A year ago, my dog Maia passed away in the middle of the pandemic. It’s hard to believe how quickly time passes and how slow it is to get used to the absence of that being. I knew I wanted to talk about her, but it is hard to write about losing someone without sounding unhappy and discouraged. That’s why today I would like to share the story of how my dog influenced my first stop motion animation short film. It’s my way to express the love I felt during my time with her, and hopefully, she knew how much she inspired my creative work.
The story begins around May 2020. I feel like that year was the time that forced us to pursue that thing in the back of our minds. For example, I have always wanted to do a stop motion animation short film. I closely followed the trajectories of many stop motion animators, and I was excited to do something and apply all the things that inspired me from each of them. But like everyone else, I thought that I did not have enough time to do it. However, with the time available in quarantine, I decided to put the excuses aside. I agreed to finish a short film and find a contest to participate in with other young filmmakers before my birthday in July.
I started the process by writing down some story ideas. The original idea was to portray the life of a woman who visited an art gallery where all her memories were the murals displayed on the walls. As she walks through the rooms, the paintings come to life, attracting her attention and transporting her back to the past. After returning to the outdoors, she realizes how grateful she is for her past and walks away on a beautiful and intriguing path that leads to her next destination. I believed that story was marvelous and touching, so I started working day and night on developing the characters and sets. With the help of my parents and so many trips to the arts and crafts store, I was ready to start shooting in just a few weeks. The recordings took at least seven days to finish. It was difficult because I had to do everything alone, but seeing something I had made with my hands come to life was comforting.
After finishing that part of the process, it was time to spend hours and hours sitting in front of the computer editing. Just imagine, a stop motion animation video of 3 seconds should have about 30-40 images to achieve more or less fluid movements when you put all the photos together. So you guys can do the math of how many pictures I had to put together for the film. It took me another two weeks to finish the final edits. I was exhausted and felt the pressure because I had to have my short film ready for the contest that was getting closer and closer. I finally prepared myself and watched the final version. After watching it so many times, the project was not what I expected. I mean, I tried to make myself like it, but something inside of me was not proud of what I was seeing.
A few days before the contest, I changed everything. I decided to tell a different tale. I wrote the story of an old lady who went for a walk alone every day. The woman liked to watch the families, children, and dogs gathered, so she could feel less lonely. One day, she comes across the opportunity to adopt a dog. She gets excited because she thinks it is finally her chance to have someone with her. She returns the next day but finds that there are no more dogs for adoption. Sadness consumes her until someone unexpectedly approaches her. She looks down and sees a stray dog by her side. At first, the old lady is scared, but after realizing that she and the dog are both alone in this world, she decides that the best solution is for them to keep each other company.
My grandmother passed away a few days after I finished my short, so I decided to name both the old lady and the short film Celia. The dog that accompanies Celia is Maia, my dog who also passed away in October.
My short film had finally felt like a sign that the two would be together very soon. I couldn’t help but remember that my first story idea didn’t resonate with me, because there was a nagging feeling telling me that there was something deeper that I could explore. That deeper meaning was the inspiration and relationship that my grandmother and Maia had given me throughout my life through their unconditional love. Now I realize that without that love, I would have never encouraged myself to continue fighting for my dreams and make my first stop motion short film if it hadn’t been for them.
Thank you, Celia and Maia, for being the muses behind my work.