The Short Cut is a new column on Under The Gun that showcases the careers of short film directors. Shorts are often overlooked when it comes to the entire spectrum of film, and by including interviews with the directors themselves and information about their creative efforts, this column will highlight the work of some of the category’s dignitaries that we feel deserve your attention.
Christopher Kezelos got his start in film making around 2001, creating ads and corporate videos, but when delving into the short film scene, he and his production company Zealous Creative began to find true success in a medium that’s virtually unknown in comparison to its lengthier counterpart.
The director began making a real stir in 2010 when his stop-motion animated short, Zero, hit the festival circuit, winning numerous awards and bringing joyous tears to viewers’ eyes with its perfectly narrated tale of social class bigotry, determination and love. At a mere 12 minutes in length, Zero manages to arouse a more touching plot and depth in its yarn-based characters than many 2 hour full-length feature films can even begin to touch.
Kezelos’ newest project, The Maker, has followed nicely in Zero‘s festival footprints, already claiming several awards and nominations at an impressive fifty plus film festivals the world over. The Maker is a huge evolutionary leap in Kezelos’ prowess as a film maker, evident in its thought-provoking story line and gorgeous visuals, collectively a step or more above any of its competitors. As of yesterday, The Maker is officially live online and we (along with Chris I’m sure) are excited for those outside of the festival faction to have the opportunity to experience it and the message it has to offer.
Mr. Kezelos himself took some time to speak with me about the success of his short film career, what’s on the horizon for his creative ideas and how you can watch The Maker and vote for it to win even more! Read through and get familiar with director Christopher Kezelos!
For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you state what it is that you do?
I wear many hats when it comes to my career; working as a designer and producer for the web and as an editor/producer/writer/director for TVCs, corporate videos and short films, but it’s the writing and directing that I’m most passionate about.
How did you get started in film making?
I guess you could trace it back to my childhood. My dad purchased one of the first ever camcorders which I commandeered to shoot videos with my friends. This had a profound impact on my interest in the medium. Later in life I studied film and multi-media at Sydney University where I graduated in 1996 and received a Bachelor of Visual Arts.
What drew you to animation rather than live action?
What most people don’t realize is that I’ve been shooting live action shorts for the past decade! My work in animation however has been the most successful and eclipsed anything I’ve done prior. Animation as a medium is something I’ve always been passionate about so with a background in film making and design, I feel it was a natural evolution.
Do you have any desire or plans to film live action projects in the future?
Absolutely. Because animation is such a time consuming medium, I haven’t had a chance to get back to my live action roots in over 5 years. I’ve got loads of ideas for short and long form live action projects that I can’t wait to make, it’s really just a matter of finding the money to make them. But I’m working on it…
So we’ll start with Zero; how did this project start and what inspired the creation?
Zero came about due to my interest in macro photography. I wanted to find a way to wrap this into my film making, which led to doing a stop motion. I was very inspired by two films. Tim Burton’s student film, Vincent, for its cinematography, and Chuck Gamble’s, Shadow Puppets, for its heart.
What can you tell us about The Maker?
The Maker explores the preciousness of our moments on earth, the short time we have with loved ones and the enjoyment of one’s lifes work and purpose. In their fleeting existence, our characters experience joy, love, hard work, purpose, loss and loneliness. As the tagline suggests, ‘life is what you make it’ and we’re all makers in this world.
Zero and The Maker have collectively screened at over 100 festivals and won 25+ awards. How can you describe the feeling of having already made such an impact with just two short stories?
Honestly, my producer/wife Christine Kezelos and I are so honoured that people are responding to our films. When we set out to make Zero, we had no idea it would have such an emotional impact on people. If you read through the YouTube comments, so many people say they cried, and one person even reported that it encouraged them not to commit suicide! We’re speechless.
Most recently, The Maker has also been selected for the ShortList Film Festival; tell us a little about this…
The ShortList Film Festival is an exclusive online only film festival run by The Wrap News, a major Hollywood industry news site. It’s by invitation only and they select 12 award winning films to compete in competition. We’re also using the opportunity to launch our film online. People can check it out HERE. If they like it, we’d really appreciate their vote to help us win the Audience Award!
What inspired the story of The Maker?
I have a friend, Paul Halley, who’s a classical music composer. His music is beautiful and I wanted to bring more attention to it so I convinced him to pay me to make him a music video clip! At the same time I’d come across an Ohio based puppet maker named Amanda Louise Spayd. Her creations are creepy and enchanting, and in my mind, perfectly matched one of Paul’s compositions. Before contacting her, I wrote a story with her characters in mind set to the movements of the music. I also wanted to keep the budget as low as possible, so envisaged a story with only one room and two characters. I sent my pitch to Amanda who was excited by the project and agreed to get involved.
Do you plan to sell any of your original pieces from the shorts?
No, they’re too precious to us.
What are the challenges, when it comes to animation, of successfully portraying a thoughtful story in under 10 minutes?
Really, it’s the same for live action as it is for animation and that’s writing a succinct and powerful story and conveying that message in a condensed period of time.
Are you already in the process of working on your next effort?
Christine and I are working on a feature film version of The Maker and currently trying to find an experienced feature film animation producer/production company who may be interested in getting involved.
Are you currently involved with any other projects besides The Maker full-length and short film making?
I’m also developing a live action feature film script with Christine which we’re very excited about. I can’t say too much about it right now, but if people are interested in projects we’re developing, they can follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
What experiences do you hope viewers gain from watching your creations?
I want to evoke a strong emotional response in my viewers, so by the end they’re passionate about what they’ve just watched and want to see more!
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
To translate the emotional impact I achieve with my shorts into feature films.
Christopher and his wife Christine discuss the making of Zero:
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion