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Official Selection - Short film competition
Annecy International Animation Film Festival, 2021

Mike Maryniuk
Nuit De Juin / June Night

Working in sublime self-isolation during the strange pandemic spring of 2020, avant-garde filmmaker Mike Maryniuk composes a surreal ode to rebirth and reinvention. Juxtaposing archival imagery with handcrafted animation, he conjures up a shimmering utopian dreamscape, a post-COVID world shaped by the primordial forces of nature—haunted by the genial spectre of Buster Keaton.

Hi Mike thanks for talking to tNC, how have you been keeping during these strange Covid times? 

 

Thanks! Happy to chat about the film. These strange times have allowed me to create new work and recalibrate what is important to me as an artist and a person. 

 

So… not bad.

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspirations?

 

I’m trying to work smaller, working with miniatures, macro photography and garbage that I find in the house. I just finished another short animation about bubble wrap, cardboard boxes and the lie that is North American recycling, called Consumption Falls.

 

I’ve been forced to simplify everything, so I’m constantly trying to find inspiration in the monotony and universal quality of everyday items. 

 

Do you still get nerves ahead of a festival screening?

 

Of course. I think it’s important to get a little nervous. I’m generally most nervous about whether the file even works, or about the sound levels. Mostly technical stuff.

 

How does it feel to be at Annecy with June Night?

 

Could there be a better place or month to screen a film called June Night? It’s such an honour not only to screen at Annecy, but also to be there on a historic anniversary. The film is a tribute to cinema past, present and future, and I feel those digital vibes coming my way from the festival. 

 

Can you tell me a little bit about June Night, what was the inspiration behind this film?

 

I started with the simple idea of telling a story from the perspective of a houseplant, and that idea morphed into examining our relationship with the natural world. The story became more complex as the world became more complex. It’s almost a guided dream on how we should take time to look at ourselves in the mirror. 

It’s important that the older version of ourselves takes advice and is mentored by the younger version, in order to shed certain ways of thinking.

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"Filmmaking became inevitable the day I stumbled upon 30 movie posters from 1926 used as insulation between the ceiling and roof of a shoe store I was tearing down."

June Night is part of The Curve, how did you get involved in this project?

 

I was asked by the National Film Board of Canada to come up with a loose concept for a quick turnaround film revolving around or inspired by COVID and lockdown, and perhaps using archival material. 

 

I imagine I was also asked because I am known for making magic out of garbage. 

 

How flexible do you allow yourself on a project once you move your project into production?

 

Black belt yoga flexible! This project had to be nimble and light on its feet. It had such a quick turnaround time, and I chose a technique that required so much labour. I had to make quick decisions and know when to pivot to new possibilities. 

 

What was the biggest challenges you faced making June Night?

 

Cutting out 16,000 paper frames.

 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from and is it ever hard to let go of your films and hand them over to audiences? 

 

I make films for audiences. I try to make films that don’t spoon-feed answers but rather allow viewers to ask better questions. 

 

My work is sometimes referred to as “fun formalism.” I like to pay tribute to pioneers of avant-garde, experimental or independent animation while allowing an audience to have fun. 

 

I have always had a need to express myself through a visual language, be it scribbling in the margins of a textbook, ruining a high-school yearbook photo by wearing a snorkel, or filming with a Hi8 mm camera. Filmmaking became inevitable the day I stumbled upon 30 movie posters from 1926 used as insulation between the ceiling and roof of a shoe store I was tearing down. 

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You had an amazing run with your award-winning Cattle Call, did you imagine you would get such a response to your film?

 

Collaborating with Matthew Rankin to create that film was great. We really pushed each other to come up with new techniques. I recall pushing a 360 kg bale of hay across a field, frame by frame, and hoping that it would be worth it in the end. 

How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?

 

One of my first films was an anti-war film called Bush Wact, because filmmaking requires so much effort that I’m constantly trying to remind myself to tackle big ideas, and try to make the world a better place. 

 

With each new film, I try to introduce new techniques and push myself technically, while maintaining a degree of my youthful doe-eyed naïveté to avoid thinking of the crushing workload that awaits.

 

Is there any advice you would offer an emerging filmmaker?

 

Just be yourself and have fun. Having fun while making a film translates to the finished product. Often the process of making the film is the only reward.

 

Support your local film festivals and communities, and work on other filmmakers’ projects. 

 

And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from June Night?

 

It’s a film about self-reflection, so I hope every audience member has a very personal reaction. I hope that when it ends, they immediately want to watch it again.