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CBTV Student Fest 9: “Pillow Peter”

Pillow Peter is a junior year film made by Nigel Clark at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It’s an eccentrically drawn film about an eccentric boy who loves pillows. The droll storybook narration works perfectly as does the short’s gentle tone, which masks the heartbreak beneath the surface.

Nigel, who’ll be answering questions in the comments, made these observations about his film:

Pillow Peter starts out happy and then gets sad, very very sad. I hope you find it funny when Pillow Peter is happy; I also hope you find it funny when Pillow Peter is sad. If you cannot do that for me, I hope that you can at least find it sad when he is happy and sad when he is sad. Actually it would be even better if you find it happy and sad when he is happy and when he is sad, and then you could get hungry or something.

Aside for having once been a small boy, I have known a catholicity of small boys. This has lead me to an understanding. Small boys (and girls) don’t realize what is going on out there in that big wacky world of ours. Eventually most of these small people experience experiences that educate them as to what is out there. This painful education process may be more or less extreme than what Pillow Peter experiences, but regardless, the experience or experiences remove something from them. I am not sure if that something is innocence or naivety but what ever it is, it is irretrievable.

Filmmaker website: NigelDClark.blogspot.com

  • Bambis Mother

    WOW! What a touching story….

  • “And you have to watch”. Why? Good thing I ain’t Pete, I watched anyway. Go figure…

  • Mango

    Great message, awesome style. Amazing!

    • Jon

      What’s the message? I sort of missed it.

      • Paul Rogers

        “Never love your pillows too much, it might hurt you”

  • Jonathan Rawlings

    Awesome film and awesome music haha

  • Really funny little short. I laughed at the “and you have to watch” line. Great job!

  • Zach Bellissimo

    Go Nigel!!!!

  • god that ending shot is SO good!

  • The voices all sounded like they were just holding the place for real voices that never came, and the drawing style was overwrought. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Nigel

      This is a good example of ineffective criticism. It is absolutely necessary when critiquing someones work to back up your statements with specific examples. What about the voices make them seem like a temp track? Is it the quality of the recording, is the skill of the acting insufficient or is there some entirely different reason? What about the drawing style being overwrought? How is it overwrought and why is that a bad thing? Does the excessive use of lines distract from the clarity of the drawings or does the grotesquely distorted design of the characters make them unsympathetic?

      These are student films, and I am still learning. I can not be expected to improve unless I can identify what specifically I am doing wrong.

      When you debase someones work and don’t bother to put in the reason why, it only makes you come across as a pretentious jerk who just wanted to say something mean.

      • Fay Brewer

        I couldn’t quite figure out why the lil one’s pillows had to be burnt, but I felt the film was effective nevertheless. Were the pillows being burnt a metaphor for something else?

      • mat

        The voices were unpleasant to listen to, especially Peter’s. “Uncomfortable” as a vibe to film is one thing, but the voice acting was far past that; disturbing in a bad way.
        The drawing was greatly exaggerated, again to the point of plain being gross to look at. As with the voice acting, when I describe it as “disturbing” I mean something must be wrong with the creator, because it surpasses arguably being an experiment on emotion into the realm of torture.
        I think the greatest proponent to these criticisms is merely bad animation. I don’t even care that much about the style, the film looks like it was animated over the course of a day. This story and style would translate nicely to a children’s book or set of illustrations, but clearly has not been given the care it needs to work as an animation. I admire your outset after having read your observations in the original post, and think that if you had provided that care, it could have worked. But as it stands now, it frankly makes me fret the fact that it’s from your junior year at a New York arts school.

  • Wow really awesome. Reminds me a lot of Bill Plympton’s films with the strategic use of key frames and color pencil look of the film.

  • The only thing that should have more layers than your personality, is your comedy. This film has so many rewarding layers. The basic plot is swallowably sad, but it also lets you be sinister and laugh at Pillow Peter for being so dumb. Then there’s the pleasure in noticing the absurd missteps it took to get you to the end (including that sweet cut when the mom answers the phone). When things happen without my logical approval, I feel like Nigel is making fun of me for being pedantic; the plot and form are trivial, and they can be irrational because the emotional content is. I personally feel insulted when a film tries to spell out every reason behind the actions and watching this film makes me feel like Nigel assumes that I’m smart.

