Black animators are rare within big animation studios like Pixar, Warner Bros. Animation, and Illumination Entertainment. Thankfully black animated stories are being recognized more and more. Especially after the Oscar win for the short film Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, a story about an African American father tasked with styling his daughters natural hair for the first time.
This month The Reel Effect has the honor of sitting down with a self taught animator, photographer, and Mass Communications professor, Philip Page, and hear about his story and experience creating his short film, Genesis.
Meah Denee Barrington: Why was telling the creation of humanity important? Where did the inspiration to write and tell this story originate?
Philip Page: I had an urge to create. I was planning on visiting LA in December to build cinematography connections but I just feel I could do my own project at the time. It was an idea that just stuck. We always see interpretations of God or Adam and Eve as other races or men. I always knew how to draw and took that skill to the next level.
MDB: Why an animation, considering you have photography and videography experience as well?
PP: It’s just my skill as an artist. Drawing was the 1st thing I knew how to do. Plus I knew I could complete an animated short on my own, without having to get talent and crew in the same place.
MDB: What did the ideation process look like for you?
PP: The first thing was sketching and watching youtube videos on animation. Then I wrote the script. Inch by inch that gave me confidence that it could be done. From there I began storyboarding.
MDB: Can you speak on teaching yourself how to animate the film.
PP: Animation came a bit easier because of my video, motion graphics and graphic design experience. I knew all about layers and key framing. So understanding the styles of animation and timing was the next step. Most 2D animation is done at 12 frames per second.. I took liberties when it came to that and drew the frames that were necessary.
MDB: What advice would you give new animators, especially when it comes to teaching yourself the software?
PP: GET A TEAM! Teaching yourself is one thing but animating a project by yourself can wear you down.
MDB: What were some of the biggest challenges when producing this short film?
PP: Exhaustion, when you want things to be right. You will exhaust yourself. Get rest and take breaks.
MDB: What do you want viewers to take away from watching Genesis?
PP: I just want viewers to enjoy it and to not judge it. I wanted to feature black women and tribute black women. Everybody (black women) involved was paid upfront and I want them to also reap the rewards. Shout out to Bethany Anderson, Desiree Dixon, Vanessa Ferguson, Leslie Marie, and Ja’Nyla Thompson.
MDB: How has it been getting your work out to a bigger crowd?
PP: I have submitted to a lot of film festivals, currently I have six official selections and won Best Animated Film at the Las Vegas Black Film Festival. I’m currently looking for a distributor.
MDB: Have you felt any resistance when getting your story out because you are a black animator?
PP: I would say YES! But it’s speculative..wink. It seems certain white run festivals only take black projects centered on black racial trauma to meet a quota. If they accepted all types of black films cool, but it doesn’t seem like that. Still, more power to the black creatives telling those stories.
As for the story, I have gotten critiques from some of the Holy internet clergy but I just curse them out and keep it moving.
MDB: What is the most important thing about storytelling?
PP: Tell your story! Execute your vision
MDB: I know you’re a professor at NC A&T, how involved were you students in this project?
PP: I hired a former student Ja’Nyla Thompson as a production assistant. She was a big help especially during this COVID-19 pandemic when NONE of us were able to meet face to face.
MDB: What is next? Will there be a part two or continuation to the story?
PP: Really I don’t know! I have some concepts in my head. Not sure if it will be 2D animation, 3D or live action, but best believe it will be black!
To read more about Philip Page work and his amazing team at Genesisshort.com. Continue to support black creators and black stories by sharing this article, subscribing to our newsletter, and showing some love in the comments section.