Allison Schulnik’s ‘Eager’ Is a Claymation Dance of Life and Death: TheWrap’s ShortList Quickie

The director structured her short around a close friend’s “brilliant piece of music”

Allison Schulnik’s transfixing short film “Eager” is an explosion of beauty, color and violence, a complicated dance acted out by figures who seem alive and doomed at once.

The Los Angeles-based artist, musician and filmmaker hand-crafted it in every sense of the word, using clay and stop-motion photography to create her alternatingly lithe and decrepit figures as they dance, slice each other open, and wear one another’s bodies. All feel interconnected, and a sense of choreographed inevitability seems to pervade their routine.

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But that’s just one way of looking at it. Schulnik, one of twelve finalists in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Fest, says she doesn’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to read her work.

“Responses really vary quite a bit,” she told TheWrap. “I don’t think there can be any misinterpretation because everyone sees things in their own way and that’s okay.”

TheWrap: Who or what are your influences?
Allison Schulnik:
I have so many influences from so many places. Bonnard, Dix, Pina Bausch, Bob Fosse, Bruce Bickford, Ub Iwerks, John Hubley, Philip Guston, James Ensor, Corny Cole, Jules Engel, E. Michael Mitchell, Saul Steinberg, Ivan Albright.

Where did you get the ideas for your imagery?
I guess my ideas come from a big bowl of history and fantasy, doused in a thick creamy sauce made from my thoughts and dreams.

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What was the process for making the film? How long did it take? Is it stop-motion? Did you do it yourself?
My films are all traditional, stop-motion, clay-mation with puppets and in-camera effects and really no digital manipulation. Everything is hand-made with clay, wood, fabric, glue, wire, etc… I make my films alone, save my amazing cinematographer Helder King Sun, and a brilliant piece of music composed for me by the great Aaron M. Olson.

How did you choose the music?
Aaron is a close friend and super musician. I’ve played in his band, his brother is in my band Barfth.  I asked him to make me a song with three parts for my next film. We threw around ideas about it, and he delivered me this. I like to choreograph and edit to music so I animated and structured the film around his song.