Interview with Filmmaker Vanessa Nilsson (A POLAR BEAR STORY)

A POLAR BEAR STORY, 4min., USA, Animation
Directed by Vanessa Nilsson
A Polar Bear Story is a 3D animated short film that comments on climate change and how it is the primary threat to polar bears as the arctic warms and sea ice disappears. The story follows a young, playful, and mischievous polar bear cub whose playfulness puts him in harms way of melting sea ice.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve been creating animations and paintings about Climate Change for several years now. This short animation was inspired by another short animation I completed in 2018 titled “In the Laboratory.” In this animation there is a short 15 second scene where a polar bear and her cub are separated due to melting ice. I wanted to expand on that scene and make it its own short that focuses on just the polar bears and the threats they’re facing.

I also wanted to focus more on the technical side of the animation and focus on elements that are difficult to model and animate like fur, water, ice etc.

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

I started this project in April of 2020 and then worked on it off and on until July 2022. I worked on it as an individual and then my friend did an amazing job creating all the sound effects and music.

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

Climate Change!

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

Finding the time to work on it. Between my full time design job and teaching animation at 2 universities, I had difficulties finding the time to sit down with it and give the film my full attention. I also ran into a rendering issue, my computer wasn’t powerful enough to render the fur/ice/reflection to the quality I would have liked it to be.

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

It was really refreshing to see feedback from people I personally do not know whose feedback is focused only on the film.

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

When I was in college. I originally went to art school for drawing & painting. I am an avid painter and it is one of my biggest passions.While I was in college I had to take a mandatory Art & Technology class which I was dreading! In that class, I was introduced to a 3D program called Cinema 4D and I fell in love with it! After the class, I quickly changed to a double major in both Painting and Animation. Once I finished undergrad, I was accepted into a MFA program where I focused mainly on 3D animation. I’ve been animating ever since!

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

Definitely Lord of the Rings! I was obsessed when I was 10 years old and can quote the entire trilogy.

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’m not sure yet, this is my first time entering the festival circuit. I have previously shown my other animations in galleries because they go hand in hand with my paintings. So far, I’m enjoying the experience!

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

It’s been great so far! FilmFreeway makes the daunting process of finding festivals that are right for you and your film easier and more manageable.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Rueben sandwiches with corn beef!

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

I am ready to start a new film! I have the storyboards and am starting the character modeling process.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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