MFA candidate's film screens at South by Southwest

Diane Catsburrow Linnet ‘24 MFA (film and animation) began dipping her toes into animation when she was still committed to her printmaking and oil painting studies as an undergraduate student. She did some independent research, and applied for an internship at Pixar. 

While that first attempt seemed to lead to nothing, it did eventually inspire her to pursue an MFA in animation at RIT. And last year, she ended up spending the summer at Pixar as an animation intern.

This was just one of many amazing experiences she earned while at RIT. On campus, Linnet spent almost three years as the producer for MAGIC Spell Studio’s AniMAGIC team, which works with outside clients to execute professional animation projects. She was also the graduate teaching assistant for various classes and workshops, as well as a 2D concept artist for That Damn Goat, MAGIC’s recently published video game. 

The animated films Linnet has made while at RIT, including The Snowman and Put It Back, have screened at dozens of festivals around the world. Most recently, Linnet’s 360-degree animated short film, Tadpole, traveled to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest (SXSW) — the Academy Award-qualifying festival that is among the biggest in the world. This was its third showing after two international selections in the U.K. (Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Manchester Animation Festival). 

Question: Can you explain a bit about Tadpole?

Diane Catsburrow Linnet: “Tadpole is a black and white, hand-drawn, immersive but 2D-produced animated short film. It shows a day in the life of Polly, whose house is inhabited by 39 versions of herself: each one year apart, living and growing older to replace the next, reliving the same life in a never-ending cycle. It’s a strange story. It’s also made only using a 2D hand-drawn technique, which is an unusual approach to production for immersive media.”

Question: Can you explain your process for making Tadpole?

Linnet: “It really began as an independent study on 360 filmmaking, which came from a wish to try making something in an immersive medium. I wanted to see if I could make something to be viewed in a VR headset, but without learning any 3D or programming. So the film began as an independent study, and then I used the full month following the spring semester to finish it as a film.”

Question: What motivated you to submit Tadpole to SXSW for consideration? 

Linnet: “With Tadpole, there actually weren't a ton of options, because VR and immersive media are not shown in most festivals. So I was submitting to wherever I could, and SXSW was one of them. It seemed really big, but I always try to submit to film festivals of a good variety — close or far, small or big. You never know when you might get lucky, or happen to click on the sort of curation they’re looking to put together.”

Question: What was your reaction to your film being accepted to SXSW?

Linnet: “I quietly opened my laptop to search and make sure it was what I thought it was. I was in disbelief!”

Question: How was the experience at SXSW?

Linnet: “It was shocking, at first! Despite what I’d read up, I didn't fully understand how big the festival was going to be. I was amazed by the sheer scale, the number of people, the events, and the sort of crowds that passed through. So many people came by and I had many wonderful reactions, comments, and questions. It's always a special experience to connect with the audience after a viewing, and this was three and a half days full of it.”

Question: How impactful was your time in the film and animation MFA program as it relates to your career goals? 

Linnet: “I can’t speak enough about how I found so many opportunities, connections, and experiences that I didn't even imagine possible, being here at RIT. It's strange and gratifying to reflect on how it all happened, really. I started out here just wanting to soak everything in and make fun things. And I did it not knowing, or even hoping, it would all work out. I dove head first because I believed that academia is a great place to try and fail. 

“Looking back, though, I don't think I really failed on anything. With the unending support and mentorship I was able to get from the faculty and the program, something valuable came out of even the things I didn't get to finish to the caliber I had wanted.”

Question: What are your post-graduation plans? 

Linnet: “I’ll be staying at RIT for the rest of the calendar year, working at MAGIC Spell Studios as a creative project director for the virtual museum project by Finger Lakes Visitors Connection. I will be working with student talent at MAGIC to produce a fully interactive virtual museum experience focused on historical and cultural heritage sites throughout Ontario County, N.Y. It'll be starting just a few days after graduation, and I am so excited!”

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