This is one in a series of posts for the HuffPost Culture series "The Sundance Diaries," a month-long multimedia diary kept by the international filmmakers whose 64 short films were selected for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
A still from Julia Potts' short film "Belly"
It's almost exactly one week until Sundance and I am not ready. I pilfered a super 80's down coat from my mom (when it comes to cold weather and fashion, all bets are off). I have one thermal vest that I believe was bought for me when I was 8 years old. It's pink with little embroidered flowers and it barely covers my belly button. I believe my (admittedly lacking) preparation for the weather has merely become a distraction method from the preparation I should be doing for Sundance itself. Every day a few emails come through inviting me to an array of awesome events, brunches, parties, get to know yous, and I dutifully add them to the 'Sundance' folder of my inbox and tell myself to tackle them, make a schedule, prepare!
As an animator, I tend to be a little socially awkward. I have often heard us described as 'shy actors,' performing ridiculous scenarios and routines in front of Photo Booth, in the quiet of our bedrooms and studios, more often than not in our pajamas. One of the contradictions in our profession is that in order to get ahead we need to get out there and meet new people, in spite of our social shortcomings. Whenever I do bite the bullet and go out, I always have a great time and come away feeling full of adrenaline, confident, happy... and then I go back home, put on my pajamas, dance around in front of photo booth and forget the whole lesson.
My film 'Belly', in part, was about externalizing this part of myself. I wanted the film to be hazy and dreamlike, on par with a day at the beach when the sound of the ocean is pounding in your ears and you are exhausted from swimming and your eyes are all bleary, and you're not really all there. To get the emotional core of the film I drew upon what I remembered about being a kid. That sense of being ostracized, left out and left behind. But I don't think those sensations are exclusive to being young. I am just in the middle of reading, 'Middlesex' by Jeffrey Eugenides, and a line there spoke to me:
It's often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, "Stay there. Don't move"
I cannot speak for everyone, but I feel have not moved on much from when I was a kid. Sometimes I feel like I am becoming a 'proper' adult, and then I'll be thrown into a situation where I am out of my element, and I am 7 years old again. If I have a bad encounter in every day life, I am standing there, solid, forced to deal with it, but my body's internal reaction is to melt, sink into the ground and underneath it. With "Belly" I drew on these sensations, with the character's living in this malleable world. If they need to get from one place to another they can slide through someone's body, through their guts, without consequence. It was this malleable grotesque drawing which kept me most intrigued throughout the production process -- drawing the inside of creatures eyes, their melting bodies and soft putty like skin. (Still from "Belly" below)
I think we all have a little of this inside of us, this desire to be able to do more with our bodies, push through each other, touch our guts together, stretch our limbs and climb and slide over vast expanses. Kids, and animation, are more open to this possibility.
WATCH a trailer for "Belly" below: