“Booked” by Stephania State
Stephania State is the creator of “Booked,” an animated short film about a bookstore owner who comes to terms with closing his shop and moving to a retirement home.
State said she has always had an interest in Middle America, especially small businesses and the lifestyle that seemed so different from the fast-pace of San Francisco, the city she grew up in. That, combined with her admiration for bookstores, drew her to creating a piece revolved around one set in a small town.
The story, State realized, began to hold even more meaning in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent challenges small businesses across the nation faced.
“Booked” was always meant to be a bittersweet story, according to State.
“I knew I just wanted to say something about changing life and nostalgia and appreciating that you have to move on and find different paths in life,” State said.
One character inside the retirement home, State said, was an “ode” to her grandma, who passed away in May 2020.
The idea for the story began with a note in her sketchbook in January 2019 about bookstores. By Dec. 3, 2020, the piece was finished, a feat that State was not certain was achievable with the transition to virtual learning.
Then, students were given access to drawing tablets and illustration and animation programs by the department. It was because of that access to equipment that “Booked” was completed in time, something that State was proud of and felt happy to have had the opportunity to do despite the unusual semester.
State, who wants to tell stories that feel relatable or realistic, said that she wants to create work that has meaning as opposed to entertainment that is used to pass the time.
“I want to create things that are like good for the soul and for the mind,” State said. “And you have to have entertainment that has both of those things. It can be exciting and interesting… but if you take the time to sit down and just have a little patience and see what goes behind the art, like the message, I think it’s good for people to have that.”
“We Are Gods” by Genesis Lugo
“We Are Gods” by Genesis Lugo is an animated short film about three friends who discover they have the ability to manifest whatever they want.
The film, which started with illustrations of three girls, was inspired by Lugo’s own friendships who she said have always been a source of support and comfort to her. Lines of dialogue in the film, including a joke Lugo’s friend says about how men should get periods, made it into “We Are Gods.”
Soon, Lugo’s friends figured out her source of inspiration as she shared how her piece was coming along.
Lugo worked on the film for eight months, and by the final month, Lugo spent eight hours a day on it.
She was assisted by a crew of 10 students who helped her clean up the animation and said that she was proud of them, the opportunity to work and meet more people and “We Are Gods.”
“When I posted the film, I got lots of messages from people [saying], ‘Oh, it made me cry, that felt too personal,’” Lugo said.
Lugo said that she wants to become a storyboard artist and explained her statement on her website, where she said that she wants to tell stories of people whose voices haven’t been heard.
“I feel like [the] media is obviously very influenced by the old style, like white men, and I myself come from a Latinx community and the people around me are so diverse… I just think [the] media doesn’t show how diverse the world is,” Lugo said.
“Area 50 1/2” by Kenneth Cheung
Kenneth Cheung is the creator of “Area 50 ½,” an animated short film about an unpaid intern who saves the day when his boss accidentally lets out a seemingly dangerous paranormal entity.
Cheung voiced all the characters in his piece, choosing to do dialogue in his film which can be an ambitious decision, especially if animators have never done it before. But Cheung has, and chose to create an action-comedy piece reminiscent of early 2000s cartoons.
“I wanted to make mine similar to a Saturday morning cartoon,” Cheung said. “That’s the reason why I wanted to add dialogue.”
The dialogue, paired with Cheung’s art style that he said is a combination of shows like “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Danny Phantom” and “Samurai Jack,” made for a three-minute piece that ends on one final joke. Despite all of the unpaid intern’s hard work and success in the film, he still remains an unpaid intern.
Cheung said he has been drawing since he was 5 years old, but realized his desire to be part of creating a story when he was watching shows like “Codename: Kid’s Next Door” on Cartoon Network, which aired until 2008.
Now, Cheung wants to be a storyboard artist and eventually become a director to pitch his own original animated shows to streaming services. It’ll be an opportunity to learn everything that goes into telling a story, like sound design and voice acting.
At the heart of Cheung’s stories, which include themes of growing up and being responsible he said, is entertainment.
“I don’t like to include heavy topics and stuff but it can be in there,” Cheung said. “But the first thing that I want everyone that watches my stuff to feel is I want them to have a good time and basically forget about everything and just have fun.”
“For Ma” by Kale Huang
“For Ma” by Kale Huang tells the story of a mother and son who immigrated from Indonesia to the United States who try to hold onto their culture while the threat of deportation and questions of Americanization surrounds them.
Huang, who is a first-generation Indonesian American, said his parents came to the U.S. in the ‘90s. The topic of citizenship and what should happen to those who don’t have it, heightened during the Trump administration, was something Huang wanted to discuss.
“It’s always been a sore subject for us, especially since we have a lot of family members and people that we know in our community who kind of struggle on that line of being documented, being undocumented, and I think it was very important for me as an artist, to try and bring that platform back up again, especially considering the political state of our country,” Huang said.
It was also important, according to Huang, to show representation of the Asian American community that is less reflected in the media, like people from Southeast and South Asia.
Part of that representation came with the need to show what it is like to be an immigrant in the U.S., which Huang said can come with feeling ostracized from society while trying to hold on to your culture.
In order to tell those themes, Huang animated a scene where the young boy opens his lunchbox in front of his classmates and is teased about the smells and appearance of his food, which looks much different than the pizza and hamburgers the other students are eating.
According to Huang, having the main character be a child was important to her and reflected her own experience.
“I think it was a good indicator for me to try to represent how we grew up, how immigrants in general grow up in this society and kind of try and understand our place in it,” Haung said. “How do we fit into these very strict lines of what’s American, what’s not American and then also how do we still stay within those lines of what you’re comfortable in our own culture.”
“For Ma” took about a year and Huang said that her team of eight was pivotal to the film, including sound designer Bryan Curiel, music composer Marisa Ramey and background artists Melina Rudianto and Kaila Chen.
Huang said that she hopes people who watch “For Ma,” especially children of immigrants, consider the sacrifices their parents made and the experiences they went through as well.
“Just try to understand your parents, I think, is the most important thing,” Huang said. “You might try and shy away from your culture and not be proud of it, but just try to understand the type of position [parents] put themselves in to try and help you. And then also be proud of who you are.”