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CBTV Student Fest #1: Fuzzy Insides by Michaela Olsen

First up in our student film festival is Fuzzy Insides by Michaela Olsen. It was made at the Rhode Island School of Design. The film appealed to us for its subtle yet affecting commentary on human relationships as well as Olsen’s complete command of stop-motion demonstrated through both design and animation.

Questions and comments for Michaela can be asked in the comments. Here are her production notes:

I love creating characters. I like to imagine their peccadilloes, how the walls of their rooms speak to who they are. That is really what drove the process of making Fuzzy Insides.

The project started slowly. I had all these ideas floating around in my brain and no way to connect them. My teachers, Amy Kravitz and Bryan Papciak encouraged me to veer away from artificial plot lines and forced narratives. After a few months of conceptualizing and mind changing, I decided to dive into the filmmaking part head first, and worry about the storyline later. Thus, I ended up with these odd little vignettes. The very last thing I made and shot was the spinning neighborhood block in the black abyss.

Fabrication of the puppets and sets took about 3 months. I made everything out of anything… my studio was full of random whatnots. I don’t know how to get rid of things. You can find proof of this in my parent’s basement where there are all kinds of doll heads and scraps of fabric stored away along with the four sets from this film, which are collecting dust on an old ping pong table.

I was left with little time to animate and edit (2 or 3 months), but the subdued nature of the character animation enabled me to work quickly. I used a Nikon D300, captured using Dragon Stop Motion software, and compiled in After Effects.

I draw a lot of inspiration from Eastern European and Russian animation (Yuri Norstein, Jan Svankmajer, Jiri Trnka, Priit Pärn), which probably interprets itself through the grittiness of the characters I created. A lot of people seem to view these characters as grotesque and sexual, but I think this film is about relationship dynamics and the unconditional quality of love: old love, young love, self-love, mammal love… They are all seemingly unconventional relationships, but not so extraordinary if you think about it. Behind closed doors, all relationships are weird and unique and what we see on the outside is often just a façade. My original plan was to shoot these characters from the outside of their homes through windows, but that was too cold and distant. I tried to make the environments warm and inviting. I find all the characters and situations rather sweet… but at a recent screening of Fuzzy Insides at the Brooklyn International Film Festival, one of the other filmmakers brought his young niece who was so frightened by my film that she had to leave the theater. So I guess everyone has his or her own interpretation.

More about Michaela Olsen

  • tedzey

    Brilliant work! What kept me watching this through the end was to see how each persons relationship would turn out. At times I felt there could’ve been more exageraton to add more humor, like the fat chick biting the guy’s head by accident or hot guy on doll sex….whoah…I have issues :P

    Better yet, I would love to see you go into feature filmmaking. You could be the next Adam Elliot!

  • elle

    Reminds me a bit of Leah Shore’s Meatwaffle, also from RISD … I’d bet these two cats know each other!

  • It’s really nice to see a subdued vignette once in a while amidst a sea of over the top action and comedy shorts. Well done!

  • Oscar

    Beautiful, such a good message!

  • Melissa

    Great job Michaela!!! Wooo!

    To Elle:
    They also have to be roommates here in NY. But, please keep in mind that these are two entirely different people with different work methods and inspirations. Leah and Michaela are great people, and they really are like night and day in terms of personalities and how they approach their work.

    I think in general the RISD work does give a vibe in non-commercial like design. Not that we don’t have interest, but having a year to devote to our own work does give that freedom to explore and do things more for our own satisfaction rather than to appeal to a general audience.

    It may not be what you meant, but I wanted to make a clarification to those who see work coming from this school.

  • Chris

    Wonderful work!!

  • Heinrich

    That was brilliant! I definitely see the Russian/Eastern European influence.

    Just out of curiosity, how big are the puppets?

  • Thanks for all the great comments!

    Heinrich: The puppets ranged from about 6 to 9 inches in height… except for the big luscious lady who was more like the size of a newborn child!!

  • Really awesome animation!

  • charles

    I was surprised that this was american made because it seemed so different and original. I could see why a small child would be scared of it. This was much better then my sisters cartoon.

  • Spencer Morin

    Absolute genius. Brilliant animation, disturbing designs, and totally immersed in the simplicity of the characters’ relationships. It’s just enough to have the audience connecting with the intimacy/privacy of every molecule that’s animated on the screen.


  • I love this film.