Toronto International Film Festival 2021
Short Cuts Programme 04
SETH A. SMITH
A disquieting tale of a humble rooster facing the great questions of existence.
Hi Seth thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Things are good, a bit slower, but I’m trying to enjoy the downtime. I am looking forward to getting out and shooting again, though.
Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
I’ve shifted a bit to writing and development. I finished two feature scripts this year, an adaptation of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, with my co-writing partner Darcy Spidle, and one for a rotoscoped fantasy epic called, Beshader.
What does it mean for you to be Premiering Dust Bath in the Short Cuts Section at TIFF?
It’s always an honour. I was there with The Crescent a couple of years ago and had a great experience meeting people and watching films. This year will be different since the screening is virtual and I won’t be attending. But it’s fun to be a part of the fest with a short film this time. A little less pressure.
You have had great festival success with your previous films, do the awards and recognition that they bring to your films add any additional pressure on you?
I like getting awards as much as anyone, they certainly can help with getting more movies made. But at the same time, I kinda hate competition when it comes to art. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I do acknowledge that film is a medium made to be consumed, and what people think of my work is important to me, but I try not to let it steer the ship.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Dust Bath came about?
Yea, as I mentioned, I’m planning on doing a rotoscoped feature someday soon. But I wanted to experiment with a short film first to try out the process and see what I’m getting myself into. I have some free-range backyard chickens that I hang out with them every day. They’re quite chatty. And I’ve always thought it would be cool to make a subtitled film trying to imagine their conversations.
What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing Dust Bath to the screen?
Just the grind of it, drawing every day. For those who don’t know, classic rotoscoping is the process of tracing over live-action footage. It’s a kind of a hybrid between animation and film. But it’s all illustrated by hand, frame by frame, so it amounts to a lot of drawings. Since it was just me working on the animation, it took a while.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Not exactly. I made little movies with my friends as a kid. But my passion for most of my life has been in music. I’m in a band called Dog Day. In the early days, I started making our music videos. Then that became my gateway to more narrative work and movie making.
How much has your style and approach to your films changed since your debut short?
My first film was actually a feature. But I wouldn’t recommend starting out that way. You do pick up tricks and time-savers over projects, find out what workflows are best for you as a person. Our budgets have grown with each feature and that helps in terms of overall quality. Overall though, I feel like I still have the same general approach. I also try to make each project different from the last, push things a bit further. In that way, it kind of feels new each time. And it hasn’t become boring yet.
"Try to make something that only you could make. I also think grit is important. Just having endless determination."
Is there any advice you would offer someone thinking about getting [into] filmmaking?
Make time to play around, experiment, find your style. Try to make something that only you could make. I also think grit is important. Just having endless determination. The film biz can be an emotional and exhausting ride. But if it’s something you love doing, power through, try to shed the bad stuff, and chase your dream.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Dust Bath?
I don't know. Maybe people can give a little more thought to chickens in general. They’re cool, social animals. And they kind of get a bad deal. Give one a hug if you can.