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Student’s short movie to be shown at film festival

Katie Cirincione, with a frame of her stop-motion movie “"Checkers the Cat" on the monitor. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)

Katie Cirincione, with a frame of her stop-motion movie “Checkers the Cat” on the monitor. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)

By Kevin Kelley
Westlake

Katie Cirincione is a cat person.

Being a cat person gave her the idea for a film project for a class at Lee Burneson Middle School last year − and that film will be shown to audiences next month at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Katie fosters kittens waiting to be adopted from Cleveland’s Animal Protective League. Two years ago, when she was in the seventh grade, Katie took care of a male kitten named Checkers, which is also the name of a stuffed animal she had.

While studying computer animation last year in pre-engineering teacher Kurt Thonnings’ electronic communications class, she decided a cat based on Checkers would be a good subject for a movie.

Consisting of 700 individual frames, the movie shows Checkers drawn on a blank sheet of composition book paper. Once the outline of the cat is drawn, a package of colored pencils enters the screen. Then, individual pencils emerge to magically fill in the details of Checker’s body, without the control of human hands. Finally, the animal turns into a stuffed animal as it walks off the page.

Katie, 14, described the film version of Checkers as “cute, playful and energetic.” She said her drawings were based mainly on her stuffed animal, but it also had characteristics of the kitten she fostered.

The film was made using SAM Animation, software developed at Tufts University to help students create stop-action movies. The software is now called HUE Animation.

The project took Katie three weeks to complete, she said.

“Most of it was me drawing the cat,” said Katie, now a freshman at Westlake High School.

Katie also created the upbeat music that accompanies the two-minute animation using GarageBand, audio production software produced by Apple.

Thonnings, her teacher, suggested she enter “Checkers the Cat” in the Cleveland International Film Festival. She learned in early February that it had been accepted.

“Katie was very meticulous in making her film,” Thonnings told West Life. “I always had the sense that Katie felt very calm and confident about the story she was weaving.”

“Checkers the Cat” will be featured in the Family Shorts Program 1 package of short films, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. April 3 at the film festival’s main venue, Tower City Cinemas, and at 11:30 a.m. April 9 at the Akron Art Museum. Katie will also take part in panel discussions that follow special screenings for area students.

Katie said she began experimenting with stop-action animation in the sixth grade and often uses Windows Movie Maker software for her projects.

“It’s a lot of fun to make movies, but the hardest thing is always to come up with an idea,” she explained.

Katie is currently involved with WHBS-TV, Westlake High School’s educational access cable station, and plans to continue making animated films as a hobby. But she intends to pursue a career in writing and has already submitted several articles to area publications.

Tickets to the Family Shorts Program 1 package cost $16 and can be purchased online at www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2016/checkers-the-cat. “Checkers the Cat” can also be viewed online on Vimeo and YouTube.

 

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