Cosmic cows and orca police to the rescue!

More than a dozen Sunshine Coast youth have learned how to use a unique artform to envision a better world, thanks to the inspiration and instruction offered at a local film workshop.

On Aug. 29, the group of 11 to 15 year olds attended a day-long class on claymation at the Gibsons and District Public Library, facilitated by Vancouver-based filmmakers Anandi Brownstein and Mariam Barry as part of a community development program called Reel Youth.

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Claymation, or clay animation, uses clay figures (plasticine, on this occasion) to tell a story using stop-motion. The figures are manipulated and photographed in tiny steps – three to five per second – which are edited together to create the illusion of movement and tell a story.

At the workshop, the participants formed three groups, which Barry and Brownstein led through brainstorming sessions on current social and environmental problems. The groups were asked to come up with characters and stories in response to those challenges. “We don’t create the characters, they do all that,” Barry told Coast Reporter. “We’re facilitators. We get them to express what they’re most passionate about.”

Claymation can inspire whimsically offbeat ideas, and these youths went all-in.

“We had a group that was concerned about the fires in the Amazon,” Brownstein said. “So, we asked them, ‘what’s the response to that problem,’ and they said, ‘cows coming from outer space and spraying the fires with cow milk.’ Because humans aren’t taking action, the youths imagined that the animals would seek out alien animals for help.”

Another group was concerned about ocean pollution, Brownstein said. “So, they’re doing a piece about plastic in the ocean and people rallying together to clean it up. They have an orca whale that is like the police, and he ends up chasing the plastic-polluters away,” she said.

The third group focused on inclusivity. “The main message is stand up for what you believe in,” said participant Maya, 12. The story involved a gay couple set upon by a homophobic bully, Maya explained. The couple would appear to get smaller and the bully bigger as he berated them until other community members stepped in and chased him away.

Once the stories were set, the students put together the plasticine characters, then photographed them hundreds of times, altering them minutely with each shot as the stories unfolded.

Brownstein said the photos would be sent to a professional editor working for Reel Youth who will add sound effects and graphics to the one-minute films, a process that can take a few weeks.

Library Child and Youth Services Coordinator Danielle Arsenault said the films will be shown at a fall public-screening event still in the planning stages.

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