The Empowerment Of Otherness With Richmond Film Artist Evie Metz

by | Nov 16, 2022 | FILM / TV

Richmond filmmaker Evie Metz is an interdisciplinary artist centered in sculpture, photography, and puppet stop-motion animation. Her work, in collaboration with artist Nick Daly, explores the relationship between humans, animals, and nature and the empowerment of otherness. Her films have been shown nationally and internationally at festivals including the Maryland Film Fest, Chicago International Film Festival, and Glasgow Short Film Festival.

Recently, I came across her creative work and was caught up watching her puppet characters have these intimate and intense moments of self exploration in relation to their environments. I was able to ask Evie about her process, technique and give her space to speak on her inspirations and collaborations.


Evie Metz

Who are you and who is your key collaborator?
My name is Evie Metz. I’m an artist and educator who creates puppet stop-motion animations, sculptures, and photography. My animations are a two person production. I collaborate with Nick Daly who is a composer, illustrator, and painter. Our collaborative process is very fluid and back and forth, but independently he creates all of the intricate soundscapes and I do all of the animating.

Are you from RVA or when did you come here, from where?
I was born and raised in South Florida. I lived in Baltimore for several years while studying at Maryland Institute College of Art and from there moved to Virginia upon gratefully receiving a full ride to complete my masters degree at VCU.

What and/or who are some of your inspirations in the art of stop motion animation? How did you come to express storytelling in this way?
I had no interest in stop motion until I happened upon the puppet animations of Karen Yasinsky. It was the first time that I understood animation could evoke emotion and involve the viewer without traditional storytelling. They had no dialogue, no plots, sometimes the puppet was only half a body, and yet the films contained this unabashed beautiful strangeness which I felt an instant connection with. It was amazing to see such a raw approach that utilized technical imperfections to create a more sincere and powerful overall effect. 

To this day, I am a self taught animator and Nick is a self taught composer/sound designer and I do believe there is an advantage to creating this way. It forces you to carve your own unique path and fulfill your own creative vision. I’d worked extensively in many mediums prior to animation including photography, ceramics, painting, filmmaking, and sculpture. What continues to excite me most about stop-motion, is that it combines all of these processes and best allows me to create a world for the viewer to become immersed in. Having worked for many years in photography, I also wanted to show and tell beyond one single photograph. I was curious if I had the power to make things move through a series of photographs. I never had the chance to meet my grandmother but she collected miniatures, and I used those in my first experiment simulating movement.

What is your favorite part of working in this style? Constructing or building the sets or characters? Animation phase or Editing? Other?
I find all stages of production immersive and stimulating. Each step requires so much time, focus, and energy that I’m grateful, for instance, that by the time I finish making the puppets and set, I can fully switch gears and go into animating. The same goes for completing the animating and editing of everything together, only to start the cycle again. Every part of the process is always challenging and filled with unpredictable obstacles. It’s always an uphill battle that requires persistence and determination.

Any insight to your production methods or process? Is there anything you think is special to your style?
Nick and I often start with a setting or a simple gesture as the genesis for a scenario. We ask ourselves what we have not yet worked with before. For example, snow was the jumping off point for our film Snow Angel. It was an element completely new to us and was exciting in the possibilities it suggested towards tone and mood.

Generally, I don’t plan much about the characters or stories ahead of time and instead try to react during the process. I value the creative surprises and the winding journey of development. I animate with only a loose and minimal plan so that the story can be discovered and felt out intuitively during filming. Often major story points are spontaneously created during the shoot.

One element unique to my style is the emphasis on the materials that make up the character bodies, and how they react to being handled so much during a shoot. Oftentimes I’ll be mid-animation when a character’s clay begins to crack, a wire pops out, or their stitches come loose, and while my instinct is to stop and repair I ultimately choose to let it be. I’ve come to embrace this decay as evidence of a life lived. As humans, our skin too begins to wrinkle and our bodies break down. Instead of trying to cover up or hide these imperfections within my process, I recognize their symbolic power and react to it as a moment of improvisation to work with rather than against.

