Know Your Indie Filmmaker: Sean Buckelew
In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.
This week’s subject is American animator Sean Buckelew whose visually understated body of work often explores our complicated relationship with technology.
In a paragraph: Buckelew’s films have an understated, almost plain and realistic look. Much like David Lynch with Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, Buckelew lures the viewer into what seems to be a relatively bland, recognizable world, before taking us off course. Using a dry and dark sense of humor and a frequently disengaged, non-judgemental perspective, Buckelew’s work explores the oddness of human relationships and more specifically our often dangerous and unsettling reliance upon technology to mediate the world.
Where to start: Another (2013). Buckelew’s student film is a deceptively simple and utterly strange and hypnotic tale about a bear who kills a man and then moves in with the man’s wife and child. The narrative is free flowing and straightforward, yet wide open to interpretation. Is this about domestic abuse? Is the bear what the previously gentle father has become? Do the boy and mother accept the bear out of desperation and fear? Is it just an absurd work about what it would be like if a bear lived in human marriage? It doesn’t matter really. Buckelew’s elliptical narrative and tightly framed shots create a enigmatic and anxious setting that leaves you on edge throughout the film.
What to watch next: Love Streams (2017) A rather sad but apt little tale about the good and bad of trying to find meaningful love in a virtual world.
Other key works: The American Dream (2014), Hopkins & Delaney LLP (2016), I’m Not a Robot (2019)
Influences: Chris Sullivan, Laura Poitras, Terrence Malick
Says: “Ideas for me usually start as something really simple, like a single image or interaction, and then usually the ‘story’ sort of folds out from doing research and developing a context for the original idea. It also helps that a lot my ideas are rooted in the real world, so it’s easier to pull details straight from experience or observation.”
Currently working on: Buckelew’s latest short, Drone (2022) is just beginning its festival run. You can see it at Annecy later this month.