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CBTV Student Fest: “Chief Serenbe”

Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival continues today with the third film in our line-up: Chief Serenbe by Evan Curtis from the Savannah College of Art and Design. This stop motion short really stood out to us as we were watching the entries. The film isn’t conventionally narrative, but engages the viewer by taking us into the world of the drifter. It is a surprisingly emotional piece of work and manages to create a distinctive sense of time and place. Curtis’s cinematic approach and use of depth of field makes us forget the star of the film is just a small toy.

Evan Curtis

Evan (pictured above) provided us with these background notes on his short:

Chief Serenbe was an attempt at an Italian Neo-realist stop-motion road movie, or at least the beginning of such. I specifically wanted a loose narrative, reflective of my experience living in an unfamiliar city and the freedom that comes from not being tied down to any one place. It’s shot entirely on location in Atlanta. I had no script or storyboard, only a short list of locations. The guerrilla-style of filmmaking allowed for the film to grow in a way that was affected more by the locations than by a script. Basically I drove around with my camera, tripod, and character until I found an interesting spot, where I’d jump out and shoot something. I shot with a Nikon D40 and edited the film on Avid. And yes, I got a lot of strange looks from pedestrians while filming but it was well worth it!

Filmmaker Websites
Evan Curtis

Cartoon Brew’s second annual Student Animation Festival is made possible through the generous support of Titmouse and JibJab.

  • Sat

    That was great! It really looked good. How about a feature film done that way?

  • That would make a cool cigarette commercial.

  • Very cool vibe. You really do forget the difference in scale between the puppet and his surroundings. My favorite film of this year’s student fest so far.

  • Robot Chicken Art-film? Ha, just kidding, good job man. Nice facial expression on the main character, did you sculpt it, or where is it from?

  • That was far better than any high tech cgi film I’ve seen about toys, bugs, fish, monsters, robots, or boy scouts.
    I am very serious. You really know how connect with an audience and you are a talented filmmaker; Do more!!
    PS. just kidding about the cgi toys, bugs, etc.

    • To clarify: we don’t need high tech cgi to create high quality films, as evidenced by your compelling short (in contrast to a current cgi film with shiny polish, but is weak & not engaging). I can’t remember when I’ve ever been that locked into a puppet film, especially starring a real doll which happens to be male. That doll seemed believable, almost Bond-like. I don’t know how you did that; it really works. The guy is thinking, planning, resting, moving and we care somehow. The story was irrelevant. I sometimes teach my college students that “character IS plot”. Our real friends in real life are not part of a film story, right? yet we just like THEM and want to be with them, regardless of the “story” or absence of one. Please continue making films; you are really on to something special.

  • AaronSch

    Evan, as the Brewmasters previously stated, your film engaged me as soon as it started and I found myself more interested in the journey or plight of a small toy more than the characters played by live actors in many recent films. The “guerrilla style” you employed here indicates that your instincts are right on target. Congratulations.

  • cbat628

    I really enjoyed this. You don’t see too many (mainstream) films trying more to depict a certain mood than relate a structured narrative. Not that films with a more traditional narrative are bad, but it’s always good to have a mixture of different “tastes” that are of high quality, and this was especially refreshing!

  • This is too mature and understated to be a student film

  • Really beautiful shot selection and composition.

  • If Chief Serenbe is the character’s name, that puts a whole different spin on it. I have to wonder if this is a dispossessed Native American, still wandering freely, but in a land that is no longer his.

  • Paulo

    That was great. Awesome job.

  • C. Chambers

    Nicely done Evan…took me back to my childhood and G.I. Joe…future plans for a stop motion feature film?

    • evan

      Thanks C.,

      as a matter of fact I’ve written a feature stop-motion script that I plan on making once I graduate. It mixes this style of shooting on location with artificial sets and lighting.

      Realistically, I hope to complete it in 3-4 years once I begin. Of course that will depend on fundraising and employment.

      I’ll definitely be reaching out on Kickstarter as one source of funding. Follow Ore Magi Films on facebook or twitter to find out further details once I begin the project.


  • cst

    After the war, G.I. Joe was a changed man…

  • Adam VM

    I was amazed when I looked at the bar and realized how long this had run. I was so engaged, I didn’t even realize.

    This was fantastic. Thoughtful and subtle, without ever feeling pretentious. And I was impressed again and again by how well you integrated the puppet with the world around him. Even when there were visible differences in scale on screen, it didn’t take me out of the film in the slightest.

    Fantastic work.