Featured Artist: Sarah Nagy

29 Oct

Filmmaker and animator Sarah Nagy

A near native of Portland (born in Michigan but in Oregon since age 2), Sarah Nagy‘s work as an independent filmmaker has been shown in festivals around the world, broadcast on PBS, and presented locally as part of PICA‘s Tiny TBA (TBA Festival for the junior set). She was graced with a “Best Narrative” award by fellow hometown hero Todd Haynes at the 27th Northwest Films and Video Festival.

Sarah has been teaching stop motion animation and filmmaking with Young Audiences since 2009 and named the teaching wing of her art practice – Buckman Film Academy – after her Portland neighborhood. She dreams that “someday there will be a film teacher in every school.” With Sarah here, Portland is one step closer to that reality.

Sarah’s creation: a film school for kids

What is your art practice outside of teaching? I like to make short comedic films and am trying to develop a television series. I also occasionally write short essays and send them to the New Yorker with my fingers crossed.

How does Oregon inspire your art making? The rain is great for staying inside and drawing animation!

If you could be any animal, what would you be? A cat—they get lots of sleep and they are supreme yoga masters. However, I’d miss the opposable thumbs. [Julie’s note: please check out Sarah’s Catupuncture video for a very Portland take on back ache and cat ownership.]

What is one of your earliest art memories? When I was in fourth grade, a chalk mountain I drew was hung in the Childrens’ Art Museum.  It was like winning an Oscar.

Student-created hospital scene: one stop of stop motion.

What’s the best thing about being a Young Audiences teaching artist?  I love kids and their imaginations! My favorite part of a residency is when students are watching the footage they just shot.  The amazement on their faces of the technology, and their art in motion, is exhilarating.  Kids are so appreciative of the access to technology and I am too!  It’s truly amazing how computers have revolutionized film and animation.  When I was in film school we had to draw pictures one by one and develop our own reversal film—lots of chemicals and time!  Now you can do things so much faster and delete mistakes with ease. I never get over how fantastic technology is!

Why is art important to kids? Art is not easy, it is challenging and multi-faceted.  Film has many aspects that need to fit together, you must collaborate and problem solve constantly—how can I get this clay character to walk across the set without his arm falling off, etc.  Physics are involved, math is involved, photography, computers, color sensibility, writing, judgment, character, all play a role in film.  As a society we are so saturated with media, it’s fun to be the creator for a change.  I think it gives kids more objectivity towards media and greater respect for films that are well-crafted.

Sarah with students at Eastwood Elementary

What teacher or artist was inspirational to you as a kid? Honestly, I worshipped Woody Allen.  I thought he was hilarious!  My oldest son is almost old enough to appreciate Sleeper, and I can’t wait to share it with him.

Who is your art hero now? Ira Glass, he is such a great writer and questioner. He is brutally honest about the challenges of doing art.  Michel Gondry and Pedro Almodovar are my filmmaker heroes—their work is so ravishingly beautiful. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? A doctor.  I love speculating about illnesses, although real blood makes me pass out.

For more on Sarah’s work in schools check out this article in The Oregonian and enjoy these samples of student work:

Thanks Sarah!

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