Before entering the tenth grade, Colin Theys ’07 knew he wanted to make movies. Lacking the equipment for a flesh-and-blood production, he had to turn to animation. Two years later, Theys has realized he may be better suited for the animation medium than he thought, and so have the judges at the Ivy Film Festival, who awarded him first place in undergraduate animation last weekend.
Theys’ 11-minute animation, “Thog,” features an animated troll, Thog, who, in the process of starring in a horror film, hog-ties his director and takes over. This becomes a journey through several layers of reality, from images of Theys himself creating the animation to the animated Thog removing a tape of the entire production from a real tape deck in a real living room.
“When people watch movies and say, ‘That’s so fake,’ it’s kind of funny, because how do you decide what’s fake when everything is fake anyway?” Theys said. “I wanted to mess with that, and I wanted it to be funny because I like comedy.”
The Third Annual Ivy Film Festival, held at Brown University from April 8 to April 11, drew entries from as far as Korea, Germany, and Spain, and featured both graduate and undergraduate work. For Theys, the opportunity to see student film from such a broad background was an inspiration.
“Some of the films were amazing,” Theys said. “Some of them had a lot of [funding], but some of them obviously had nothing more than we did; it takes away the excuse of ‘I don’t have enough money or time.’”
Theys began working on “Thog” the summer before his sophomore year of high school, spending the first eight months creating a first version of Thog as a character before developing his script. He had just finished an animation called “The Unexpected,” which won a national gold medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
Theys never finished “Thog” as he originally planned, but was forced to submit it to an on-line competition by February. As a result, during the piece’s first sequence, arguments between Thog and his director between shots are shown only by a black screen with timecode and wavelength to depict the characters’ voices. Fortunately, this reduction of visuals fit Theys’ concept of varying frames of reality. He won first place in the on-line competition, the RealSoft Animation Challenge.
Three days after Theys submitted it, Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 found “Thog” online and e-mailed Theys to meet and discuss working with film on campus.
“When I saw him, one of the first things he said was, ‘Enter it in the Ivy Film [Festival],’” Theys said.
Theys’ involvement with film on campus has included volunteering for a senior thesis animation by Benh Zeitlin ’04 in the fall and acting as an editor and assistant producer for the Independent Student Film Production Co-op (ISFPC).
“We had an actor come in and do the motions the character would do, and [Theys] created a visual stick-figure whose motions were translated into the character I animated,” Zeitlin said. “I’m hoping it wins the Academy Award for best picture.”
Zeitlin’s animation will be shown on May 7 with the other senior thesis films.
In addition to showing student films, the Ivy Film Festival featured question-and-answer sessions with prominent members of the film industry. Highlights included director Wes Craven of “Scream” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” actor Adrien Brody, star of “The Pianist,” and director and screenwriter James Toback.
Student work screened in hour-long sessions during the day. Theys’ piece appeared once during general screenings and again on Sunday when the winning films aired.
“It’s really fun to see people actually enjoying it,” Theys said. “It makes you feel like it was worth all the effort—or at least most of it.”
In spite of this success, Theys said he is reluctant to commit to making film a definite part of his future.
“I have no long-term aims,” Theys said. “I just like it.”