Artist – Jeff Chiba Stearns


Jeff Chiba
Stearns
is an Emmy® nominated and Webby award-winning
animation and documentary filmmaker. After graduating from the
Emily Carr
University
with a degree in Film Animation, he founded
Vancouver based boutique animation studio Meditating Bunny Studio
Inc.
in 2001. From animated viral video ads and broadcast
commercials for companies like Sharpie, 3M, Generali and Post-it
Note, to short and feature films like “What Are You Anyways?”
(2005), Yellow Sticky Notes (2007), One Big Hapa Family (2010),
Ode to a Post-it Note (2010), Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian
Anijam (2013) and Cats (2014), Jeff’s work has broadcast around
the world, screened in hundreds of international film festivals
and garnered 33 awards.  The studio is currently completing
its second feature length ani-doc, Mixed Match, and pitching
various animated series.

Jeff Chiba Stearns – Ode to a Post-it Note

What part of Canada are you from Jeff?
I was born and raised in Kelowna, British Columbia, but now call
Vancouver home.

What inspired you to create animation?
I always drew as a young child and growing up, I was fascinated
by people who could draw.  I was always asking people to
draw me things so I could learn their techniques as I watched
them draw. I grew up as part of the generation of kids who
would wake up at the crack of dawn, pour a bowl of cereal, and
watch Saturday morning cartoons until noon and then got really
mad when they started putting cheap live action shows in the
mix.

When I was 8 years old, I remember watching the Oscars and
discovered that you could win an Oscar for creating an animated
short film. From that moment, I remember running up to my room
and sketching characters that I was going to use to win an
Oscar one day. I’m not sure where those drawings went but
winning an Oscar is still a huge personal dream of mine.
Although, as a teenager I was introduced to MTV’s Liquid
Television, which was a weekly program of short indie
animations. Seeing the diversity of styles and techniques and
creative insanity coming from those animation filmmakers really
pushed me in the direction of wanting to be an independent
animator and create my own films.

Can you share a piece of art work or script segment that no
one has seen before?

Sadly I haven’t really drawn lately since I’ve been busy making
a documentary…if I think of something I’ll let you know!

What role do you play in the creation of animation?
As an independent animator, I pretty much wear all the hats
from director, producer, lead animator, voice talent,
distributor, sometimes even sound designer, etc.

What is one project that you are proud to have been involved
in?

In 2010, I created a short animated film entitled “Ode to a
Post-it Note” to help celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the
Post-it Note.

Jeff with Art Fry

What project are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on trying to finish up my second feature
length ani-doc entitled “Mixed Match”. The film looks at the
complexities associated with patients of a mixed-race
background who have a rare blood disease and are searching for
bone marrow/stem cell matches. Being of a mixed
Japanese/European background myself, I often focus my work on
themes of multiethnic identity. I’ve been working on this film
for over 4 years and I’m about ready to be done with it!
 I start editing and exploring animation treatments
hopefully at the beginning of March 2015.

Who is one of your favourite Canadian animators?
This is a tough question because I have so many Canadian
animation inspirations; it’s hard to pick a favorite. I
definitely admire the work of Marv Newland,

Chris Hinton
, Paul
Driessen
, Janet Perlman,
Alison Snowden,
David Fine and
Cordell
Barker
.  All of whom worked on my 2013 film, Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian
Anijam
.  Having the opportunity to work with my
Canadian animation idols was more than a dream come true and
one of the most surreal moments in my animation career. I have
to add that Sheldon Cohen is also
a huge inspiration to my work, but sadly he was too busy at the
time to work on the anijam.

What is one of your favourite animation books? 
Of course my animation bibles, along with every other animator
out there, are “The Illusion of Life” and the “Animator’s
Survival Kit”.  Although it was Scott McCloud’s
“Understanding Comics” that really sparked a seed in my brain!
 I was also recently featured in the book “Stop Motion
Animation: How to Make and Share Creative Videos” by Melvyn
Ternan.  As well, I’ll be featured in a ‘yet to be named’
book on contemporary independent animation written by Skwigly
animation writer and co-owner, Ben Mitchell, coming out
sometime next year…I think.

Who is an up-and-coming Canadian animator that everyone
should check out?

I really like the work of Kunal Sen, who is a good friend of
mine, and someone I was fortunate to have worked with on my
feature documentary “One Big Hapa Family” in which he provided
some animation sequences.  He does a lot of freelance
work, but I’m excited to see him get back to creating some new
independent animations that I know he has hiding up his
sleeves.  I love his style because he understands how to
properly use digital animation programs combined with old
school animation techniques to deliver some really cool styles
and animation techniques. Plus, he’s a fellow graduate from the
Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Animation Program
where he made a great little grad film called Key Tumi.
 Check out his work at http://www.kunalsen.net/.

Are you involved with any animation organizations in
Canada?

At this time, no.  I’ve been a member of the Academy of
Canadian Cinema and Television and the Documentary Organization
of Canada but never an animation organization. Although, I
really wish there was an independent animation collective or
organization based here in Vancouver.  There’s a few
animators here that have started up small groups but nothing
big.  I’m trying to start my own foundation to help teach
kids how to self reflect and express their creativity through
animation. It’s called the “Yellow Sticky Note Project”. So
far, I’ve held some high school animation workshops around
Vancouver and as far away as Poland.

Setup for filming Post-it notes.

Have your films won any animation awards/accolades?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate to win over 30 awards at various
international film festivals and I’ve screened my films in over
250 festivals worldwide. I’m a bit of a festival junky and have
attended over a hundred of them around the world. The award I’m
most proud of was winning was the Prix du Public (audience
award) for my 2007 animated short Yellow Sticky Notes at the
Clermont-Ferrand
International Short Film Festival
, which is one of the most
prestigious short film festivals in the world.  That meant
a lot because the audience who voted for my film was full of
industry and short film connoisseurs! The film was also
nominated for an Emmy.  I’ve also won a Webby Award for my
stop motion animated film, Ode to a Post-it Note in 2011.
 Personally as a filmmaker, I’ve been awarded the Cultural
Pioneer Award at Harvard University and the Emily Award from
the Emily Carr University of Art and Design for outstanding
achievements of an alumni.

Jeff with the Webby Award

What are some of your animation milestones?
I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced a plethora of
significant milestones in my 15 year animation career so far.
Starting up my own boutique animation studio back in 2001,
Meditating Bunny Studio Inc. and deciding to make a go at
independent animation was a huge milestone.  From there,
creating my first professional short animated film, “What Are
You Anyways?” which was funded by the CBC was another huge
milestone since it was the first time I got funding to make my
own indie work.

Another huge milestone was finishing my film “Yellow Sticky
Notes” and it becoming the biggest thing I’ve ever made thus
helping launch my career as a self-sufficient filmmaker.
 The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival where the
YouTube Screening Room acquired it. Since then the film has
achieve almost 2 million views on YouTube. It also screened as
part of the Spike and
Mike’s Festival of Animation
in 2008. I remember going to
Spike and Mike’s every year as a teenager and dreaming of one
day having a film that would be included in the show.

My most recent milestone was creating a follow up film “Yellow
Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam”, where I got to work with some
of my animation heroes. The film received a Staff Pick on
Vimeo, which was a really cool first in my animation career.
Although, the biggest milestone I’ve accomplished is completing
my first feature length film, “One Big Hapa Family” in 2010
that blended documentary with various animated techniques.
 

Have you written any books or blog posts about Animation or
Canadian Animation? 

You can check out a ton of blog posts about my experiences
creating my animated films and how I’ve self distributed
them…as well as interviews with all the animators who worked on
“Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam” (along with unreleased
stills from their new projects): http://www.bitlanders.com/blog-posts/meditatingbunny

Is there a question I should have asked that I
didn’t? 

Nah…I think we’ve covered everything!

Have you done other interviews about your work in
animation?

Here’s a link to my Interview Playlist on YouTube with 14
interviews/features:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL35588724406A38FD

A lot of links to online interviews for blogs, etc. can be
found at http://www.meditatingbunny.com/
and by going to the Press and Interviews tab and scrolling
down.

To see more work from Jeff, check out the links
below.

Main website: http://www.meditatingbunny.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/chibastearns
Twitter: www.twitter.com/meditatingbunny
Instagram: www.instagram.com/meditatingbunny
Ello: ello.co/meditatingbunny

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