Interview with Filmmaker Holly Schroeder (SHOWDOWN)

SHOWDOWN was the winner of BEST ANIMATION Film at the June 2021 ANIMATION Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Several things motivated me to make Showdown. I watched Westerns as a kid, and of course fell in love with the majestic landscapes and the black and white cowboy outfits. I thought it would be funny to make a Western trying to include every possible Western stereotype. I also thought making a short little practice animation would be a great way to learn 3D animation (that was 4 years ago!).

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Because I was learning animation as I was working on this video, it took me about 4 years from concept to finished product. Of course I did other things in that 4 years as well, but there were very few times where some segment of my brain was trying to figure out a problem with how to build or animate something.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Have fun! Enjoy life! Something like that…

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I faced several hurdles in the completion of Showdown. One was technical, for example I was having a hard time making water look like water, and I was using an old version of the program, which was very slow to render, so I didn’t get results for sometimes 12 hours. It was very frustrating, because I couldn’t change a setting and see the result, even in the same day.

Another obstacle was that I don’t have any friends that work in animation, so when I got feedback from them, I knew they were limited by their knowledge of the possibilities within the 3D world, and of course no one wants to give a friend negative feedback. So you can imagine how excited I was to be accepted into this festival!

Maybe the most interesting and least expected obstacle was when trying to figure out what the guns should shoot, and how the movie should end, I started getting really worried about being seen as promoting gun violence, and even had several nightmares where I was in a live shooter situation. I knew the guns had to shoot something funny and peaceful, but what? I tried the little flags that say “Pow”, I thought about flowers (the iconic photo of the young woman in one of the Vietnam protests putting flowers in the barrels of the guns of the police), in the end the water just made the most sense to me, being in the desert afterall, and I finally came up with a water that was not perfect but acceptable.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was relieved and overjoyed that they “got it”! I was not sure how much of the story involved knowing me and my sense of humor. At least one of the friends that I had watch “Showdown” early on said something like “that is so you”, which at first I took as a good thing, but slowly over time it started to worry me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I didn’t realize I wanted to make films until maybe about 15 years ago (I am 55 now). Missoula has a community access cable channel with amazing resources including free camera use and editing suites, so it is easy to get started. My partner at the time and I made a 50 minute film following “An Inconvenient Truth” using climate data from Montana. Shortly after I started making videos I got really interested in adding the 3D animation element to them, but it has taken me years of self teaching to get to where I am.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

One of the first movies I remember was Logan’s Run, in more modern times I loved The Matrix.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I have not had much experience with other platforms, but FilmFreeway is painless.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I love Indian food, unfortunately I live in a place with a real lack of Indian restaurants.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I think it will be a while before I have a new story, but I have a friend who is a musician, and we have talked about maybe collaborating on something, possibly more on the experimental side. In the meantime, I am learning the animation program Blender at a deeper level, and etching glass as a hobby, and taking time to see my family who all live on the other side of the country.

There is also a part of me that wants to start some kind of animation club here in Missoula, to help others through some of the initial learning curve, but it is too early to say if that will happen.

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