A short stop-motion animated film produced and directed across two continents by an RIT professor and his British creative partner recently took home a top prize at an international film festival in San Francisco.
Ain’t No Fish won the prestigious Director’s Award at the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival (SFIOFF). The film was created by Tom Gasek, assistant professor in the School of Film and Animation at Rochester Institute Institute’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, along with Miki Cash, his creative collaborator in England.
“Miki and I are delighted to receive this prestigious award from such a well-respected film festival,” Gasek said. “Ours was one of the few animated films in the festival, so this is quite an honor.”
Ain’t No Fish features hungry Arctic seals singing along to the music and lyrics of Carl Sigman and Bob Russell’s “Some Days There Just Ain’t No Fish,” as performed by Hoagy Carmichael. While it’s an easy-go-lucky song about fishing, the animated film slowly reveals the answer as garbage and oil are shown pervading the sea as the seals continue singing the show tune.
According to Gasek, the film was conceived of more than 20 years ago “when marine environmental issues were as relevant as they are today.”
“We felt the juxtaposition of the upbeat seals singing next to a deteriorating environment would relay our message of environmental caution,” Gasek said.
Since working together in an animations studio years ago, Gasek and Cash had previously collaborated on other commercial ventures.
“We’re old friends and making an animated film can test a friendship, but for us it had the opposite effect,” Gasek said. “We had to make sure we had a clear division of labor—me working in Rochester on the animated seals, and Miki in Bristol (United Kingdom) creating the real story: the environment. We had two other designers working with us as well.”
After completing preproduction, Gasek and Cash went into final production in 2012.
“I went to Bristol to share a pint with Miki and kick it off, and then it was 18 months of securing rights, production and postproduction over the Internet,” Gasek recalled. “We would have Skype calls every couple of weeks in between our full-time work.”
Large files from Gasek’s camera had to be uploaded to Dropbox—all meticulously numbered for tracking. Last June, Gasek returned to the UK after the seals and foreground props were shot. Cash, meanwhile, had been working on compositing the work from both sides of the Atlantic. The creative collaboration wrapped up by the end of the summer after the decision to include a final quote from the late, renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Featuring films about marine life, the ocean, coastal cultures and conservation, the 11th annual San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival debuted more than 25 world or U.S. premieres among nearly 50 films submitted by filmmakers from nearly 20 countries.