Kirsten Lepore is a master of stop-motion animation and an incredibly creative storyteller. She fabricates every aspect of her humorous and poignant short films, including sets, characters and sound design, and the results are always overwhelmingly popular. I love introducing Lepore's films to other people, and am yet to find someone who doesn't fall in love with her work at first sight, which is just one of the reasons we featured Lepore on Art School last year.
As a follow-up to her stand-out films Bottle and Sweet Dreams, Lepore just released Move Mountain, her newest opus. It's been on view at film festivals around the world, and has already picked up several prestigious awards. And now, thanks to Lepore's generous online release, you can watch it for free right now!
As soon as I finished watching the stunning Move Mountain (didn't you love it?) I couldn't wait to email Lepore and ask her about this new work of animated art.
KF: In your past films, you worked with materials like sand, snow, and cookies. What kind of unexpected materials did you use this time? The mountain waterfalls looked like candy.
KL: Haha, yeah, they do look a bit like Twizzlers Pull n' Peel candy or something! The waterfalls were actually a huge challenge to figure out. They're a clear, flexible urethane that I tinted and cast with a wire inside so they can move and bend. The water is a mixture of actual colored water and these big clear gel balls I found at Jo-Anns called Aqua Gems. I did a lot of weird experimentation with materials for this film.
KF: The party scene must've been fun to create. I love how your characters dance. What made you want to collaborate with other artists to make characters for Move Mountain? I recognized an elephant by Julia Pott.
KL: I knew from the start that I wanted to have animator friends' characters make cameos in the film, both for fun and also for conceptual reasons. I think having them take part in the dance scene is important in communicating the role of friendship and its power in overcoming struggles. The story's a bit autobiographical, so I figured why not pay homage to my actual friends who have helped me.
KF: So, it's a metaphorical self portrait?
KL: Totally. It was ultimately inspired by my experience with chronic illness (Lyme's disease) a few years ago.
KF: Would you say there is a moral to the story?
KL: I always feel like it sounds cheesy when I say it, but to me, the moral is about not giving up and taking the initiative to solve problems yourself (since no one can truly solve them for you).
KF: You tell really powerful stories without any dialogue. Why do you like storytelling without words?
KL: I think dialogue-less storytelling has always come more naturally to me, because I feel like any dialogue I write just comes out sounding hokey. I also think that any words you choose in any given language each have such inherent connotations to every viewer, and inevitably things break down and drift away from the writer's intention. Language is also limiting -- and by trying to tell stories more visually without language, I think I'm able to reach a wider (and non-English speaking) audience.
KF: You seem to like juxtaposing natural materials with synthetic ones, is that intentional or something you think about when planning?
KL: I think I try to keep things as natural as possible, but am forced to resort to synthetic materials when there are no natural options available -- like using silicones and urethanes for casting elements, for example. But, ultimately, I'm attempting to use those materials to create a naturalistic product. Sometimes, as is the case with this film, I'll imagine up my own version of a natural world which I've completely fabricated.
KF: What are you working on now?
KL: I have a few small film and music video ideas floating around that I'd love to start working on. Hopefully they won't take over 2 years to complete like this film, ha!
Keep up with Kirsten Lepore (and watch the rest of her films) at kirstenlepore.com.