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Filmmaker Spotlight: Peaches Wilczak (Open Projector Night)

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Peaches Wilczak talks about process and inspiration behind their film 'Gnosis' that won the audience vote at Open Projector Night.

We'd like to congratulate our last Open Projector Night winner, Peaches Wilczak  and their film 'Gnosis'. We were excited to have a conversation with Peaches to learn more about them, process, and filmmaking background. 

Q. Hi, Peaches! Let’s start out with the basics, shall we? To those who don’t know who you are – please, give us a little bio. Who is Peaches?

A. Identity is an amalgamous concept and it's difficult to explain; but for starters I’m a recent graduate from Central Michigan Uniersity’s animation program, and now I’m trying to kick start my career as a freelance artist and animator. I love all things cartoons, history, philosophy, and I live in Mount Pleasant with my girlfriend and our two cats, Charlie and Little Bit.

Q. Before we dive into your winning film ‘Gnosis’ – let’s talk a little about what inspires you. What gets you excited? What gets you out of your cozy bed in the morning?

A. Well in the interest of remaining honest, an all encompassing fear of failure that stalks my path wherever I go. But in a perfect world, I’d say I am often in awe of the human condition, and our biologically intrinsic need to create. It’s a gift I don’t want to waste.

Q.This is always a difficult question to answer (in my opinion) but I must ask. What’s your favorite movie and why?

A. This changes for me constantly, so any answer I give will have to be a limited time offer. As of right now, I’ve been obsessed with the 2004 Phantom of the Opera. Are there better movies out there? Sure. Could I name a million other movies that I wish to genuinely recommend to other people? Of course. Am I picking this movie anyway? Absolutely.

Q. Okay, you’re stranded on an island, and you can take 3 things with you (they don’t have to be survival items) – what are they and why

A. This question has genuinely stumped me. I’m doing everything I can to not abuse the rules of the scenario and actually answer in a way that serves the purpose of the question, but I can’t. This isn’t a riddle, but the answer is a ship, a crew, and a million bajillion dollars.

Q. Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and discuss Gnosis. First question. According to the dictionary, the definition of Gnosis is “knowledge of spiritual mysteries”. Why did you choose this title and how does it relate to your film.

A. In the context of greco-roman spirituality, specifically within Gnostic literature, Gnosis is the key necessary for salvation. It's an instinctual awareness of a divine truth, and I implicate my film with such a grand title because it carries a message I’m trying to communicate. Within my film is my own Gnosis, on the nature of art and its relationship to the artist, and it's something I think other artists need to know.

Q. Tell us about your process and the steps you took to create this incredible animation.

A. Gnosis was my thesis film, so I had a deadline of one school year to make it by myself. And given that I spent about ⅔ of that year in pre-production (doing research, experimenting with materials, writing and rewriting the story) really I only had a few months left for actual production. My workflow was a little more fluid than what you would find in a normal animated film, constantly switching between storyboarding, animating and compositing. There are parts of the film I consider to be unfinished, but I haven't allowed myself to make any changes to the final project since its first premiere May 2nd at the Central Michigan University’s Animation Showcase. Sometimes you have to cut yourself off or else you’ll be nitpicking on the same project forever.

Q. In your synopsis you describe the film as it being through the lens of the metaphysical artist trying to reconnect with their art. Can you elaborate on this? Is this how you feel as an artist? Do you feel the need to reconnect with your art?

A. Yes. It’s something I need to do constantly. And I think part of making this film was learning to be ok with that. This film was born out of frustration of myself and my abilities, and because of that it was initially going to be a much darker and more violent film, centered around the abuse of art by its creator, and the loss of idealization art experiences in return. However, the more I worked with the concept, the more the message evolved into something more positive. I simply couldn’t muster the hatred necessary to carry out my initial vision, and I found the personification of my own work to be much more patient with me than I could ever realize. I think the film turned out better this way, it's a message I can stand by now, something I strongly believe in. It serves as a reminder to myself and all other artists who see it that creation is a loop of feedback between you and your art. It’s a difficult thing to create, and while it is necessary to remain a healthy individual, the expectations we put on ourselves can muddy the waters between you and what you create. I’m thankful to be human, and to be able to create at all, no matter the skill level. And as it turns out, my little stick figures are pretty happy about it too.

Q. Not only have you made this film, but your website shows that you also create comics and illustrations. What came first, filmmaking or illustration?

A. That’s a difficult question, cause initially I would like to say illustration, since I started drawing as a hobby in middle school. But I do have memories as a little kid of making little movies on my ipod, though I don’t really think that should count since it was a sporadic once and a while thing, I think it was just a product of the time being excited by the idea of easy access to filmmaking, but it wasn’t really anything I wanted to pursue. I think earlier than all of that for me was writing. When I was a kid I loved writing, I wanted to be an author for sure. I was definitely more confident in myself as an artist, I think Gnosis is part of me trying to recapture that feeling again.

Q. Filmmaking/Animation is not an easy process. Tell us about a difficult situation you may have had and how you overcame it.

A. To let you all in on a little secret; I would not consider myself as a competent stop motion animator. Most of my experience prior to Gnosis had been hand drawn digital animation, but Gnosis was such an ambitious project I felt alot of it could only really be given justice with stop motion. I had dabbled in it beforehand, but it was definitely a struggle to get comfortable working with physical material and the limitations that presented. Cleaning up was the worst part. I cringe to think of a professional stop motion animator seeing my work- which again, defeats the whole purpose of the film, which is not to worry about technical ability and just create. But here I am.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers/artists?

A. Not to beat a dead horse or anything but again, I cannot state it enough, but don’t let perfectionism get in the way of creating. And don’t worry about being a hypocrite with it either- I definitely can’t take my own advice, but that’s okay. Confidence is something you practice, and what you practice can regress occasionally. You just have to keep living, creating, and trying.

Q. What’s next for Peaches? More films? Comics? How do we as an audience stay up to date?

A. Definitely more things- I don’t know what they are yet, but it’ll definitely happen eventually. I am leaning towards comics, or maybe some sort of interactive web media, though the last thing I need on my plate is learning how to code. Whatever I do, it’d mean alot to me if you checked out my socials. My website is and I have a linktree to more lookouts at

Q. Cheesy question, but I like to ask all our winners this. If you were to make your dream film and didn’t have to worry about a budget – what would you create?

A. Hands down, I’d like to do an animated adaptation of my favorite book, The Never Ending Story. Like the full book, not just half of it like the 1984 film. If I was at a masterful skill level, with endless resources, that would be my dream. But then again, maybe I should just take my own advice and do it now.

Q.You can have lunch with anyone (living or dead) who would it be?

A. Bit of a random shot out but Dr. Justin Sledge Professor of Western Esotericism. Arcane history inspires a lot of my work and if I could ask him a million questions it’d be a dream come true. He’s also based in Michigan, so that's score one for the boys back home.

Q.Any words on Open Projector Night?

A. You’re all wonderful people, it was a dream come true attending the festival and receiving all the support I did. Thank you for this opportunity, it really meant alot, and was honestly a huge ego boost. I’ll definitely be back for my next film.


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