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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment September 26, 2017


10/6/2009 1:05:00 PM
BendFilm brings unique movies to Sisters

Like many children of the '70s, Portland writer/director Kyle Bell grew up steeped in the technicolor hues of classic Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons.

Bell's award-winning animated fable, "The Mouse That Soared," plays opening night in Sisters, October 9, during BendFilm's annual pageant of independent cinema.

Bell has been animating for close to 20 years. He started his career in stop-motion animation at Will Vinton Studios in Portland doing the California Raisin commercials and "The PJ's," a 1990's animated TV series created by Eddie Murphy.

Now an animator at Portland-based Laika Studios, his first independent short has captured many awards and heartfelt praise from both animation fans and Hollywood industry professionals.

Inspiration for "The Mouse That Soared" was based on a single sketch of two birds carrying a mouse and the project branched off from there. His friend, Matthew Hayes, was a big part of writing the simple story.

"I wanted it to be contemporary and fresh yet somewhat nostalgic, harkening back to the emotion and wit of vintage Warner Brothers cartoons but with a modern look," Bell said. "I tried to give the backgrounds a hand-drawn style and unique sense of place. Settings are based on actual locations in Oregon, mainly the old lumber mill outside Corvallis. It's one of the last steam-powered mills in the country."

The animated short was crafted by a dedicated group of nearly forty artists and animators, aptly named "Team Mouse."

"Even my 11-year-old son, Silas, helped with story and gags and kept me honest about whether or not it was funny to kids. The whole thing took roughly a year to complete," Bell said.

Bell plans on attending the Opening Night festivities in Sisters with his son Silas. "The Mouse That Soared" is part of the BendFilm Friday night roster, October 9, which includes the Shredded Wheat mockumentary, "The Palace of Light," and feature eco-documentary, "At The Edge of The World." Show starts at 8 p.m.

Another film featured in the Sisters run of BendFilm is "The Attic Door."

By his own admission, director Danny Daneau was ridiculously afraid of the dark as a child.

"I was a scared kid with a very active imagination. I used to go through this entire routine before I went to bed. Checking all the doors and windows. I didn't have mirrors in my room until I was fifteen. I thought if I looked into them I would see monsters and ghosts," he said.

Daneau's debut feature film, "The Attic Door," explores the labyrinth of childhood fears, set against an iconic western landscape of Utah's Kane County. The movie makes its premiere Saturday, October 10 at 3 p.m. at Sisters Movie House as part of BendFilm's festival weekend.

Daneau will attend the screening along with writer Eric Ernst and producer Erica Harrell, and answer questions after the film.

The movie stars Madison Davenport and Jake Johnson as brother and sister who are abandoned in the vast and sterile landscape of the 19th century American West. Each day, they struggle to keep up the family farm and anxiously await their parents' return. With nowhere to escape, the siblings discover they are not alone. As much as they try to deny the truth, something behind the attic door has awakened.

"At the time, I was looking for a way to explore my own childhood issues," Daneau said. "I wanted explore the notion of minimalism and the confines of that world. I like working with restrictions. Two characters, one location, then see what challenges can arise.... Using one location and let the drama and the emotion develop from that setting."

Daneau first experienced the awe and grandeur of Kane County in 2006 while working on a documentary project on legendary director John Ford, called "Cowboys With Cameras."

"You look up at these towers of rock and it makes you think... I am so insignificant," he said. "The time needed to form and carve these rocks. Unbelievable. You cannot ignore the landscape."

He convinced the Utah Film Commission to help award an incentive grant to his production to promote and showcase the area for tourism and future film or television projects.

Daneau has worked for years on many short films, commercials, and music videos. The transition from short to feature length was daunting at first.

"You're sitting on hours and hours of footage and battle against what you want the film to be versus what it is in the script," he said. "But you also appreciate how much freedom you have to dissect and discover the story in the editing room. It's hard to see until you really get deep into the material. That whole process is amazing, carving the performances, the emotion, and finding the film.

"After my great experience at BendFilm in 2005 I always dreamed I'd someday be back with my first feature. And here I am and it's so wonderful to be able to share with everyone," he said.

"We hope to attract a buyer or distributor as the film is shown at festivals and gets more exposure. Ultimately, this is a tough movie to sell. It's very personal, but more than anything, it's a lonely film presented against a cold, overwhelming landscape. It's a tribute to sibling love and I hope we've captured that."

"The Attic Door" plays with two short films, "Bar Flies," and "Max & Helena." Stay and meet the filmmakers after the show. Tickets are $10 for all blocks of shows at Sisters Movie House. Consult the festival guide for more information and the full BendFilm schedule.





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