Interview with Filmmaker/Animator Daniel Blake (THE STAR MILL)

THE STAR MILL, 5min,. Canada, Black & White
Directed by Daniel Blake
A boy and his pet owlbear learn to appreciate the present, and not worry about the future, while running a windmill that powers the stars at night.

Interview with Animator/Filmmaker Daniel Blake

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Other than school deadlines, I really wanted to create a film that captured a little of how I was feeling going into my final year of college. That feeling of worrying about the future but still trying to enjoy where you’re currently at is something that was very relevant to me as graduation approached and all my friends were going to go their separate ways, so combining that theme with a fantastical world I thought could be really interesting if I pulled it off.

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

I developed the early idea in the summer of 2021 and then finished the entire film by April 2022, just in time for the school deadlines.

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

I’d say melancholic and warm.

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

There were definitely a BUNCH of obstacles I had to deal with while making the film, but I’d say the biggest one was actually the process of animating it. Animating the movement of characters has taken me a while in the past, but with this film in particular, there were so many different aspects that needed to have its movement fleshed out in unique ways: For example, how does the boy character move around in a child-like way? How does the windmill and all of its inner-processes function? What does an owlbear pet look like while eating? So many little nuances had to be figured out as I started drawing that ended up taking a lot more time than I had initially planned, but luckily I think paid off in the end.

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

I was excited and nervous. It was so surreal and scary to see the opinions of complete strangers, but it was also really cool to see how they all connected with it in different ways: seeing what they latched onto and remembered about the film was really interesting as it showed me what really stuck with them about what I made.

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

I knew I wanted to tell stories from way back when I was a little kid, and to do so, I would just make crudely drawn comics to get my ideas across. When I came to college however, and started learning the more technical aspects of film and how to animate, I started becoming more interested in creating something much more cinematic than what I had done previously (and how far I could push myself to do it).

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

It’s a bit of a cheat, but the first 6 Star Wars films. I watched each of them a crazy amount of times growing up and really fell in love with the universe and characters it created. The way those films crafted this world that blended genres together and could go from being funny and action-packed to dark and mystical was always really interesting to me because so many different kinds of stories could exist in that space. As a kid, I would make up my own characters and stories in that universe all the time.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I was really satisfied overall with my festival experience with you guys, and LOVED the inclusion of the feedback video. If I had to pick something, maybe getting feedback on my film from someone in the industry would be really cool. Like in my case, getting a storyboard artist that you’ve dealt with in the past to give their thoughts on my film would be an amazing learning experience to hear from someone in a similar field as me.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It’s been great. FilmFreeway has been a really nice way to easily find festivals that relate to my film that I’d like to take part in. The only drawback is that it’s TOO good at helping me find a bunch of festivals and I end up spending more money than I hoped. There’s just too many cool festivals out there!

10. What is your favorite meal?

Shanghai noodles from the Mandarin restaurant. Thick noodles are awesome.

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

Absolutely not (at least for now!). Making an entire film by myself was satisfying, but super exhausting. I’m working a storyboarding job right now that I’m really enjoying, so I’m probably just going to focus on doing a good job with that for the time being, while creatively satisfying myself through making little comics on the side (which take waaaay less time), but who knows what I’ll be thinking a few years from now.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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