= Top-Top the Penguin =

Return to Films section | View movie against dark background

Top-Top the Penguin in Not Feeling Well

Director, cinematography, editing: Aaron Dylan Kearns
Genre: Humor
Runtime: 1:29
Budget: $0
Release date: March 11, 2014
Festivals/screenings: Top-Top the Penguin in Not Feeling Well had its world premiere at the 2014 Reel Riot Film Festival at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.<


Top-Top the Penguin in Feeling Left Out

Director, cinematography, editing: Aaron Dylan Kearns
Genre: Humor
Runtime: 0.57
Budget: $0
Release date: February 13, 2014

Why include student films from when I was a young teen in my filmography? To illustrate how the juvenile filmmaker progresses from year to year. Also, encouragement was given to young filmmakers by the High Museum of Art and the Woodruff Arts Center with the 2014 Reel Riot Film Festival in which I was fortunate to have Top-Top the Penguin Not Feeling Well shown in an auditorium setting. Such programs are important for encouraging and rewarding the creativity of youth, and I'd like to acknowledge how beneficial they were for me.

Top-Top the Penguin, filmed during the equivalent of my sophomore high school year, when I was 15-16, started off as a joke related to Atlanta's January 29th Snow Jam. I had spent hundreds of hours as a child doing very short animation projects, then lengthy and somewhat ambitious stop-animations, and then turned to filming. My first project had been the Aikido documentary Day on the Mat. What was to follow? Instead of making films, I continued with time-consuming projects of editing music to such movies as the German Expressionist classic, Vampyr, which I had begun doing the prior year, which was very involving and wasn't a bad training ground for learning the dynamics of editing shots and how music can support images. I worked on several different films, returning to and re-editing them as my abilities progressed. When I did pick up the camera again, it was for shorts that were only practice footage. Until Top-Top engaged my imagination. It is clearly the work of a dumb student, which is a good reason for preserving these two films.

In July of 2014 I learned that the High Museum was sponsoring the Reel Riot Film Festival for high schoolers. I submitted Light, Top-Top Not Feeling Well, and Day on the Mat. Light and Top-Top Not Feeling Well were accepted.

As part of activities for the festival, in late July a film pro led a group of high schoolers in the making of a group film effort for the festival. There were nine teens, two cameras, and while everyone had an opportunity to film, I did a fair amount of it while the other teens were engaged as actors. The editing was principally done by myself and another teen, but others gave advice. Everyone was involved. No one was left out. It cost $20 for the day, which included lunch. Sub sandwiches were brought in for everyone. It was a fun and educational.

The festival took place on July 31st, in the Hill Auditorium.

70 films had been submitted internationally, from which 22 were chosen. Entries screened were from Georgia, Quebec, New York, North Carolina, 3 from Massachusetts and 2 from Virginia. A number involved multiple directors and editors. The two Virginia entries were cooperative efforts out of Lighthouse Studio in Charlottesville (adults overseeing workshops for teens). There were some very sophisticated, involved endeavors with great equipment. And accepted entries, as it turned out, weren't only high school students but also teens in college. One of the films was done by a graduate of a 3 year college program in CGI who was then working professionally in CGI.

I saw a professional quality of film that groups of teens can produce as an ensemble, and in workshops, and I enjoyed this--and, considering the professional quality of many of the films, it felt good to have my solo efforts afforded respect and to feel a sense of accomplishment.

There were several experimental films that weren't plot-oriented. That was exciting, sitting in a packed auditorium watching student experimental films on the big screen rather than on Youtube, and no Youtube comments below haranguing and wishing death to the filmmakers.

People for some reason liked Top-Top. It was requested that I bring along Top-Top to the festival. Photos were taken. Top-Top the Penguin had his photo taken as well. In fact, as soon as we got there, people were running up to have their photo taken with Top-Top.

The experience was beneficial and elevating for a teen aspiring to make film.

2014 Reel Riot Film Festival program: