FEB 17: Jason Carpenter

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Jason Carpenter is a director and animator based in LA, with an MFA from CalArts. Known for his expressive and emotionally captivating style and storytelling, he most recently designed and supervised the animated sequences for the feature documentary He Named Me Malala.  Jason’s animated short, The Renter, received numerous top awards and accolades from festivals worldwide. Commercially, Jason has overseen animation and design for TV commercials, television shows, and interactive experiences.

Watch The Renter on Vimeo.

HE NAMED ME MALALA is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then 15-year-old was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) shows us how Malala, her father Zia and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide. The film gives us an inside glimpse into this extraordinary young girl’s life – from her close relationship with her father who inspired her love for education, to her impassioned speeches at the UN, to her everyday life with her parents and brothers.

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26 thoughts on “FEB 17: Jason Carpenter

  1. Megan Simon says:

    Jason Carpenter’s lecture was a wonderful insight on the process of documentary animation. His recent work with Davis Guggenheim on Malala is spectacular. What an incredible story of a brave little girl and her incredible family. I appreciated that Jason broke down his process for us, showing us his decision making and how much the work changed throughout the animation. I was impressed by his attitude of accepting the change, and not being too attached to the work for the sake of the film. This spoke to me given that I’m currently editing my script and animatic for production 1.

    The story of Malala is powerful. I was moved with each clip Jason showed us. Documentaries have much lower budgets, but even so I feel Jason was able to make beautiful animation with his team. I personally appreciated that he kept the faces out of the characters, and I found the painterly style worked well. I found it interesting how he talked about making the transition from live action to animation and back again seamless. It really interested me in the process of documentary filmmaking. I want to take a class on it now from Sheila.

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  2. David Nessl says:

    Jason’s presentation was interesting and very insightful. I always appreciate when a professional comes to speak with us and doesn’t hold back on explaining his technique, or pipeline for a project. I found it very helpful in how Jason explained the pitch process. His way of teaching seems very real and I appreciate that he shared his experience working through those initial stages of a feature length production. The problems he faced while directing the animation hit home and I can truly relate to the ways in which he had to simplify the complexity and detail of the animation.

    This film is very important because it highlights the insane amount of oppression that women face in Afghanistan and other countries affected by violent fundamentalists. I’ve always been very critical of the way women are treated in those societies and believe that giving Malala an even larger voice through this film is very effective at silencing hate and bigotry. I can imagine that it must have been difficult to decide on the style and visual representation of the stories this film highlights. I can’t wait to hopefully one day have the chance to work on a project with this same amount of importance. Of course it could never be the same–each film has its own life, but it will be an emotional moment to sit in Jason’s shoes. I wish I could have asked if there was a moment he sat back and took in the importance of what he and his team were creating.

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    • Hey David,
      That’s good question. When I look back on it now, it’s much easier to take the experience in fully, and recognize how different a project it really was. I don’t think the importance of Malala’s message was lost on any of us while we were making it. Honestly, it probably upped the pressure. But we also were pretty consumed with the nuts and bolts of production. That said, it still felt special and never like a job. I wish we all had more jobs like that 🙂

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  3. YuYu says:

    Choosing topics of documentaries are always hard. There’re so many things people need to know and have to care more about. But sometimes we really don’t want to expose the victims in front of the camera, or can hardly get the references related to the topic. That’s why animation documentaries are important. They can fill up the gaps of the events we can’t know and make the whole story more complete. But it also makes me wonder will an adapted animation film be better than a documentary? If they have enough budgets, will an animation feature film based on this true story be a better choice? It can prevent people to know exactly where Malala lives and what her family looks like. It will provide more protection for her personally, and maybe she won’t think she has to give up the things she wants to do in her childhood because she exposed too much under the camera.

    I heard the story of Malala when I was in high school. Our history teacher told us the story of this brave girl, who fights for the women’s right of getting an education. And the next year, she got shot. Jason Carpenter did a great job on the animation part. It combined with the live action parts very well. I will find the film and finish it. Maybe I will find out the film is perfect in a documentary and no need any changes.

