As Kevin Quinn looked over the rolling hills of Inis Mór, Ireland, tapering down to gray-sand beaches and veiled in a mist, his mind drifted back to the arts department at North Shore High School. “It was there that I sort of realized that I wanted to be a filmmaker,” recalled Quinn, 23, who graduated in 2014. “When I was in sixth grade, my grandfather handed me a video camcorder, and it opened this door of opportunity to create and film and shoot.”
In high school Quinn was surrounded by teachers, he said, who inspired him and his peers to take “ultimate creative risk” in any of their pursuits. “They taught us to put as much of ourselves into our work, to create a personal and intimate connection with audiences,” he said.
He went on to study film and video production at Drexel University, and in December 2017 he and a crew spent 10 days in Inis Mór, shooting “The American Wake,” which he wrote, produced and directed. The 15-minute live-action film depicts Quinn’s grandmother’s life, and her emigration from Ireland, and has been screened at festivals worldwide. This weekend, it comes home, where it will be screened at North Shore Arts Angels’ second Animated Short Film Festival on Saturday. All the films were produced by working filmmakers and animators during their college years.
Sea Cliff resident Vivian Parisi, a founding member of Arts Angels, added Quinn’s film to the festival to diversify the lineup. She said the idea for the festival came to her when she was watching her son, Charlie, screen his film thesis at an event for the high school’s art department after he graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design in 2014. He, too, attended North Shore, and now works as an animator for the Cartoon Network.
“Charlie had all of these friends in the industry,” Vivian said, “and one day it clicked that it would be a great opportunity to do a film festival. I felt it was something the community could relate to.”
Last year, at its first festival, Arts Angels screened more than 20 animated shorts. The selection of films for this year’s festival includes work from creators at Disney, Pixar and Blue Sky. Guest animators Esteban Bravo and Beth David, whose animated film “In a Heartbeat” was shortlisted for the 2018 Academy Awards, will join Charlie Parisi and Quinn on the festival’s Q&A panel.
Parisi said that last year’s Q&A enabled him to answer young people’s questions about film and animation. “The kids were super-engaged and excited to learn about the process,” he said. “We clarified how things are done, and afterwards they came up to us and asked for autographs. Without this festival, a lot of them would just shy away from this [field].”
Vivian Parisi said that connecting students with established artists is a major goal of the festival, whose participating filmmakers attended visual arts colleges across the country. “It turns into an educational tool so kids can understand what schools are out there, as well as the different genres of filmmaking,” she said. “We want to emphasize that if they have a talent, there’s an occupation [for them] in the arts.”
“An event like this definitely would’ve benefited the high school version of me, since it took a few years to figure out that this career path was a possibility,” her son said. “As an artist, you don’t feel your work is as good as it could be, but then you see how it affects other people and inspires them.”
Charlie added that the short films also allow aspiring filmmakers to trust the process. “They’re not professional [films], but they’re still well-made, and there’s a lot of heart put into them,” he said. “It’s a way for us to say, ‘We did this in college, and now we work in the industry, and work on movies that are in the theaters, and you can too.’”