Director's Spotlight- Daniel Schippers (OPN People's Choice Award)

Daniel Schippers short film You Too was the Open Projector Night 19 People's Choice Winner. We sat down with the filmmaker to learn more about his work, inspiration and future projects.

Who is Daniel Schippers? Give us a short bio.

I am a Michigan native and live with my wife and two daughters. I started making short films in 2006 and started Cinema and Sugar. Time outdoors has always been time well spent to me. I am an avid fly fisherman, primarily for pike and the ever-elusive musky.

What is/are your favorite film(s) and why?

David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, Terrence Malick’s Badlands and David Lynch’s Eraserhead are the first to come to mind. These are favorites mostly because they’re so visually strong. There isn’t enough dialog in the world to create the sensation I get with the imagery in these films.

Who and what inspires Daniel Schippers?

Bruce Bickford is an amazing animator and has an unnatural level of patience. I admire his solitude and the way he single-handedly creates these bizarre worlds. There is a documentary on him called Monster Road that is totally worth checking out. Beyond that, inspiration for me can come in waves. There have been times I’ve been uninspired for a huge amount of time. Sometimes it floods in. When I’m in a creative rut, its probably time to get out for a bit and see something new in the world. Anything. Something as simple as driving to a small town I’ve never been to or a finding a new chunk of woods to walk through can get things going again.


Tell us about your film You Too. What's the overall narrative?

You Too is a pretty simple story. It’s about the best of friends spending the day fishing together. Though their catches are polarized, the two friends remain close.

How did the project form?

I had wanted to rotoscope a project and developed the look and behavior of the characters. I knew before the story came that it would be narrated and the characters would open their mouths as though delivering the line as well as having 3 fingers on each hand and 5 teeth. It stemmed from these really bad drawings that were my best efforts of illustrating people as lifelike as possible and the results were laughable. So I wanted to play into that. During that time Steven Bakker and I met up to write a new short. I think we spent maybe the better part of an hour outlining the story and by the end of it I knew I wanted to apply the look that I was working on. It is very much based on our friendship. A lot of the dialog came from our many conversations. Because it is so innocent in nature I wanted the narration to be in the same vein as a children’s book like “Frog and Toad”. They’re best buds as well. We did a number of tests on what would be the right rotoscoping method. The consensus was that it had to be done on paper with sharpies rather than digitally. Once everything was shot and recorded it was just a matter of drawing it.

What's your next project?

My next project will be predominately experimenting with a couple animation techniques. If things go well, then writing a story that suits the approach. I also am itching to make a live-action project that has been on my mind for some time now. Everything is in its infancy stage, which has always been one of my favorite parts of the process.

Can you talk about your creative process? Overall, explain to me from the point an idea is born to the finish product. What falls in between?

For me everything starts with two primary ideas: how I want it to look/sound and what the actual content will be. They should behave like a healthy marriage and compliment each other. I like to experiment with looks ahead of time. It was particularly important in the case of You Too. All of this pre-production work is the backbone for all of what’s to come. Artistic decisions made in production and post come a lot easier when you know the foundation thoroughly. I have learned from many mistakes where projects did not blossom as I had hoped simply because I did not have enough ground work done ahead of time.

Tell me about your first film/animation related experience, what hit you and made you want to pursue the world of film/animation?

This moment is crystal clear. It was in 2003 and Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle came to Grand Rapids. I went to Cremaster 3 for a class I was in at the time. I walked out of the theater in disbelief. I had no idea there were films like that in the world. It flipped a switch in my brain. It was gorgeous, and equally grotesque at times. To this day, I cannot articulate why or how it impacted me so greatly which is the exact reason I loved it so much.

Can you provide advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Have a good balance between healthy criticisms and allowing yourself to make mistakes. Projects are bound to not shake out as you hoped but get right back on the horse. Also, get used to putting your work out for people to see. Utilize opportunities like Open Projector Night.

Any words about Open Projector Night?

Open Projector Night was fantastic. My only regret is not knowing about these sooner. It was the perfect platform to see local filmmakers showcase their work.  The films were so unfiltered and honest which was driven home by the open dialog with the audience at the end.

If you were granted a large budget and could make your dream film what would it be?

It would most definitely be a fantasy-adventure film with lots of practical effects, highly detailed puppets and copious amounts of slime.