An animated student film by artist Maya Patrich (BMA 2023) has won awards at a pair of film festivals.
“It’s been such an honour,” Maya says of the glowing reception her film has received. Prion was also selected for festivals across the globe including Linoleum Contemporary Animation and Media Art Festival in Ukraine, streetside cinema in North Carolina, Counterpunch Fest in South Carolina, Fragments Festival in London, UK, Calandıranlar Animation Film Festival in Turkey, Navarra International Film Festival in Spain, 100 Films Retreat in California, Animated Expressions Expo in France, Lift-off Global Network Sessions in the UK and the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Maya, meanwhile, plunged headlong into the film industry after graduation, leaving her zero space to register her film’s success.
“I didn’t even have the time to process it,” she tells me. “But it’s very flattering. Definitely I never imagined I’d win any awards. It’s been really exciting.”
Prion was created using multiple techniques including traditional 2D animation, computer animation, scanned ink drawings and even cyanotypes. Having worked for iconic VFX company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) during a gap year before finishing her degree, Maya says she wanted to “feel a little bit out of control” as she worked on her capstone project.
“I wanted there to be a loose chaos in the process, because I had been working in a very procedural environment,” she says. “I wanted to feel like I didn’t know how things were going to turn out and see what happens. I wanted to enjoy that space where there’s a plan, but there’s also room for the unexpected.”
She adds that her time at ILM was “formative” and “gave me the self-assurance to create things outside of my comfort zone.”
The result is a surreal narrative revolving around a character struggling to “balance self-acceptance and self-loathing when their worst fears manifest in the form of a sickly deer.” Sound design and music for the film were created by artist and ECU student Thomas Myles Feltenberger, who was “fantastic to collaborate with.”
Maya’s ambitions for the film were decidedly modest from the outset. She hoped simply “finish something and graduate.” So, public enthusiasm for Prion has been “very unexpected.”
That said, Maya did allow herself to hope she might touch audiences in some small way. For that reason, keeping the story loose and open to interpretation was important to her.
“I wanted to make something where part of the experience is people putting their own story to it,” she says. “I didn’t want anyone to sit there and feel bored. I wanted people to have some kind of experience. Maybe they hated it, but even that’s kind of interesting. And then hopefully audiences can determine, based on their feelings, what the story is about.”
Best of all, the experience of making Prion was rewarding for Maya herself.
“The spaces that were left for experimentation definitely felt exhilarating,” she says.
Having finished a months-long stint as a production coordinator for an independent film, Maya is now working on an illustration project. While she can’t yet reveal all the details, she says it involves character design for an upcoming campaign by a not-for-profit organization.
“It’s a nice contrast to the craziness of working on set and production,” she says. “A little bit of a quiet moment and then maybe back. A bit of both is always good for me.”
And while she doesn’t currently have plans for another animated film, she notes she’s happiest when hopping between creative spaces.
“I think I feel most satisfied and fulfilled when I’m doing the unexpected.”