Bianca Giaever ‘12.5’s short film “The Scared is Scared” has gone viral (or as film professor JasonMittell likes to say, “spreadable”). First it made it onto Buzzfeed, then CBS, then Jezebel, then several other national (and Canadian) blogs and sites, not to mention filling up fb news feeds and twitter accounts near and far.
Giaever, an independent “Narrative Studies” scholar, made this film in her final four week J-term as her last project before graduation. It’s an impossibly endearing tale of adventure, loss, fear, and courage as told by a six-year-old named Asa. Giaever is a proven storyteller: her last movie “Holy Cow Lisa,” was a Vimeo “Staff Pick,” featured on Transom.org (a reputable public radio website), and tweeted about by radio celebrities like Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad. Her radio work has appeared on Vermont Public Radio and she even successfully pitched a story to This American Life.
middbeat wanted to know more about what went into this latest project, so we asked her a few questions:
middbeat: How did you find this kid? Did you have to go through several children to find a story that would work, or did you just stumble upon Asa?
Bianca Gaiever: I interviewed a couple of other kids before I came to Asa. I knew that I wanted to give a kid a chance to tell a story that would be made into a video and I wanted some advice on my anxieties around graduation. I’m definitely not the luckiest person in the world who comes upon the perfect kid who says the perfect tape. I’m constantly interviewing as many people as possible for as long as possible while experimenting with different questions to ask.
MB: This sort of thing has been done already on the internet (literally portraying childrens’ imaginations with actors), were you inspired by things you’ve seen before?
BG: No, not really. The idea of talking to kids came up in a conversation with Jason Mittell over winter break and I just went with it. During the interview process someone sent me a video that was slightly similar to what I was imagining, but other than that I hadn’t seen anything.
MB: Your last film was also a big success–it got on Transom.org, Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad tweeted about it, etc. But “Scared is Scared” is taking on a life of its own, CBS and Buzzfeed. and Jezebel have all featured it. Did you expect this to take off the way it did? Any thoughts on why it blew up the way it did?
BG: Absolutely not. In fact, I was fully bracing myself for the disappointment of this film not being as “good” as the last one. My ultimate hope was to make a film that no one thought of as “better” or “worse” – just different. And I think this movie does that. After I first made it, I thought to myself, “Well, that was pretty Ok. Next!” So the response has been unprecedented, but at the same time I understand why so many people love it. It touches on some major themes that everyone can relate to – anxiety, loss, nostalgia, childhood… It’s remarkable to realize that a six year old can already empathize so fully with those feelings of fear and anxiety. It also helpful that the film is consistently surprising and delightful, especially when I was exploring speech and the way we auto-correct ourselves. The overall concept is attractive as well – giving a kid a chance to make his dream movie. And then there’s the cute kid factor, that’s definitely a thing. You never even see Asa in the film (which is a shame, because he is really, really cute.) Maybe for my next film I’ll interview newborn kittens.
MB: There were a lot of moving parts in this film: the narration, the film shots, the animation, the text, etc. During the process was it clear to you how they were all going to come together? How much collaboration was there?
Once I’ve edited down the audio I try to storyboard the entire film, so I do have a clear idea of how it will come together though that is always subject to change. I love collaborating with other people, but I also find it incredibly difficult. As a director I’m definitely still learning and finding my own voice. I certainly oversee everything that happens very closely, and I come to people with some idea of what I want. The hard part is often articulating what I’m envisioning, especially when I’m still in the process of figuring that out myself. At other times I’ll be getting too much advice from all sides and need to remind myself to trust my instincts. So usually it’s an ongoing process of give and take. We’ll each say what we’re envisioning, then come to an agreement, and then meet again and discuss ideas further and make revisions.
MB: What’s next for you? Can we expect more of these movies?
I hope so! I’m doing some post-grad traveling for the next two months, but this is definitely my most urgent passion of the moment so I’m going to do anything in my power to continue. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of offers for various jobs and projects after this film. Many of these are for commercial projects, which interest me less but can be good for making money. Right now I have one promising offer to fund more of these films, but I’m not going to say it now because it’s still in the infant stages and I don’t want to jinx it! Of course, I can also raise money myself through Kickstarter or other grants. What’s really daunting is the challenge of finding meaningful stories and telling them in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m repeating myself. I’ll let you know when I figure that one out!