Filmmaker Annie Howell Discusses Her Work

Apr 9, 2018

by Olivia Collins ’18

Annie Howell is no stranger to the art of film. An alumna of Whitman College, New York University’s graduate film program, the Screenwriters Colony and IFP’s Emerging Narrative, she has won two awards for her film “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” and was nominated for six others from the likes of the SXSW Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival.

She currently lives in New York, where she uses her experience to teach aspiring filmmakers in the graduate film program at the City College of New York.

The independent filmmaker met and spoke with the film studies students at Florida Southern College in their classes, later delivering a lecture to both students and faculty on March 29. Howell was invited to Florida Southern College by FSC’s professor of film studies, Matt Herbertz, a former student of Howell’s, who contributed to the production of one of her feature films, “Claire in Motion.”

She also made a public appearance the next day at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College and fielded questions from the audience following a screening of “Claire in Motion.”

In describing the production processes of her two feature films, “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” (2011) and “Claire in Motion” (2016), Howell stated that location could serve as a powerful tool in both a practical and aesthetic sense.

She further explained the unique role location played in developing “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” which was based off of pre-existing characters from a web series Howell constructed with her creative collaborator, Lisa Robinson.

“We took this character Sarah and we wrote a road movie for her based on locations that we already had…and so we literally opened up Google Maps, [and] we co-wrote a screenplay by imagining what can happen starting in Los Angeles, and moving from Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to [the] Grand Canyon, to Arizona,” she said. “And with that parameter in mind, we devised this story.”

Before presenting the trailer for “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” Howell added, “We truly used location as our guiding light to how we were going to get this movie made.”

Howell said the difference between the production processes of “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” and “Claire in Motion” was the amount of time dedicated to location scouting. She stated that there was little to no location scouting for “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” but almost a three-year long location scout for “Claire in Motion” that heavily assisted her in writing the story.

At the time “Claire in Motion” was written, Howell was living in Athens, Ohio, which she described of having “a gothic, almost haunted feel.”

“That inspired us to conceive of a protagonist who, suddenly, when she thinks she knows everything about her life, a sort of trauma hits and her husband hikes off to the wilderness and doesn’t return,” she continued.

Howell concluded by showing clips from both “Claire in Motion” and “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” opening the floor for a discussion surrounding the roles that location and setting play in film and the effects that they have on the characters.