Interview with Filmmaker/Animator Jack Tenbusch (SYMBIONIC)

SYMBIONIC played to rave reviews at the October 2021 CHICAGO Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

SymBionic had been a goal of mine since transferring to art school. I had come up with the concept from a word prompt, “error,” and loved the idea so much that I knew I had to make it as my capstone project.

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

It’s difficult to quantify, but I want to say around 10 months. The concept came quickly, but it was taking every opportunity to create it from storyboard to production that took around a year, including a summer outside of school.

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

Unlikely bonds.

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

The biggest obstacle for me was time. I was getting a later start on my short film than was the standard at Columbia College Chicago – but thankfully due to my Professor Jason Hopkins recognizing the film’s potential and my own dedication to working on it outside of my semesters, I was just able to get it finished.

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

A sense of joy and artistic gratification I hadn’t known until now. Unfortunately due to the pandemic and everything being remote, I had lost my ability to watch my film debut in front of a live audience and to hear their reactions – but the thoughtful comments made in the feedback video have more than made up for that. I am truly blown away by the support and appreciation my animation has received, and I’m deeply grateful to everyone who spoke about it for providing such thoughtful discussion of its contents, strength, and message. I’m so glad I hit the emotional beats I was working for.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had always wanted to make animated movies since I was a kid, and I remember the way I really got started on that was when I was around 8 or 9 and had used my family’s video camera to make stop-action videos. I would pose action figures and voice dialogue, cut the recording, then record again with them in new positions with new dialogue. After that, I grabbed what software I could online to make animations, and by the time high school rolled around I was just sort of like, “yeah, that’s something I can’t get enough of. Let’s go for that as a career.”

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

Toy Story. The franchise as a whole has remained a presence in my life from childhood to adulthood, and it’s nice to have characters grow up with you the same way that series does.

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

FilmFreeway is a bit of a godsend, frankly. Having little to no prior knowledge of film festivals to go on by myself, the site is definitely my go-to place to find festivals and, thanks to its project page feature, make it a lot easier to submit than going through film festival sites individually.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I’m a burger guy. I could go to any restaurant that has them and be happy as a clam.

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

Currently I’m working in Los Angeles as part of an internship program, and I’m looking to make connections here and online that, someday, I hope lead to being part of a team of animators on a production. SymBionic really cemented how much I loved the process of cleanup in animation, so that’s a position I’m going to be striving for.

As for continuing to make films, absolutely – I have plenty of ideas to animate as independent works, and I’d love to continue SymBionic’s narrative into a puzzle platforming game. The short film is basically the opening cutscene, and there’s a lot more to be explored in its world and story.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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