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  4. Sequoyah Madison says:

    I had no idea that when I entered the lecture hall to listen to Jason speak that I would learn so much about Malala’s culture. It was an incredibly enriching lecture. It was invaluable to hear many of the decisions and hardships that go into creating an animation of a culture that is alien to the animators. I had been oblivious to the fact that many of the details, for example the text appearing right to left, were reworked many times to accurately represent Malala’s culture. I overlooked these details in the animation portion of the documentary because of the animation style. The blobby, ephemeral, textured animation works so well to allow the audience to put themselves Malala’s shoes and it complements the live action portion by educating the audience once they already identify with her as a person.

    It’s interesting how we learn just as much from the details included in a film as the details left out. I was disheartened to hear that Malala’s mother thought it inappropriate to appear in the documentary though the whole documentary aids rights for women. So often the ideas rooted in a tradition are good and educational at their core. One of my best friends is from Syria and she explained that wearing a hijab (scarf) is supposed to be about modesty and learning to be humble, which to be honest, is something that many people here is America could learn from. But what happens when that same lesson is not taught to the opposite gender…there are unequal standards. As an experiment in high school I wore a hijab with her all day and instead of drawing attention to myself (since I had never worn a scarf covering my head and chest to school before) I became invisible. Acquaintances at school didn’t recognize my face and it made me feel like I didn’t matter. Could you imagine that every day of your life after you turn thirteen? My home was the only house she was allowed to visit, since it was an all-female household. It’s just really important to remember even the best of intentions can be morphed into something completely different.

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    • I’m so glad to hear that how we represented Malala’s culture worked for you. That was such a tough part. I was always so concerned with portraying it in the most genuine way we could, acknowledging that we were probably going to get some of it wrong. I agree, there’s much that we can learn in the States about forgiveness and being humble. Working on the film was an education in itself. I’m grateful to know a little more about her world than I did before.

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  5. Jane G. Kim says:

    It was thoroughly enlightening to listen to Jason Carpenter talk about the creative reasoning to the decisions made when choosing the designs for the animation portion of the documentary “He Named Me Malala.” Aside from that, it was equally as interesting to watch bits of the film and I’m definitely interested in seeing the rest. It seems very educational and intriguing to watch, being able to learn and understand more about the lives of the people who live with the threats of the Taliban. Malala herself is very special and unique girl who is incredibly smart and diligent. More people can now easily learn about her and the gender struggles from the documentary.

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  6. Okike Franklin says:

    Jason Carpenter’s presentation was actually helpful. It was an eye opener to know how decisions are made and why on projects. I honestly don’t think I knew anything about the documentary before the seminar but seeing Malala’s story through animation was powerful.
    The shot that stood out to me was the falling flag!! It was beautifully animated, the overlapping action alone “killedth” it.
    Malala is a strong young woman! it was unbelievable to see her state of mind at a tender age and what she’s achieving to accomplish.
    The animation technique, style and motion was suitable for this documentary in my opinion because it doesn’t draw attention to itself but to the story.
    In conclusion, It was an educative seminar and her being the first female in the family tree still puzzles me.

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  7. Kun Xia says:

    Jason Carpenter’s presentation was very attractive and inspiriting. It was a great opportunity to hear a professional artist’s working experience. Jason gave lots of details about his pitch process and how they collaborate in team work, it is really helpful. I didn’t watch “He Named Me Malala” before, after the seminar, I found the film online and watched. The focus on the Yousafzai family is a significant part of the film and most engaging, it allow me to observe how different Malala is with her family compared to when in the public eye. I especially love the animated parts, it’s really beautiful. Stories told with glorious animation and narrated by Malala and her father. It is really a good way to illustrate the stories, without those animation. It could not be easily depicted.

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  8. Joe Stucky says:

    What a fantastic presentation. Jason was so open about many aspects of the work he did on production. It was incredible the amount of effort that went into the film. What an amazing project to work on. Malala’s story is heart breaking. I can’t help but think had I been faced with a similar situation would I have handled things in this way? My daughter…?
    Of course I have not. Yet the strength in such a young girl, and her family is so great. I was glad to see her family represented in the animation, yet I wish her mother would have taking a larger roll in this representation.

    The artwork, storyboards, designs were all beautiful. I really loved some of the very early storyboards. simple yet elegant.

