The Global Search For Education: 15 Year Old Filmmaker Carter Rostron on His Latest Short
Produced, written and directed by 15 year old Carter Rostron, Ruth & Nick: A Confectionary Tale, is the bittersweet story of Nick, a piece of candy who falls in love with a far more popular piece of candy called Ruth.
This unique and charmingly told animated stop-motion short can be seen by audiences on the Planet Classroom Network. Ruth & Nick: A Confectionery Tale is curated for Planet Classroom by KIDS FIRST! A delightful play-on-words, one-liners along with appealing visuals, Rostron presents life from the point of view of candy.
The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Carter Rostron.
We love your short film, Carter. Please tell us what inspired you to make this very special short.
There were several things that inspired me to make Ruth & Nick: A Confectionery Tale.
I have been making short films since I was in the third grade. I’ve made some documentaries and some comedies. And I had previously made one other stop-motion animated movie, so I knew a little bit about the techniques for doing stop-motion animation.
I decided to make another stop-motion animation film in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a time when it was hard to get people together to make a movie with other people involved. And so I decided it would make sense to work on stop-motion animation, since it is something you can do on your own.
The next step was to come up with an idea for what items or materials to use in the movie. People do stop-motion animation with all sorts of things, like drawings, or paper cutouts, or toys like Lego figures. And I came up with the idea of using candy. I figured that everybody likes candy. And a lot of candy is very colorful, so I thought it would look bright and fun on screen.
So I decided that the characters would be different kinds of candy. Then I needed to decide what kind of story to tell, and I was inspired there by an animated short movie from the 1960s called “The Dot and the Line.” It was made by Chuck Jones, who did the Bugs Bunny, RoadRunner, and other Warner Brothers cartoons. “The Dot and the Line” was a wonderful, simple story about a romance between a dot and a line. And so I decided that “Ruth & Nick ” would be a romantic story like that, but all about candy.
You wrote, produced and directed the film — and you also did the voice-overs. Please tell us what you enjoyed most about the different creative processes and what lessons you learned — perhaps for next time?
One of the most fun parts of making this movie was getting the candy. I went to several different candy stores in the city where I live. These are places that specialize in nothing but candy, so they have a great selection of interesting kinds of candy. It was fun to find things that would work well in the movie.
I also enjoyed figuring out the characters. I decided to use a “nickel nip” or wax bottle candy for one of the main characters, because I feel like that is a candy that is distinctive and memorable. It is kind of old fashioned, but still pretty well known, and it just seems kind of charming. And I picked Baby Ruth for the other main character, because I needed it to be something that is popular candy, and “Ruth” is a girl’s name, so that worked well.
It is also fun to come up with ideas for the scenes in the movie, and figure out how to do them. For example, I liked the idea of Nick riding on a skateboard. And I got a mini soccer ball for him, and then it was a challenge to figure out how to make the ball stay in place and not roll away. I wound up sticking pins in the back of the ball, so you can’t see them, but they kept the ball from moving.
So there are always little challenges like that, where you have to be creative to figure out how to show what you want to show.
Doing stop-motion animation is fun, but it is a very meticulous, long process. And the main lesson that you learn, from doing it, is patience. You have to just take your time, and not rush it. And you have to realize that there will be mistakes, and sometimes you’ll have to start over. And you have to not let that get you frustrated. You have to just enjoy it and have fun doing it.
What have you enjoyed most about your audience feedback so far? What have been people’s takeaways about your work and are those takeaways what you hoped they might be?
It is great to think that people in other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, are seeing and enjoying something that you made. Especially when you are a young person, like me. I’m in high school, and this is something that I was just doing for fun, and it’s remarkable to think that it actually winds up being seen and enjoyed by people in different places.
One of the main questions that people ask me about it is, “how long does it take to shoot a scene with stop-motion animation?” I think they imagine that it’s a very slow process, and they are right. A lot of animation these days is done with computers, but everything in this movie is done by hand. It’s just the pure, old-fashioned technique. You set up the scene, you take a picture of it, and then you move the candy just a tiny little bit. You take another picture, and then move the candy slightly. For some of the scenes with lots of candy, like the ballroom dancing scenes, you have to move dozens of pieces of candy for every shot that you take. And you repeat that process over and over again. I generally shot 12 frames per second, which means taking 12 different pictures to get just one second of footage. A lot of people are very interested in how that all works, just from a technical standpoint.
People also respond well to the story. The movie is meant to be very positive. It has a happy ending. And it has a message about being yourself, and not worrying about what others think about you. And I think people like that positive message.
What are you planning to work on next?
I will continue making various kinds of movies. It is fun to experiment with new things.
I recently finished making a documentary. It’s about a statue in my neighborhood, and there is a mystery surrounding it, because for years, someone has been leaving little statues of birds around it. So the statue has become known as the “bird lady.” That was a fun project, because it involved interviewing some local people about it, and doing research on the history of it. It’s a very different kind of filmmaking, compared to the stop-motion animation that I did for “Ruth & Nick.” But it’s nice to do a variety of things. I look forward to doing stop-motion animation again at some point, when there’s an idea that comes along.
Thank you Carter!
C.M. Rubin and Carter Rostron
Don’t Miss Ruth & Nick: A Confectionery Tale, curated by KIDS FIRST!, now screening on the Planet Classroom Network.