Late last year I came across the stunning work of filmmaker Sophia Pink. Although she is a mere fifteen years of age, Sophia’s short films show depth and maturity. She tackles some tough topics, and has an ability to share scientific facts in a clear and understandable way.
The first film of Sophia’s that caught my eye was Illuminate – about the power of electricity.
CB: What kind of film training do you have?
SP: I wish I had more! I started doing this in 7th grade when I borrowed a camera and made a movie with some friends. Since I make my films on top of my schoolwork, rather than as part of a class, I mostly try to figure it out on my own. However, I did take a three-day course in Final Cut Pro, and this summer I’m going to Maine Media Workshops for two weeks to finally get some real training.
CB: I love your unique use of visualizations, everything from m&ms on a map to paper strips for bar graphs. Where do you get these ideas?
SP: Thanks. I’m glad you like them. I’m not sure where they come from, but I try to keep the visuals both simple and surprising so that people can understand them — and remember them. I found this is really important when explaining scientific principles.
CB: What inspires you to make films?
SP: It is challenging to take a story or an idea, especially one about science or a complex issue, and distill it to just a few minutes. I also like that you get a final product at the end that other people can watch.
CB: What techniques did you use to get all of those inanimate objects moving in ‘Help Wanted’?
Luz Bauer, my collaborator on Help Wanted, and I had never made a stop motion film before, but we were set on trying to make one. We set a camera up on a tripod. Then we took a photo, moved the food a little bit, took a photo, moved the food, and repeated. But for some scenes, we had to come up with creative ways to move the food and dishes without our hand being in the photo. We didn’t have any advanced technology, so we had to think of low-tech solutions. For example, we needed a plate stand up on its side and roll across a table. So we taped a Harry Potter wand to the back of the plate, and I crouched underneath the table rolling the plate with the wand while Luz took the photos. In the end, we had more that a thousand still photos that I uploaded into Final Cut Pro and edited.
CB: Your films are about some pretty powerful topics, like censorship and gender imbalance. What projects are coming next?
This summer, I’m taking a three-week course in genetics at Johns Hopkins. When I’m done with that, I’m hoping to make an animated film about the human genome. Also, I’d love to make a more traditional narrative film with actors.
Thanks for answering my questions Sophia! I’ll look forward to seeing more of your great work in the future.