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Interview With Writer/Director Dmitry Milkin For Award Winning Animated Short 'Curpigeon'
I interviewed Writer/Director Dmitry Milkin shortly after the Sedona International Film Festival. Here is what he had to say:
Can you explain the word 'Curpigeon' and what it means to you?
DMITRY: Curpigeon is a play on the word 'curmudgeon', which basically means a cranky old man. My story is about group of old men and a cranky pigeon - it was too good a match to not do.
What made you want to make a film about dealing with grief?
DMITRY: I started it after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. It was during a time when there seemed to be a new world scale tragedy every month. Grief was in the air. I wanted to offer a story that helped children and adults process grief in a healthy way - by looking to their community for support, rather than isolating themselves.
Do you think animation can capture human emotion better than live action sometimes?
DMITRY: No, not necessarily. What animation does is offer a method to deliver complex emotions and themes, to an audience of all ages, in a digestible and entertaining way. I call it "hiding the peas in the mashed potatoes."
Can you explain the pairing with the human characters and the birds in the film?
DMITRY: A major theme in this film is companionship. While the group of men and pigeons form a community, within that group are individual pairings. This is both true for most friend circles, and a useful device we used to show that Rocky (our main character) is an odd man out. The question the audience forms is "Does this pigeon just not have an old man companion because he's clearly a jerk, or is someone missing?" We had a lot of fun matching the designs of the men with their pigeon counterparts. The pairings share basic shapes in their design - from a box, to a lollipop, a kidney bean, or an ice cream on a cone that's been licked on the side.
What made you fall in love with animation as your preferred medium? And did you always know you want to write and direct or did you fall into it?
DMITRY: I immigrated to the states when I was a kid from Soviet Russia as a political refugee. It was hard to assimilate. Watching 'Aladdin', 'Lion King', etc., basically on loop helped me learn English. My background is screenwriting for all mediums, but I've had a lifelong affinity for animation.
Do you think animation has a lot of room to grow in the future of indie film or do Disney and DreamWorks own the market?
DMITRY: It's a really exciting time in animation right now. The technology has become much more available, and therefore cheaper. The is now a spectrum of studios (from startups to the the big kahunas like Disney and DreamWorks) which can all deliver the industry standard quality. You can deliver a feature animation for 10 million dollars now, which is nothing to sneeze at, but is put in perspective when you look at a PIXAR film costing 120 million dollars. Sure there are short cuts and compromises one may need to take, but that doesn't make or break the film. The only limitation becomes one's imagination.
Your film just screened at the Sedona Film Festival and won Best Animation. How has that experience been?
DMITRY: Brilliant! It was an amazing week. The people from the festival, and all of Sedona, were amazing true champions of film. I thank them for the honor they bestowed on 'Curpigeon', and their vast hospitality. It was an experience that I will always remember and treasure.
Audiences clearly love your film. What have the responses been like?
DMITRY: In a word: Validating. I had Sally Field's Oscar speech in my head the whole time. While the audience was watching the film, I was watching them. Seeing their expressions change with each emotional beat, each comic gag, each dynamic spectacle, was the exact catharsis I needed after a four year production.
Will you be hitting more festivals soon?
DMITRY: We are, and we are very excited! 'Curpigeon' is very early in its festival run and the reception has ready been unbelievably positive. Next we will screen at the Sonoma Film Festival and Garden State Film Festival. Also we are thrilled to be part of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival this April.
Your next steps are to make the film into a feature. How are you going about doing that and will it be the same theme more or less?
DMITRY: The feature version is currently in development and it's a dream come true to be working on it. It takes the two main characters of the short and places them in a large scope adventure. The story focuses on the importance of communication - especially as a tool to fight discrimination of all kind. With the whole world seeming so divided right now, it's never been more important to teach children the value of empathy.
Interview by: Vanessa McMahon; posted on March 15, 2016
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