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Tin House Reels: Dustin Grella

This week, Tin House Reels presents three shorts from Dustin Grella’s  Animation Hotline, a series that artfully expands and exposes the private moments people whisper into telephones.

As a type of performance art at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Grella, teaming up with sponsor HP, planted various phones around the festival grounds. Those in attendance were encouraged to pick up the cartoonish blue phones and record passing memories from the day—an experience at a café, waiting in line for a film, staying at a hotel. Grella would then sift through the messages, choosing one a day to animate in a publicly accessible, temporary studio on Main Street.

For years now, Grella has chosen phone-whispered privacies as the engine of his stories. Two years ago, he created Animation Hotline, inviting strangers and friends to call into a phone line and leave short messages. He converted those private tales into animations daily, compiling hundreds online.

Grella makes his films by recording pastel drawings and erasures on a sometimes-wet, sometimes-chalky slate. His animations are the lively associations he makes to spoken conversation.  He calls making those connections a dangerous game of visual problem solving punctuated by the fear “is someone going to get mad as I do this?”  But his intimate call-and-response likely leaves his speakers feeling heard.

Dustin Grella graduated from the School of Visual Arts with an MFA in Computer Art in 2009. His film, Prayers for Peace, screened at almost two hundred festivals worldwide and won over forty awards. He is the Director of Animation at Dusty Studio in New York City.

You can watch an interview about Grella’s Sundance project here.

Tin House Reels is a weekly feature on The Open Bar dedicated to the craft of short filmmaking. Curated by Ilana Simons, the series features videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words.

We are now accepting submissions for Tin House Reels. Please upload your videos of 15 minutes or less to Youtube or Vimeo and send a link of your work to tinhousereels@gmail.com. You may also send us a file directly.

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