn about so many artists and new things! The film of the photo’s I showed you is called ‘Playhouse Pirate.’ It is a dialogue-based animation about a first date, (Nathan and Jenny’s).  They are both shy neighbors and bond one afternoon while watching Nathan’s pet.  That evening they go to the local Playhouse and while on their date have a strange encounter with Pierre, who sits directly behind them. Pierre, is introduced visually in the beginning and mysteriously reappears throughout the five minute animation. He is the playhouse pirate as the viewer will see by the end. I am green screening this film still and should have it fully completed by end of May.

animation_still_1film still from the film titled ‘Playhouse Pirate’ by Julia S

Hayley: I’m looking forward to seeing it completed. What is life like at NYU?

Julia: Life is hectic in that we get a lot of assignments and the turn around (deadline) is generally pretty quick. However, this is what makes school projects exciting. I also learn a lot because I’m asked to try a lot of new things that I would not necessarily do on my own.

ANIMATION SETfilm still from the film titled ‘Playhouse Pirate’ by Julia S

Hayley: When you were at Ashcan you worked so hard to make -what turned out to be- a very impressive portfolio. What was your experience like making a portfolio for art school  at Ashcan Studio?

Julia:My experience was wonderful. All of the teachers at Ashcan know a lot about technique and working with different mediums and are extremely insightful. When I came to Ashcan I knew I wanted to study in the arts, but I did not know specifically what I wanted to do. After experimenting with a wide range of projects I was able to get a better sense of what I like.

And also, at Ashcan I met a student who lived a town over from me who I did not previously know. We both attended RISD after Ashcan and are close friends to this day.


13 copyLife size drawing by Julia S 

Hayley: What is the most important thing you have learned as an art student?

Julia: I have learned that creating quality work takes a lot of hard work and in many cases a lot of tries. I have learned that you have to be persistant and be passionate and not give up on a project when it does not go your way the first time.

Hayley:  How did you become interested in stop motion animation?

Julia: I am interested in working with a lot of different mediums from sculpture and painting to writing. Stop motion seemed like the perfect solution to combine all of my interests.

Hayley: When you told me you were making this type of film it made a lot of sense to me. What are you working on now?

Julia: Currently I am working on a new animation about a young lifeguard’s first day on the job.  It also has a comic twist. I completed the set and the puppets but am finalizing some details.  I hope to have this animation done by the end of summer.  I believe I have made a stronger set and better puppets for this animation than my last.  I also hope to try new techniques like eye blinking, a walk cycle and better lip-syncing.

Hayley: What is your puppet making process like?

Julia: The puppet making process is exciting! I use wire and epoxy to make my armatures and whatever other clays and found materials I can access  to build my characters up.  Shockingly, my favorite thing to make is the puppet’s hands.

Hayley: Who are your favorite animators/films?

Julia: I particularly like Adam Elliot because of his unusual characters and quirky dialogue. I also am greatly inspired by Allison Schulnik’s creative character based worlds.

Hayley: Yes, they are both great. What are your goals as an Artist and Animator?

Julia:   My goal is to continue to grow and expand my skillset and make work that I am proud of. Down the road I hope to make an animated feature that relies on imagery and strong dialogue to tell a compelling story.

ANIMATION SET1film still from the film titled ‘Playhouse Pirate’ by Julia S

Hayley: I am sure that you will reach that goal! It has been so nice talking to you.

Julia: Thank you Hayley, you too!


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