Visual arts teacher’s short film selected for Ann Arbor Film Festival

Caty Szeto

Visual arts teacher Alyssa Sherwood’s short film “Lakedoll” is among the few films that were selected for the Ann Arbor film festival and will screen for the first time in March in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Lakedoll” is an experimental fantasy piece that mixes both animated and live action scenes. Sherwood’s film tells the story of a young girl, played by her daughter, in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. The girl discovers an antique doll hidden among the trees and it leads her to a sunlit lake at the edge of the forest.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is held every spring at the Michigan Theater and showcases work from independent filmmakers all over the world. It features works of all genres including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction and performance-based films. Not only is it the oldest film festival in North America, it also serves as one of the few Academy Awards qualifying festivals in the United States. The festival awards more than $20,000 in cash and film stock/services to filmmakers every year.

The six-day festival has everything from film screenings to panel discussions to contemporary artists programs. Its mission is to support bold, independent filmmakers and promote the art of film and new media, as well as engage the community with a great cinematic experience.

Sherwood’s inspiration for “Lakedoll” came from her interest in the visualization of science.

“I’ve been interested in animations of scientific visualizations for a long time as a way to visually narrate various complex functions in biology such as DNA,” Sherwood said. “I’m interested in what goes on in a cellular and molecular level.”

Combining this interest with the Victorian era idea of being able to see spirits and fairies, Sherwood created her film to showcase what these visualizations would look like to the naked eye.

Sherwood completed the film over the course of two summers and filmed in the woods of Washington state. She said this was the perfect laboratory and studio as it gave her the freedom to use computer graphics and digital elements in a way that could interact with the environment.

The film also allowed Sherwood to incorporate multiple of her artistic interests into one project. “I like to draw, paint and make short animations,” she said. “Lakedoll was my first real hybrid piece.”

“Lakedoll” is not the first project Sherwood has worked on. During her free time, she tries to produce her own work as much as she can. Sherwood collects her materials and shoots all the footage for her films during the Summer and spends the rest of the year editing. Working bit by bit, she normally finishes at least one project each year.

After finding out that her film had been selected, Sherwood said that she was over the moon. Ann Arbor is where many of Sherwood’s inspirations and favorite filmmakers first screened their work, such as David Lynch and Suzan Pitt. She also expressed her pride at being selected for this specific festival.

“This festival is particularly meaningful to me,” Sherwood said. “It’s the oldest and most prestigious experimental and avant-garde film festival in North America.”