    Also, there are way too many animated short films that are only driven by plot or worse, by design, and have no significance or emotional meaning, or are just trying to redo something that’s been done already! Everybody stop doing that, please.

  • Shannon

    My heart jumped! Pillow Peter makes me sadly happy…Good work!
    Looking forward to see your thesis!!

  • I waited 5 months to see this here! Great work! The last scene made me think a lot about the things (good or bad)we sometiems get obesessd with, and get forced to give up.

  • River

    There is nothing more beautiful than tears of a broken child. Good film.

  • ivey ao

    i agree with sachio in that what makes this film unique is the emotion it evokes. i’m not sure i understand all the layers of the film or even if there is supposed to be layers, but that last scene where the boy is crying as his pillows burn did get me somehow. there doesn’t have to be a big plot or even a moral. you pulled it off well nigel.
    i also remember asking you how you got your drawings to look so nice and you told me you avoid shooting on 1s and 2s. i like that technique. keep up that style.

  • Ross Warner

    I’m not sure how far to look into the underlying message but, it looked great. It looks like all the time you spent drawing when we were younger is paying off. Keep up the good work.

  • James

    Hey Nigel

    I’ve been watching a lot of shorts lately and so many of them are gag based that it kind of makes me sick after watching so many, I mean they make me laugh but really dont make me feel anything else and most of them I cant remember.

    Yours..It didn’t need to rely on flashy design or dialogue, or crazy cameras or cuts. When you have an emotional core as strong as this you could have told this with socks and it still would be awesome.

    Yours was one of the simplest and was really shocking how amazing it was. It was one of the most true to life artworks I have encountered. Simply a brilliant example of communicating emotion which I think is the supreme achievment. Congratulations.

  • Olivia

    Overall the plot was great, but Peter’s voice was annoying. Why were the pillows burnt??

    • mat

      the plot was great? What was great about the plot exactly, seriously, past the fact that things happened and they are sort of a plot.

  • mat

    this was.. just awful. What is everybody talking about? Did they actually watch the video? It’s soo bad, I don’t know what to say. Look at this:

    “Yours was one of the simplest and was really shocking how amazing it was. It was one of the most true to life artworks I have encountered. Simply a brilliant example of communicating emotion which I think is the supreme achievment. Congratulations.”

    What are you talking about? Oh my god. The video is so disturbing, I just want to forget it.

  • Kevin O.

    For those wondering, I’m fairly sure PP’s “sickness” was his unusual attachment to pillows. His overly cautious and scared mother sought out an awful doctor (Whose position actually involves psychology and not medicine)who comes up with the awful and possibly traumatizing solution of burning the pillows before Peter. This is pretty damn sad when you realize his mother went to kill his pillow obsession after he kissed her as she slept. Thank god Peter had that voice. If he didn’t this video would have been a lot more depressing to watch.

    Good video, good story.

  • Tallulahdahling

    I found the video disturbing, too, but disturbance is what the story is about. To me, it illustrates a very disturbed little boy whose adults do the worst possible thing to him in the name of curing him. Instead of finding out what the boy needs and dealing with the root of his obsession, the doctor advises the mother to do something so cruel that it not only deprives the child of his objects of obsession (and any security they may represent to him), but makes his mother (whom Peter loves) into a traitor that destroys something he loves.

    That’s a huge loss for this little soul.

    This is a story that happens to troubled kids all too often, one way or another.

    It’s not the kind of film that I like to see a lot of, because it makes me feel sick and sad, and too much of that isn’t healthy. But the truth of the way some adults (including some psychiatrists) do more damage with their misconceived attempts to help is worthy of expression. I think perhaps a person who has been through such a trauma might see this film as proof that SOMEBODY understands how wrong are cruel “cures”. Having that acknowledged can be emotionally helpful.

    As to the grotesque style of the animation, it matches the psychologically screwed situation, the over-the-top obsession with pillows, and the sick “cure”. It’s an all-of-a-piece, theme and style match.

    And to parents the whole thing says “DON’T DO THIS!”