The Light Factory Brings Oscar-Nominated Animator to Charlotte

Don Hertzfeldt screens "It's Such a Beautiful Day" at CrownPoint
Courtesy, Light Factory

Don Hertzfeldt is an animator, Academy Award nominee, and cult figure who's become famous among fans of animation for his stick figures. The Light Factory is bringing him to Charlotte on April 14 at 7:30 p.m. for the exclusive Charlotte premiere of his newest film, It’s Such a Beautiful Day.

Disney and Pixar get all the buzz, but Hertzfeldt has the street cred. His animated films are for a mature audience, as his hand-drawn stick figures often find themselves in surreal, absurd, and even tragic circumstances.

He creates his animation the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper.

His new film is the final installment in a trilogy he began in 2006 with Everything Will Be OK, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Jury Award in Short Filmmaking. The second chapter, I am so Proud of You, was described by the San Francisco International Film Festival as, “[his] best yet.”

Nearly two years in the making, the 23-minute It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the filmmaker's most ambitious project to date. The movie was captured entirely on an antique 35mm animation stand, one of the last cameras of its kind still in use in America.

Catch the entire animated trilogy on April 14, and stick around (get it?) for the on-stage interview and audience Q&A with Hertzfeldt.

Revue: As someone who's a little fearful of technology, I'm fascinated by your dismissal of it — or at least how infrequently you seem to use it. I mean, you hand-draw your stick figures and then use 16mm or 35mm cameras to photograph them. Do you hate technology?

Don Hertzfeldt: Oh, no not at all. I'd hate to give the impression of being dismissive of new technology because that would be really dumb of me. The films have lately been sort of a hybrid. I still shoot on 35mm and animate on paper, but all the sound work is digital and the editing is digital. There are ways of getting the best of both worlds for a particular project. I still use the beautiful old cameras, not out of stubbornness, but because the latest films would have been simply impossible to make, visually, any other way. 

I think a lot of people still assume digital tools are by nature easier and do all these magical things for you. They're definitely more convenient; these old cameras I use are 800 pounds of machine. But there really are no shortcuts in animation. Computer animators don't have it any easier than traditional animators. They're working just as hard, only with a different set of tools. A movie like It's Such a Beautiful Day is so full of multiple exposures, special effects built by hand, happy accidents captured on film, animation shot through magnifying glasses, and broken glass. There are not many shots in the entire movie that I'd have been able to capture, or even visualize in my head, if I wasn't experimenting and compositing it on film.

Revue: Do you feel like technology is taking over our lives? Or, am I just projecting?

DH: Mobile devices still sort of bewilder me. Very few people seem to be alone with their thoughts anymore.

Revue: Do you consider yourself old-fashioned?

DH: I don't know. It's just strange to see people always stampede to the newest thing that's being sold to them. Just in terms of movies, we have one hundred  years of amazing film technology to play with. Yet the vast majority of filmmakers are working with tools and software that are only a few years old, largely because it's just what everyone else is doing.

Revue: Talk a little bit about your new film, It's Such a Beautiful Day. What's it about? What can people expect when they see it in Charlotte?

DH: It's the third chapter to a three-part thing that began in 2006 with a movie called Everything Will Be OK. I am really the world's worst person when it comes to trying to describe his own movie, but I guess you could say it's about a person who is having some trouble. 

Revue: You're a cult figure in some circles. You were nominated for an Oscar when you were just 23 (for Animated Short Film for Rejected.) Do you get recognized on the streets?

DH: No, thankfully the movies are more popular than I will ever be.

Revue: Is life a tragedy or a comedy?

DH: I think life is probably not ever just one thing.

See Hertzfeldt's clever and bizarre work at

Categories: Arts + Culture, Revue