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Sonoma International Film Festival


The Sonoma International Film Festival is considerd one of the nation's top ten destination film festivals.  All seven screning venues are withinh walking distance of the historic Sonoma Plaza.  This is one of the most filmmaker-friendly festivals where accommdations are provided thoughout your festival expderience and industry networking leads to distribution.  Enjoy a remarkable five day, stimulating festival in the midst of Sonoma wine country.  We do celebrate the very best in film, food & wine!

Set amidst the unparalleled beauty of the Sonoma Valley wine country, the Annual Sonoma International Film Festival welcomes filmakers and film lovers in April every year to a sun-drenched, luxurious extended weekend, pairing great food, fine wine and more than 100 new independent films from around the world. Film presentations at a variety of venues including the historic Sebastiani Theater on the Sonoma Town Plaza will include: world cinema, feature length narratives, documentaries, shorts and a student film program.


Interview with Barcelona Based Director Ethan David Alesch for animation short "In A Leaf" (2022)

Interview with Barcelona Based Director Ethan David Alesch for animation short "In A Leaf" (2022) Interview with Barcelona Based Director Ethan David Alesch for animation short "In A Leaf" (2022)

By Vanessa McMahon

Ethan David Alesch is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and production media designer. Before becoming a filmmaker, he dedicated twenty-five years to designing animation, art, theater, and 3D visualizations. His short animation film, “In a Leaf” (2022) held its European premiere at CineGlobe in Geneva, Switzerland and has been recognized by several other international film festivals, including the 25th annual Sonoma International Film Festival at the end of March 2022.

Originally from Wisconsin and long based in Northern California, he divided his time between designing theatrical lighting and projections, and creatively directing commercial events and broadcasts around the world. He currently resides in Barcelona with his wife and five-year-old son. He escapes the digital studio to sketch with ink and watercolor.


In a recent interview with Ethan about his film “In a Leaf”, here is what he had to say:


Can you tell us what led to the inspiration for your film?

ETHAN: I originally storyboarded the piece more than 20 years ago, after having a bit too much coffee one day and being completely overwhelmed by the amount of detail in something as small as a leaf, and how that was one leaf in a pile, one pile in a forest, and so on. I couldn’t really cope with the mind-boggling scale of it all, so I just dropped the leaf and decided to deal with it in my head another day…


What message do you hope to leave with audiences with the film?

ETHAN: The piece reminds me that in every moment there are possibilities for perspective or even enlightenment in this world, and maybe we pass them by. To stop and try to grapple with the infinite detail of the universe for a while, is a perspective we all could use when we get caught up in whatever mundane things that are always on our minds.


Do you believe that animation communicates in a way that live action cannot? What do you personally love about animation?

ETHAN: Absolutely! While filmmakers can achieve just about any visual thing in live action these days through CGI and green screens or whatever, the way an audience approaches animation is with an EXPECTATION that they will be transported to another place or mindset. You have this opportunity to take advantage of that from the start and dive straight into whatever imaginative world you can conceive, without the kind of “real world” confines that are present when we experience live action. I love the ability to approach animation like a painting and really go to extremes with the composition, color, manipulation of time and space, and to connect it all to music. In animation, you have complete control of every element of your scene and can adjust every aspect until it’s exactly as you want it to be.


You said you live in Barcelona. Do you believe it's easier to make films in Europe as an indie filmmaker or more difficult?

ETHAN: I think there is a much stronger public funding structure in place, and film audiences seem more willing to support experimental or indie work. In the U.S., it seems that there must be some commercial destination for your work (i.e., will it get picked up by a studio or Netflix or will you be able to sell ads with it somehow). As far as making films goes, so far, I have only essentially worked alone in my studio on my animation. If I got into a production that required a full crew and the mechanics of traditional filmmaking, it’s possible that the infrastructure in places in the US might make that easier, but I can’t say I know that for sure. In any case, the artistic energy is vibrant in Barcelona, and I have encountered so many true artists, it’s motivating and energizing.


What are the stories that move you most? What films and people have been your biggest source of inspiration?

ETHAN: I love stories that defy expectation, but I also love and see the gratification when a story ends exactly as you hope it might. I’m a huge fan of musicals, especially when they deliver the perfect reprise right when you need it most. I won’t lie, I love Disney, and I love classic films like Howard Hughes’ “Casablanca”, as well as Federico Fellini and Orson Wells. But I also really love dystopian films, like the work of Terry Gilliam and Peter Greenaway, and Wes Anderson’s awesomely quirky stuff.


You attended SIFF recently. Can you tell us about that experience? 

ETHAN: SIFF was the first live showing of my film, so that was exciting and scary. I saw some truly inspirational work that ended up being a much more important takeaway, like “The Art of Making It”, “Exposing Muybridge”, “Tailor”, and the Foreign & Animated Shorts Programs. Moreover, I met some other great directors who will be lifelong friends and loved that sense of community and feeling like part of a special group there.


What has been the response to your film so far?

ETHAN: Response at SIFF was very positive. There were thoughtful and enthusiastic questions from the audience at both showings. “In a Leaf” made its European premiere at CineGlobe in Geneva, Switzerland, and it’s been recognized by several other festivals so far. It has been surprising and very motivating as I have gotten started on the next film. We’ll see what the year ahead holds for “In a Leaf” and the next one.


What will you be working on next?

ETHAN: I’m working on a somewhat more ambitious piece in a similar but more developed style (3D animation that is styled to feel like ink and watercolor). The piece is about two people who communicate through a musical fantasy of sorts. I’m working with Paris Coyne, who has been my creative cohort in the past, on scripting and storyboarding right now, and this will be very much driven by music.

Interview with Barcelona Based Director Ethan David Alesch for animation short "In A Leaf" (2022) Ethan David Alesch


Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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