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    • I love some of the earlier work as well. It’s funny. You spend all this time making something, and then when you go back, you find you liked an earlier version better. It happens all the time! What I’ve come to realize is that it’s all about making creative choices. Sometimes you make the right one, sometimes the wrong one, but what’s most important is that you make the best choice you can at the time. It can be really tricky stuff.

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  9. Yingzong Xin says:

    Jason Carpenter’s presentation was really inspiriting and touching. I rarely watched documentaries before, especially in form of animation. Malala’s story is the perfect story to make an animation documentaries, I really love the blush painting feeling and the thick texture in the animation part. It was surprised me that the animation part can fit the live-action part so well, and using animation to tell a story can make the documentaries become less boring.

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  10. Min Shi says:

    The story of Malala is powerful and deep. At the end when Jason showed us the documentary combine with the animation, I was really moved.

    For me the most impressive shot is when Malala climbs on the mountain and the beautiful Arabic comes out from her mouth, sometimes words is mightier than the sword. The importance of this documentary animation is unarguable, it clearly shows how women in Afghanistan are facing violent fundamentalists, unequal standards, and how these brave women fight for women rights.
    Visually, I’m kind of prefer the concept design of this film, some illustration and concept are very Arabic and poetic,Jason mentioned that this documentary has lower budgets, but even so I would say that the animation part of this film actually make the whole documentary more poetic and mightier.

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  11. Shang Song says:

    Sorry, I left early!

    First of all, I like the”He Named Me Malala” very much , which is part of great documentary, I was touched by this documentary. The documentary and the film” The Kite Runner “, let me to understand the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and now the have what kind of problem.
    As one of the best documentary last year, I was lucky to see Jason, I’ve noticed in this great documentary animation part. Before the animation has always been considered a “not serious” and “business” to “serve children” of the media, seems to be serious, realistic and documentary opposite. But the opposition makes itself becomes more powerful.

    Jason introduced us to his creative process, I learned a lot.Most of my personal animation is comedy, or action movies. But I want to try a more and more serious themes. I have a story about the war with the children, I will consider a similar technique to make it.

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    • It’s been an interesting time for animation. There’s been a lot more serious subject matter handled recently. It’s something I think animation does well. It’s true, animation has traditionally covered the more humorous side of things. It’s an art form, like film, photography, or music. It’s capable of saying a tremendous amount. It’s up to all of us to figure out how best to do that. That said, I really want to make something silly. Hehe.

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  12. Evan Tedlock says:

    I really enjoyed seeing so much of Jason’s contribution to ‘He Name Me Malala’. I like that they chose to do most of the flashbacks and historical details in animation as opposed to reenactment. Animation possesses a special kind of realism and honesty because, unlike live action, it doesn’t try to pass as reality. The pre-vis and the animation was beautiful. The fact that this was Jason’s first foray into documentary animation was astonishing because he handled the subject matter and medium with great sensitivity and clarity. The way he described the working process for this film would have been maddening from a directorial standpoint. Working in such a piecemeal and fluctuating fashion with a narrative like this would have been incredibly frustrating for myself. But Jason managed it well and even seemed to enjoy a lot of that process. This was a great peek into yet another ‘off the beaten path’ approach to animation and it’s ever growing professional outlets. Thank you Jason!

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  13. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    I always think that animation is very good mean to deliver such heavy issues – especially works really well as documentary itself or inserted clip in documentaries, since its imaginary, like of dreamlike feature lightens the pressure of encountering painful reality so story itself is strengthened. “He Name Me Malala” is another good example of how animation can well integrate with live-action media, and the power of animated work.
    It’s very interesting to listen about the pitch, I could feel how he passioned about this project. And the artworks are amazing too. I really like the very beginning concept designs, having very hand-drawn look yet are sophisticate.
    Visualising “speaks the fire” is very cleaver way to use animation; using metaphor/poetic expression into actual picture is something can be done well in animation(Imagine that if there’d be CG VFX real fire, it might be.. cheesy..?)

    Thank you Jason so much for sharing your art, experience, work process and pipe line so passionately! It was very interesting, fun and helpful seminar!

