Keller '99 wins kudos for film

by Ben Mandelker | 5/5/98 5:00am

Katy Keller '99 has a distinction that not many Dartmouth students can claim. She has had her film, "Safari," shown in three film festivals over the past few weeks: the New England Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Association Internationale du Film d'Animation (ASIFA) Festival.

Keller has since won Honorable Mention awards at the ASIFA eastern division in New York City and at the New England Film Festival. "I was kind of surprised," Kate said modestly. "It was just a one-term project ... I didn't expect it to win anything."

Keller made "Safari," a short animated piece about a photographer in the jungle, during Winter term of 1997 as part of an independent study. Her work has been competing in the festivals against not just students but professionals as well with better equipment. For the New England Film Festival, "she was competing against Olive Jar, a well known animation studio in Boston, as well as RISD, RIT and Harvard," said Film Professor David Ehrlich, her advisor.

Ehrlich submitted "Safari" to various contests and expressed excitement over her success. "She's capable of very intense continual work which animation requires ... Put that together with a very strong imagination and with her ... knowledge in other fields such as Earth Science and skiing, and she was able to integrate them into a very good film."

Unfortunately, Keller could not attend the festivals: they were all held within the first week of the Spring term. However, she has been able to see the film presented to an audience in the past. Last year it was shown in the Dartmouth student animation show as well as the student film show. In addition Keller "showed it to old, rich alumni to get money for film," she said.

Keller has been working with film since freshman year, and has been involved with "studio art sort of stuff" since middle school. She cites her inspiration as early Disney works such as "Bambi" because of the realistic animal movement.

As for Disney these days, Keller is not as enthusiastic. "'Lion King' was okay. Older ones paid more attention to the art part -- not ones where the kids would buy all the paraphernalia." It should be noted, however, that two of the painters on the film, Phil Lord '97 and Chris Miller '97, have since moved on to work for Disney.

Keller, a double major in film and earth sciences, admits to having a fascination with animals and the natural world. She mentions National Geographic and The Discovery Channel as two companies she would like to work with down the line. "Safari," which is drawn from the point of view of the photographer, features several exotic and colorful animals.

"I just felt like drawing some animals," Keller said. Another major theme she wanted to explore was the use of perspective. As mentioned before, the film adopts a point-of-view look. Ehrlich credits Keller's passion for skiing as a large reason why she chose the point of view motif. "Because she is a fanatic skier," Ehrlich said, "her perception of space is one of the things that is continually rushing by her left and right. What she sees is a continual zoom. She put that together with the 'Safari.'"

Normally, animators use special zoom lenses on the cameras to create the illusion of moving inwards and outwards, but since the animation department lacks those special cameras, Keller had to actually draw the zoom.

"It is not particularly common that an animator does a continual graphic zoom. Professionals would normally use a camera," Ehrlich said. However, he credits Keller for overcoming these challenges and her adeptness at problem solving. "She did it on her own ... She came up with many artistic solutions."

These days, Keller is storyboarding her next film. She said her new work will be more planned out than her previous pieces. Usually, she simply comes up with an idea and starts drawing.

Ehrlich said that Keller has what it takes to succeed in animation. "She has a unlimited capacity for hard work. She's one of the most persevering students I've ever had. At the same time she is highly imaginative. She has everything you'd want in an animator."