The Snowman (2022)

The Snowman - 2022


Her snowman’s head came out too small. Time to fix it.

Check it out here!

Finally, something is public! You can check out this short film on Youtube:


I hate to be so forward, but this is the truth, so might as well start with it: this little film is a very powerful piece. Oh, but it’s true. As a snowman film completed on April 22, 2022, it rose to become the driving force behind all the spring snow in Rochester, NY.

The apology I simply had to include in the premiere screening.

It was not at all intentional. I didn’t even know I had such powers at the time. In my defense, it was not conceived in spring, even, but in January—in the last few pages of my 2021 sketchbook, as I tried to figure out what kind of story would thrive in a very, very short timeframe.

The short length came about in the form of a traditional challenge: to make a 30-second film. At Rochester Institute of Technology, it was customary for seekers of the Animation MFA degree to make their first film last exactly 30 seconds. Not a frame more, not one less.

The creative writer in me rejoiced at the idea of writing a visual flash fiction, but ideation was difficult. What could possibly fit in 30 seconds? It was probably that same writer in me who insisted that it had to be a story—the full suite of a three-part arc, with surprises, with humor, with a commentary on the peculiarity of the universal, seemingly mundane everyday.

I thought about children. Vivid little wants barely containable in their little mittened hands, and the single-minded pursuits that follow, because they somehow, always, manage.

Earliest versions of the little girl.
Earliest versions of the little girl.

Hey, a snowman!

I know. A child and a snowman. Tracks back to Frosty in 1950, with a corn cob pipe and a button nose. It was arguably still doable when Raymond Briggs did it so stunningly in 1978 (one of the books that, along with Oscar Wilde, scarred me for life as a child). But at this point, entirely, utterly, redundant. The child makes a snowman, the snowman comes alive, loves warm hugs, and so on. You really don’t need to see it another time.

(In fact, there was another snowman film at RIT’s semester-end screenings. Yes, Frosty came alive in that one, too.)

This idea was strange to me, because I usually don’t like playing to stereotypes. Why a snowman, of all things? Of all the possible things that could come alive, why?

One of the very first, very rough boards for the story. 
            Also one of the few moments that slipped in as-is for the final product.

But the image had come from my own experiences: little moments that float around in my subconscious, seldom rising to the surface, but shaping my way of thought nonetheless. Yes, like the nightingale story by Oscar Wilde. And also the snowman I made when I was not so little, while visiting my cousin in Albany, NY.

As a creative wri... artist, I knew to trust a gut feeling like that. So I brewed on it, jotted down what came into my mind, and thumbnailed it. Did a mental reel to if I could see it as a 30 second piece. I could.

I took it to class, and narrated as I flipped through it. People laughed. That, too, seemed like a good sign.

So told myself, well, I’ll just try and tell a different story. I’ll try to somehow surprise with a child and a snowman that comes alive. See if I can pull it off. And if it falls flat, well, we all know that a classroom’s a great place to fail.

The wreath on the door in the background rough was much loved 
        by my classmates for its resemblance to a certain copyrighted character. 
        Winking. I tried to preserve that likeness in the final rendering, 
        but regretfully had to let him go.


The story itself is simple enough, so the key of this film got to be in the character acting. All three had to feel different, and... real. Alive. And that was easier said than done when there was just 30 seconds of real estate for everyone to do their acts.

The snowman is called a snowman because that’s what the girl 
            would call it. It also chooses to go by the 'it' pronoun.

It was easiest with the girl. She rose the most organically. All I had to do was to have her never be still (inspired by real children) often arming her with the full suite of 24 drawings per second just to follow her movements. And in the rare moments where she wasn’t frisky, the bobble was. I appreciated that she spent a bulk of the film being out of the frame, because the budget would have been very different if she hadn’t.

As for the snowman, it... figured itself out. I guess that’s what they do.

The snowman is called a snowman because that’s what the girl 
            would call it. It also chooses to go by the 'it' pronoun.

It starts with just the arms. In other words, only doing just enough for the action. It’s a snowman. It knows how to think without moving, unlike us humans. But then, as it gets bolder, it begins to perform its train of thought. It lowers its arms as it turns, and pauses to contemplate its options. Yes, conveniently for the viewer, who is now able to follow its intents. But also, it’s the telltale sign that it is becoming more and more human—both in order to, and as a result of, what it pursues.

The brother was the most work. He was the biggest in the frame, had a two-piece attire, and spent the most time on stage. Being alive, anyway. He was a teenager with an air of naiveté, slower than the little girl, sure, but not lethargic or apathetic. In other words, he needed a solid reason to look the other way.

But if he was actively reacting to that distraction, how would I get the viewer to not also be distracted? Look at the snowman, instead of this kid brushing snow off his sweatpants?

The answer was simple and strange: I wouldn’t. Yes. Stop fighting it. Let them step on each other.

It went against everything I knew as a storyboarder. But once that occurred to me as an option, I knew that it was correct. This scenario was built so you would miss it. You were meant to miss it. As soon as you miss it, you are in the same shoes as the brother: something looks off about the snowman, but you’re not entirely sure why.

Once I figured that out, I knew what to work for. Pulled one action forward by six frames, delayed another by one sixth of a second, and The Snowman was born.


Clip Studio Paint - Concept & Animation
ToomBoom Storyboard Pro - Storyboard & Animatic


Music Score - Rita Veneziale
Little Girl - Lila Sage Bromley
Brother - John Silke

Special Thanks

Peter Murphey - advisor
Dave Sluberski - for generously sharing his better ears
Mari Jaye Blanchard - for pointing out that I should apologize
RIT Animation MFA Class of 2024 - for sharing the process
Parents - for using the time difference of the West Coast to endure my e-company at late nights


In order of occurance:

2022 SOFA Honors Show - Rochester Institute of Technology

Feel The Reel International Film Festival

Short Film Factory

Oniros Film Awards® - New York

World Festival of Animated Film Varna


SHORT to the Point

Festival du Film Coréen à Paris

Norwich Film Festival

Student World Impact Film Festival

Animalcoi 2022

Dublin World Film Festival

American Documentary And Animation Film Festival

Blackbird Film Festival

Rochester International Film Festival

Cinequest Film & VR Festival

300 Seconds Short Film Festival

Montreal International Animation Film Festival - ANIMAZE

Minute Madness Toronto

In my defense, it was winter when I started it...