"THOUGH ALL OF THE ADVERSITY, THE PROJECT CAME TOGETHER IN THE END AND I BELIEVE THAT EVERY HOUR I WOKED HAS DEFINITELY PAID OFF."

Elisa Stanis
Dorm
Nomination: Best Student Film 
Screening Session: Feb 28 | Nominated Films  
3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival Online
22-28 Feb 2021 | Tickets £5 / £10 Full 7-Day Pass: bit.ly/PRFF-Tickets
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One rainy night inside a college dorm, a young woman's mundane task takes a horrifying turn.
 

Hi Elisa thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?

Hello! Thank you so much for the interview! I’m doing alright! I ended up graduating in my basement instead of away at school, but I’ve been doing my best to look on the bright side of things. It’s been nice to be able to spend time with family and work on projects.

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?

I’ve definitely found a lot of inspiration in terms of things I wish I could do, and really appreciating the people in my life. A lot of my work has revolved around activities I look forward to participating in again.

Congratulations on having your film selected for the 3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

Thank you! It means so much to me, and I honestly can’t wait to see all of the films being screened! There are so many talented filmmakers running the festival circuit these days, and it’s really an honoUr to be considered with them! 

Can you tell me a little bit about your film, how did this film come about?

I made this film as my senior Capstone, which is basically the thesis project for the animation students at DePaul University. I came up with the idea one night while talking with friends about how creepy long hallways can be and swapping scary dorm-related stories. The project idea also grew from a study I had done related to horror in cinema; how it specifically has evolved over time, and specifically in regards to how women are portrayed in the genre. Through many revisions I finally came to a scary story that I wanted to tell- One that centred around a young woman’s mundane night in a college dorm that quickly turns sinister. 

What always scared me about horror stories was when you could find a relatability to the character, and actively saw yourself in them. Fear of being pursed, dread of the unknown, and having self-doubt fighting against your gut instincts are all very real and visceral emotions humans experience universally. I wanted this film to channel that college dorm experience, combined with the fear of being harassed by an unseen force, and questioning your safety in a place that should be the safest- home. 

What where the biggest challenges you faced bringing your film to life?

The biggest challenge for my film was definitely a lack of time. I created all of the storyboards, backgrounds, and animation myself with no budget, and poured countless hours into bringing it to life. Each second of animation within the film contains 12-24 separate drawings, and the film itself was created in less than a year, as I was juggling full-time school and a job. It was certainly a challenge to bring it all together, especially as Covid-19 forced my University to close the dorms. I suddenly had to work from home, and lost all of the resources I had been using, as well as the class I had been planning to take that would help me polish the film. I ended up finishing DORM in my basement and am so grateful to my sound designer and close friend, Kerry Stephens, who stepped in and fixed up my audio as well as creating an amazing trailer. It is a little sad, because there are pieces I wanted to refine, and polishes that I wanted to add, but just like so much of 2020, I pushed forward doing the best I could. Through all of the adversity, the project came together in the end, and I believe that every hour I worked has definitely paid off.

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

I think the biggest thing I would have done differently with working on DORM is allowing my drawings at the beginning to be messier. I used up a lot of time making things look very polished, and knowing what I do now about what happened in 2020, I would have used that time to work faster, and save the polish for later.

Describe your film in three words?

Hunted, Unexpected, Lingering

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I grew up loving storytelling in all its forms! Realising I could combine a love for art with the ability to tell stories of any genre and theme was a breakthrough that lead me to my career as an animator and filmmaker. It’s amazing how I can create characters and bring them to life, and I deeply admire those who have mastered the art of storytelling. 

What has been some of the best advice you’ve been given?

“Don’t forget to take breaks.” This is one of the most important things to remember in any career, hobby, or aspect of life! I really struggle with getting caught up in my work, and feeling so consumed by my projects. It's so easy to work to the point of burnout, but the danger there is losing your passion. Remember what made you fall in love with your art form in the first place! Drawing inspiration from nature, other people, and stories of the past is a refreshing and important way to recharge. 

"Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be discouraged by harsh feedback."

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

For sure! I think there’s always innovation to be found within a field, but I also believe that learning from the past and the people who have come before us is essential to refining a craft in a new and different light. “Subverting Expectations” doesn’t necessarily make for a good story. Trying to outdo and show up other creators will never be as productive as learning from others and creating for the sake of art and story, rather than in pursuit of fame. Finding new techniques and creating out of joy will always result in the most memorable and important pieces of art.

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

Be kind to your fellow artists and be kind to yourself! It doesn’t matter how talented you are if no one wants to work with you; having people to rely on makes projects so much easier and way more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be discouraged by harsh feedback. Everything “wrong” with your piece is just an opportunity to grow or learn more! Even more so, always be proud of your hard work. It takes a lot to create a film, and it’s important to enjoy the process as much as you can. 

 

As a final piece of advice- please remember to stay hydrated!

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?

While making DORM I channeled so much love and inspiration into every single frame. I hope viewers feel that passion and get immersed in the story. In terms of mood, and this being a horror piece? I hope everyone who watches it is scared! I want people to think about my film after it ends; I hope it sticks with them as one of those shorts with a lingering sense of unsettling ambiguity. Every time you walk down a dark hallway or find yourself alone in a bathroom, I hope my film resurfaces a little in your mind.

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