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    • HyeonJeong Cho says:

      * imaginary, dream-like feature T.T..

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    • Getting the text right took forever. We tried some more FX looking fire. It was so bad. I wish it weren’t. It would have been soooooooo much easier. We did use a lot of real smoke for texture. We slowed it all down to 4s so it was steppy. It was an easy way to add some dimension to a shot.

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  14. Ruchia Masuko says:

    Jason Carpenter Is an amazing animator, the animation was beautiful and Especially the first sequence is so powerful, and tells the story to the audience very effectiblely.
    Animated documentary is while a powerful media to tell the non-fiction story and message, I also believe, like the case of Malala, it could have avoid her from identify and kept her safe.
    I personally think documentaries shouldn’t be the cause of making the people insecure.

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  15. Sagar Ramesh says:

    Jason’s presentation on his work and creative process was a very enjoyable experience! After seeing “He Name Me Malala,” and understanding the work that went into the animated portions of the film, I found myself appreciating the piece even more than I did before.

    Personally, my overarching objective with animation is to make information more accessible. Hearing Jason talk about the creative decisions he and his team made in order to most effectively communicate an idea in the film really stuck with me after his presentation. It was great to hear about what the team had learned from a cultural standpoint, and Jason’s design/general advice was a fantastic way to close out the evening.

    Thanks for sharing your evening with us, Jason!

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  16. Amir Arzanian says:

    Jason’s presentation was interesting and informative for me. First of all his technique was unique and although it wasn’t complicated it was very appropriate for the film. I liked the simplicity of his work. The fact that his character didn’t have a face make the audience to concentrate on the actions more. Malala story was other aspect of his presentation that was interesting for me. I had a rough idea about her story and this speech gave me more information. It also provided me a new approach to life in Pakistan. This country always pictured with extremist fighter, bombing and political issues but this film depict how life goes on under that situation. It was delighting to know how courage and knowledge of a school girl defeated the extremism.

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  17. Jing Huang says:

    I was moved by Jason’s presentation a lot. It’s a good way to get more immersive in the film that sharing the making process of the film. In the past time, when I choose a film to kill time, the documentary would never be on my list. Because I always thinks that form is boring. But Malala’s story change my mind, I saw a new form in documentary that to cooperate with animation. In this way, the content of documentary will be much more vivid and interesting. I like the art style of it, it reminds me of some modern oil painting, the thick texture make the content heavier, and the art style makes the thoughts much more deep. I learned a lot. Thank you!

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  18. Katie Smith says:

    I unfortunately was out sick the evening Jamie Carpenter came in, and am very disappointed to have missed his presentation! I haven’t had the opportunity yet to see the film, but from what I have seen and read, it looks very powerful. It’s been interesting to read the comments, I can’t wait to check the film out – especially the animated scenes that Jamie worked on.

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  19. ZOEY says:

    Jason Carpenter’s presentation was really amazing and informative. And also really thankful for sharing us with detailed making of documentary piece, “HE NAMED ME MALALA”. Personally, I really enjoyed seeing how artists make decision during the process and how to condense the idea into one solid direction to pinpoint the main idea. It’s the most essential part to push the work forward. Especially for the part of various exploring drawings toward styles, characters, colors, etc., they are overall great and stylish but it is impossible to use all of them into one work which may let piece be out of focus. So, with detailed analysis from him, I figure out something about “less is more” in the one composition. Simplified figures and bold colors of main character can both truly reflect the personality of MALALA, giving a boost to let audience get whole story without too much burden. There is no absolute right thing or perfect rule to create work and everything connects relatively together.

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  20. Bryan Lee says:

    It was really cool to see the whole processes that went into the creation of “He named me Malala”. I really enjoyed the visual style of the whole documentary as well as how they went out of their way to try to stay true to the roots of Malala inside the film. I also personally enjoyed Jason Carpenter’s presentation because he was super personable and kept the conversation interesting yet informative. The painterly style of the animation really spoke to me and I believe helped to serve the films purpose and convey Malala’s story well. I thought it was super interesting in how they chose to integrate animation within the documentary to narrate her story, but in the end after seeing it it truly added towards the overall documentary.

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