Setting out to construct an environmental narrative, with a strong female character at its core, Sam Lane’s Spell of the West is an eccentric 7-minute animation driven by a strong sense of style and an even stronger sense of fun. Featuring a troop of colourful characters, the film follows Cowgirl Rose as she tries to hunt down an elusive figure who has been damaging the local environment.
“I was interested in re-framing the environmental conversation”
Despite the somewhat unconventional edge to its aesthetic and narrative, there are some recognisable tropes in Spell of the West that make it an accessible watch. Putting a Western tinge on an environmental storyline and throwing in a large dash of humour and weirdness along the way, Lane gets to deliver her message in a thoroughly enjoyable and approachable manner.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve had a very close connection to my natural surroundings”, explains Lane when discussing the aims of her film. “I’ve felt that over the years that most scientific work falls short of capturing the emotional aspect of human/nature relationships. In order to protect our natural surroundings it’s important to know the dry facts, but it’s also important to establish an emotional human connection. Narrative is a prime rhetorical tool, and I was interested in re-framing the environmental conversation with a deep respect and poetic appreciation for the natural world.”
Completing the film whilst in her third year of the Experimental Animation program at CalArts (even though the course doesn’t require their students to make a film in this year of the course), the design and animation of the piece was handled entirely by Lane. Employing Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Premiere to craft her tale, the only assistance she had in completing Spell of the West was in the sound department – where she brought in a composer and voice-actors to put the finishing touches to her film.
Now developing her senior thesis film, a narrative based around the Katy Perry v. Sister Catherine Rose Holzman legal dispute, we hope to see more of Lane’s distinct style and off-kilter sense of humour in her next animation. She promises her version of the story will include “a pop star, a nun, Twitter, a knee-jerk reaction, and a fistfight!” – it already sounds great!