The role of music and sound is also unique. Nick creates a score in which all of the music is synchronized to the action, as though it’s participating in, or generating the on screen movements. His otherworldly soundscapes play a major role in the overall experience of the films. 

How long does it take you to make a piece?
Some of the animations have been created across multiple months, some a year. There is a lot of experimentation in the fabrication process as I am always looking for new methods and ways to make use of what I have. I especially take my time with puppet making. Bringing the character to life is so meaningful and special for me because the puppets are what carry the films. There’s no telling how long a stage of production will take on one film versus another. There have been films where I went with my first puppet, flaws and all, or Nick had to do several soundtrack drafts before arriving at the right fit, and then on the next film it can feel the opposite. What slows the production down the most is working a combination of day jobs, which my collaborator and I both have to sustain our practices, considering our art is not commercially driven or traditional in the least. 

The first work Roses Were Red is epic in scale compared to the recent works, what was learned on that one to lead to the others?
My first short film was approximately the same in its scale to the others which followed. My limitation is still my living room and though I wish I had more space, the set scale is as large as I can manage it to be. Roses Were Red was unique in that I had a large doll house to use as a set. It was unfinished when I bought it, which gave me the chance to paint and design all of the interiors and exteriors myself. That home, in the context of the film, became an extension of the central character’s psyche. There were many rooms to work with and each one became its own little world of wonder and intricacy.

Thinking back to the making of that film, all odds felt against me. I had no idea what I was doing and all of the characters were simply balancing, rather than using more practical techniques such as strings or tie-downs to hold the characters up. Despite all of this, my patience was somehow immeasurable. I was determined, and upon completing the project, though it felt like I’d been through a physical and emotional marathon, I was ready to jump into the next film and build off of what I felt I had accomplished and strengthen the areas that needed improvement.

Stop-motion is such a vast universe of possibilities, and for me it boils down to world building. The most important thing to me is capturing feeling, creating an experience to be immersed into, and a connection that feels beyond reason. I’m drawn to the ability for each film to explore a new world, whether that’s the internal world of a character or a physical space and how these connect. What I most importantly discovered on Roses Were Red is that in stop-motion, all inanimate materials are grounds for character portrayal, capable of emotion and empathy. 

What would you say are your key themes and considerations for what makes one of your character’s stories yours?
There’s always a quest for uncovering something about the human condition. I’m very interested in metamorphosis through stop-motion animation and the complex ways that the process can reflect the experience of life. The animations reflect a state of becoming. The formal elements we put a lot of consideration into include representing diverse characters in regards to identity and gender, hallucinatory camerawork style, and the role music plays in bringing life to the narrative flow. In the end the score and sound design becomes as intricate and detailed as the films themselves.

In stop motion puppet work there is something special about the eyes of the characters and in the videos I watched there was something noteworthy about closed eyes and eyelids not always seen in the form outside of blinking sometimes. In these shorts the diverse range of characters closed their eyes in death, rest, ecstasy, and bliss, is there something special about that for you to include that across the videos?
A puppet closing their eyes suggests a turning inwards to their feelings, as though they have their own thoughts. Despite there being no dialogue in the films, eyes, mouths and hands become powerful tools of communication for the characters. Their mannerisms in the films are to remind the viewer of their aliveness despite what they are made of.

Where can a reader find your work? What is next for you?
My work was recently published online at Girls in Film which is a fantastic platform connecting and promoting moving image works by women, non binary, and trans creatives. NoBudge, a low-budget cinema platform, also recently shared a feature of our work. We are currently in the midst of animating our next short puppet film, which has proven to be more elaborate in its fabrication stage than any of our previous projects. We’re excited to share it once complete, but until then you can see snippets of our process on instagram,  @eviemetz for me and @knockknockitsnick for Nick.

For more information visit her website at www.eviemetz.com

Todd Raviotta

Todd Raviotta

Artist in many forms. Sharing love for cutting things up as editor and fine art collage media mixer, love of music as a DJ, and love of light in photography and video. Educator of Film Studies and Video Production for over two decades. Long time RVAmag contributor and collaborator.




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