In 2015 I collaborated with Cortina productions, a film company that makes historical films for museums, approached me about making a giant shadow puppet crankie* for a film, I was pretty excited.
The film is about a traveling story teller, who uses a crankie to tell oral histories of the American revolution through 6 different people who lived through it. (among them, a housewife, a native american man, and an african american man). These are actual oral histories of people who lived at the time. It was an inspiring and educational experience working with producer, Brent Feito and a curator/historian, Katherine Gruber of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
I got to spend months researching, story boarding, making sample scenes, and finally making the final piece. The images are based on artwork and aesthetics of the period. In order to make the deadline friend and colleague, Caleb Stine, worked full time hand cutting paper and glueing down scenes with me for over a month. Some other folks who lent a hand during construction were Annie Howe, Lisa Krause, Christine Sajecki, and Eamon Espey. We ended up with three scrolls, some of which are over eighty feet long. Everything was hand cut with a hobby knife.
It was especially moving to be working on this piece about these questions of freedom and human rights as the riots broke out in Baltimore this year. It felt all the more meaningful and powerful to be revisiting these questions in my work.
After the crankie was done, I finally arrived in Virginia, where they had been filming all the stories I had illustrated on the crankie in live action. Michael Lamason and Valeska Populoh of Baltimore's Black Cherry Puppet Theater came to Virginia where we performed the crankie in period dress for the film.
This has been an exciting and challenging project. The rough cut looks great and I can't wait to see the the final edit of the film. In the meantime there is an exhibit of the making of the film on display at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
The film has been available to the public since December 2016.
*A crankie or moving panorama is a scroll of artwork in a box, often illustrating a story or song that it is presented with. The ream of paper or fabric rolled around 2 posts, which is then pulled across the front, much like film in an old camera.