By Ozzi Ramirez
Welcome to NYWIFT, Seeley Björkstén! Seeley is an NYC-based filmmaker and digital artist who is mostly interested in telling impactful nonfiction stories through film. Their passion for incorporating animation and other types of unconventional creativity into their work is reflected in their short film Who I Wasn’t, among other projects.
Having studied at American University and FAMU, one of the oldest film schools in the world, Seeley is currently the Marketing & Social Media Manager at the Bushwick Film Festival. As someone who believes that art has the power to change the world, they consider their creations to be a form of activism.
Seeley spoke to us about what drew them to animation, their creative journey, and their most personal project to date.
Tell us about yourself – Give us your elevator pitch!
Hi! My name is Seeley. I’m an editor who is especially drawn to nonfiction stories and passionate about documentary filmmaking that is fact-driven while still centered on artistic elements like poetry and animation.
As a filmmaker who regularly incorporates animation into your work, what effect do you feel this has on the storytelling aspects? Does it vary depending on the project or does the animation typically serve the same purpose?
In my mind, animation can be just as varied and nuanced as live action, so the effect it has on the story depends on the project and style. Animation can be anything from motion graphics to abstract expressions of emotion, so the purpose and effect definitely take the unique shape of the project.
Between the title, the footage of yourself as a young child alongside your family, and the accompanying dialogue in the form of subtitles, your short film Who I Wasn’t comes across as very personal. What was your experience making this film?
Who I Wasn’t is by far my most personal piece. The film is an open letter to my parents who died without ever knowing that I’m transgender. My parents got a VHS camera in 1996 and used it ardently for the next nine years, documenting quotidian moments of the family, right up until their death. For me, videos of my childhood are prickled with tragedy, something I expect many transgender people can find relatable.
Although filmmaking is typically a collaborative process, I worked alone on this very personal project. Not only are most of the shots of myself, but I did everything from writing and combing through 100 hours of footage to animating and sound mixing by myself.
As an artist, were you first interested in animation or filmmaking? Are there any specific films/artists that have influenced your craft?
I started making little frame-by-frame and stop-motion animations when I was about nine. I would call this filmmaking before I call it animation, but they’re really the same thing to me.
I remember obsessing over Shane Koyczan’s “To This Day” video and loving the way a true story could become animated visual poetry. Today, I feel that same way about Flee, Fire of Love, and All Light, Everywhere, among many other films.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
It’s hard to remember specific pieces of advice that fall into best and worst categories, but I often repeat the saying, “The only constant is change.” I think it’s really useful to remember to go with the flow and adapt to unforeseen obstacles when making a film.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
My film professor and mentor at American University, Sara Barger, is the president of the DC chapter of WIFV (Women in Film & Video DC). I won a membership at a film festival she organized and immediately started seeing the benefits of having a WIFV membership. I’m excited to get as involved in the NYWIFT community as I was in DC!
How did the pandemic influence your work process?
The pandemic forced me to get creative with storytelling. I’m primarily an editor, so I had fun exploring what I could make without shooting a single frame. During the pandemic, I made projects comprised entirely of archival footage, my own repurposed footage, claymation, animation, stock footage, etc. I also tried Premiere Pro’s Team Project feature to no avail.
Where do you see yourself in the next several years? Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m currently editing a documentary that will hopefully become a docuseries and writing my first documentary feature. It is exciting to work on something that makes me feel really passionate!
Connect with Seeley on Instagram at @bee.york.sten, on LinkedIn, and through their website www.bjorksten-studio.com.
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