Daniel Sterlin-Altman on the advantages of stop motion and breaking clichés around the LGBTQI+ narrative

The Berlin-based animation director explains why he is still addicted to the medium despite its labour-heavy process.

Date
27 March 2020
Reading Time
3 minutes

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“It’s always felt a bit weird to be a stop motion filmmaker, an outcast in the world of animation,” says Daniel Sterlin-Altman. The Berlin-based animator sees the medium as a fantastical twist on live action storytelling, but to many, stop motion is the ugly duckling of the animation world. That doesn’t matter to Daniel though, who has pursued the famously arduous discipline for the wonderful thing that it is. For Daniel, it’s a “tactile way to tell otherwise taboo stories that would be too absurd to portray through live action.” Something he illustrates whole heartedly in his latest film Reach The Sky.

Approached by Shaun Brodie, the director of Toronto’s Queer Songbook Orchestra (QSO), Daniel was asked to direct a new film to accompany QSO’s rendition of We’ll Reach the Sky Tonight which sent a positive message out into the queer community. Created alongside the stop motion guru Evan DeRushie, the joyful animation celebrates queer existence in all its glory. Referencing queer iconography and notable members of the community throughout history, the short centres on a cast of crocheted naked dolls, delightfully made by the Toronto-based yarn artist Chason Yeboah.

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Reach the Sky

“Reach the Sky works to break some of the clichés of the LGBTQI+ narrative, a lot of which are depressing and focus on the anxiety of being different,” Daniel tells It’s Nice That. By contrast, the near-six-minute film draws on the tactility of stop motion to create something both uplifting and charming, while a strong dose of the absurd is also thrown into the mix, mermaids and all. Despite the labour intensive process, stop motion remains to be an “addictive” source for the animator. He still remembers the first time he fell in love with the medium. It was during his first ever date – “so many life milestones coinciding with stop motion ones,” he adds in cheekily. On the date, Daniel went to see Henry Selick’s film Coraline, immediately becoming entranced with the miniature knitted jumpers and saltwater taffy.

From there, he went onto study Film Animation at Concordia University and has been working predominantly on stop motion films ever since. Why stop motion in particular? Because it’s versatile and accessible. Daniel explains, “A viewer can sometimes, and sometimes not, see the amount of care and attention that has gone into each frame.” It has all the advantages of other forms of animation, as well as being able to animate the camera manually to create illusions of reality.

With Reach the Sky specifically however, the highlight for Daniel came from Chason Yeboah. The first time she saw her naked crocheted dolls brought to life, she cried tears of joy. “Animators never become truly desensitised to the pleasure of seeing motion in animation after hours of work on a character,” adds the director. “But to witness Chason first seeing her lifelike dolls in motion brought joy to my life.” Bringing underrepresented storylines to the fore, Reach the Sky is a heart warming depiction of love and support in the community. Anyone and everyone can enjoy it, no matter what if you’re queer to not. So tuck in for an adventure of companionship, on this fantastic naked ride.

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Reach the Sky

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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