At tonight's Academy Awards, 2005 University High grad Tim Reckart will find out whether he has won an Oscar.
His film, "Head Over Heels," is up for Best Animated Short.
Sydney Huetter, a University High sophomore who writes for the student publication UHS Perspective, interviewed Reckart. The paper allowed the Star to run some excerpts.
What got you interested in filmmaking?
When you're a kid, you kind of cycle through various ideas of what you want to do when you grow up: I wanted to be a paleontologist, then a magician, then a children's book author…
Eventually my big hobby was making movies, which I did on an old VHS camcorder with my siblings. I was lucky to have a mom who would let her 11-year-old use it! And I never outgrew making movies. I just kept spending more and more time on it.
And in retrospect, filmmaking - and especially animation - has all the stuff that got me excited about paleontology, magic, and writing children's books.
What encouraged you to start the film club at UHS?
When I was a sophomore, a couple of UHS seniors had the idea of doing a film festival at the Loft, but nothing ever got set up. The idea stuck with me, and in my junior year I decided someone should start this film club, so I just went ahead and did it. That first film festival was a bit of a shambles, but it was also a ton of fun and hugely popular. So we made it a regular thing.
Without the club, the only audience you normally have is your family, and it's easy to get lazy in that situation. So by providing a big public audience and a huge, professional venue, the Film Club encourages a high standard.
How has your experience at UHS helped you reach your goals?
UHS provided a great preparation for college in terms of academics, obviously. The teachers are great, and just as importantly, the school's culture does not punish good academic performance. Everyone at UHS is a nerd, so there's no point trying not to be.
The other wonderful thing about UHS is that the faculty are willing to put a lot of trust in the students. I received a lot of encouragement and support while I was starting the film club, but the faculty never tried to take it over. That provided a great learning experience for me, and those management skills have been just as valuable as my academic preparation.
How did you come up with the idea for "Head Over Heels"?
In Rembrandt's painting, "The Philosopher in Meditation," there's a spiral staircase that looks like it could be used by someone living on the ceiling to climb down to the floor. I noticed this and started imagining a film about someone living on the ceiling.
This image summed up a lot of thoughts I had been having recently: the challenge of understanding someone from a different religion, political party, or culture; the way some spouses seem to expect their marriage to fuel itself by some miracle of perpetual motion; the difficulty of being in a long-distance relationship, which I was doing at the time…
All of these ideas seemed to fold into the idea of a husband and wife separated by gravity.
How did you create Head Over Heels?
It's a stop motion film, so once the story was written we had to build single item you see before we could start animation. Every object is built by hand in the film; even the wooden floorboards were cut, sanded, glazed, and laid on the floor one at a time. There was a crew of about 50 people total helping us on the build.
If your film wins the Oscar, how will you react to the new bar it sets for future productions?
It's easy to get worried about your next project not being as good as the last one you did, but if I keep doing different things, challenging myself instead of trying to repeat a formula, I think I'll manage to keep my eye on the current project instead of looking backward.
"Head Over Heels" was the first time I tried to make a genuine, emotional film, so I stayed focused on that challenge. Next time, I suppose I'll challenge myself by telling a longer, more complex story, or perhaps by doing something more experimental with the animation technique.
The Oscars will be broadcast live on ABC starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Sydney Huetter is a sophomore at University High School. She writes for the school newspaper, loves musicals, and enjoys studying the Middle Ages and the French Revolution in her free time.