3D as a cinematic artform is definitely here to stay and no one knows that better than James Stewart, head of Toronto-based Geneva Film Co., 3D technician on Werner Herzog’s acclaimed Cave of Forgotten Dreams , and Director of the new 3D stop motion animated short Foxed! which begins its run at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 28.
The film, which will screen in front of the documentary Storm Surfers 3D , focuses on a little girl named Emily who’s fighting against evil forces in the form of a group of foxes. Foxed! also recently won the Best Animated Film Award at the Yorkton Film Festival and is currently being developed into a full-length feature film.
What’s it like to work in the 3D milieu? James Stewart gives us an idea as he takes on this month’s TFS Questions questionnaire.
Occupation: Film Director
Describe your job in 10 words or less:
Describe what led you to this job:
I have always seen the world through a lens. From my teen years, I always carried a camera, and that lead me to my “well framed” worldview. Now I see in 3D and love to add depth to most projects I do.
What do you like best about your job?
Every day is different. I have always been fearless about new technology and crazy enough to apply new ways of storytelling to my work. I am so used to doing things that have never been done before, now people ask me for NBDB! I was digital in 1997, 3D in 2004 (5 years before Avatar ) now I have been using gesture control in ways that are new. Fearlessness of new technology is the only way to be in this multiscreen ever-evolving world.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging and the most thrilling part is the discovery of how we are going to find the way forward when telling the next story. I often ask: has anyone on the planet EVER done this? Last year, I directed a theme park film, 3D commercials, a gesture-controlled cinema game, a stop-motion animated 3D film, a dome science film and a silhouette art film that premiered at TED. Among other regular projects… so every day is different and exciting.
Advice for people who might want to do what you do?
Work harder than everyone else, be luckier than everyone else and have better timing than everyone else. In the end, the way you will find your place, as an artist/filmmaker is how you tell YOUR stories.
Where did the idea for Foxed! come from?
Foxed! was a dream that lead to a feature film idea. We wanted to experiment with new ways of animating stop-motion and filming in 3D, so we wrote a short film that could be a calling card and a proof of concept for the feature film. Based on the early audience reactions, I think we have done that. Foxed! is a story about fighting for what you believe in and overcoming oppression. Whatever that oppression in your life is.
How long did it take to finish?
Foxed! took over a year to produce. It is filmed in stop-motion so we shot about 4 seconds a day – 52 shoot days in total. A very beautiful, but very slow and detailed process. It is SO rare to get a short to play in front of a movie (unless you are Pixar!) We are thrilled that audiences will see it on the big screen and in 3D.
Why do you like working with 3D?
Filming in 3D is like re-learning the filmmaking craft. You see so much more when you have to design a shot with real depth in mind. We have spent so much time as directors trying to reduce depth in the shot, and isolate the subject – with long lenses and wide apertures – 3D is the opposite of that. It is a visceral experience where you let the visual story fall over you. Most directors who work in 3D don’t go back. Scorsese, Ang Lee, Baz Luhrmann, Wim Wenders, Alfonso Cuarón, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Herzog… the list goes on. So I am in good company. When I worked on Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams , I realized that if something that takes place on a wall could be mesmerizing in 3D, anything was possible.
A factoid about 3D that might surprise people?
3D TVs are selling 6 times faster that HD TVs did. We are all getting 3D. On TV, tablet, mobile. It is only a matter of time. It is a stepping stone to what is next.
Favourite part of the film scene in Toronto?
The community has always embraced my notion of hacking the story either with 3D, 4K, 7K, gesture control, stop-motion, silhouette… Foxed! is my latest adventure and I hope you will join me when it opens with the crazy fun Storm Surfers 3D . Aussie blokes, killer waves, foxes and 3D. What better way to kick off the summer!
Movie snack: sweet or savoury? Both – Popcorn with chocolate almonds
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