MARQUETTE - The idea for the story, Shaun Pitz said, came from watching his beloved grandfather's experience with dementia.
That story idea has blossomed into a short animated film called "Espresso Manifesto." To finish the film by adding musical sound design and to help pay for potential future film festival entries, Pitz is seeking support through Kickstarter donations. The deadline for donations is coming up May 7.
Pitz, born and raised in Marquette, graduated from Marquette Senior High School in 2000.
A still from the animated film “Espresso Manifesto,” which filmmaker Shaun Pitz hopes to finish and enter in film festivals — with the help of crowdsourced funding from Kickstarter.
"I spent a few years at Northern Michigan University in the art and design program concentrating on electronic imaging before deciding to work on this project in a more full-time capacity," Pitz said in an email. "I now work at Starbucks in Marquette during the evenings and then animate throughout the night. Bedtime comes anywhere between 6 a.m. and noon."
For most of his life, Pitz has wanted to be involved with animation.
"I've loved animation for as long as I can remember, but the real turning point was when I saw the original 'Toy Story' in the theater," Pitz said. "I was mesmerized by the whole thing. Computer animation was in its infancy and I had never seen anything like it. Nobody had.
What is Kickstarter?
According to its website, kickstarter.com:
"We're a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you. Since our launch in 2009, more than 3.9 million people have pledged over $577 million, funding more than 39,000 creative projects. Thousands of creative projects are raising funds on Kickstarter right now. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control over and responsibility for their projects. Kickstarter is a platform and a resource; we're not involved in the development of the projects themselves. Anyone can launch a project on Kickstarter as long as it meets our guidelines. Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing - projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. All-or-nothing funding might seem scary, but it's amazingly effective in creating momentum and rallying people around an idea. To date, an impressive 44 percent of projects have reached their funding goals."
"My brain wanted more and I became rather obsessed with this technology and technique. Obviously, I was still a child and didn't entirely understand it, but I knew that I wanted to, possibly even needed to."
"Espresso Manifesto" has been a labor of love for Pitz.
"The idea for the story came to me while watching my grandfather look out of his window for hours on end," he said. "He had been struggling with dementia and I wondered if it had robbed him of his imagination, or if in fact it was running wild, creating fantastic worlds for him to roam.
"'Espresso Manifesto' is the world that I've created for him, sipping his coffee, letting his imagination run free," Pitz said. "Cletus Conrad, my grandfather, unfortunately passed away last year. I hadn't really talked about the impact that he had on this project until recently, as strange as it sounds, it just hadn't dawned on me how integral that he and his condition were to this story.
"In the end, the story is about the uncanny power of the human imagination. Even when we have nothing, we have everything."
Pitz's Kickstarter goal of $8,000 was about halfway met as of early this week.
"With Kickstarter, if you don't reach your funding goal, you get nothing," he said. "I don't get to keep the funds that I've received throughout the campaign if I don't reach my goal, it's all or nothing. So if I don't reach the goal, nobody is charged anything."
Pledgers receive premiums, which vary depending on the size of their donation, if the project meets its goal. The rewards for "Espresso Manifesto" depending on pledge amounts include downloads and DVDs of the finished film, posters, inclusion in the end credits and T-shirts.
"I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to do this," Pitz said. "I hope the community finds it interesting. Time is running out on the Kickstarter campaign... It's quite nerve-wracking but I'm staying positive and believing that this project will succeed. The support has been great so far, but now we need a big final push to finish it off."
Pitz hopes to make animation his career.
"The dream is to work in a medium- to large-sized studio as an animator or in some other creative capacity," he said. "Everyone always points to the Disneys and Pixars of the world, which of course would be a dream come true, but there are several smaller studios around the world that do amazing work as well. The smaller the studio, the more creative control each individual tends to have, so these studios certainly hold their advantages."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.