• BIO
USA | 2009 | 0:07:38 | Animation
Directed by: Dustin Grella

Prayers for Peace is a narrative stop-motion animation confronting the memory of the artist's younger brother killed in the current conflict in Iraq. Four years have passed since his brother was killed when an IED was detonated beneath his diesel tanker while on a convoy to the active combat area of Fallujah. In this animation the writer/animator stops to think about who his brother was, how he identified him, as well as work through issues of guilt for not thinking about him as often as he feels that maybe he should. The piece reflects back on the days of the funeral and tries to recall what those days were like for him and his family. An introspective journey, through the heart and soul of a difficult experience, the artist's conclusion proves very different from his original hypothesis. 

Dustin Grella created a stop-motion animation by drawing with soft pastels on slate, and recording the image once every sixty-seconds. He used a technique similar to rotoscoping, where each frame was projected onto the slate, drawn on top of, the projection was removed then the image recorded. The final product is a compilation of the hand drawn images. He decided on rotoscoping because he wanted the visual imagery to be easy to digest in order for the storyline to be the primary focus. The narrative stems from a letter the animator wrote on December 7, 2007, as part of an ongoing letter-writing project titled 'notes to self', involving over two thousand letters, written by and mailed to himself. The story is about the artist's younger brother, Devin Grella, who was killed in Iraq on a convoy to deliver a diesel tanker of fuel to the active combat area of Najaf when an improvised explosive device was detonated beneath his tanker and was killed instantly. He chose the materials of the pastels, with its impermanence, drawing and erasing, overdrawing, and final erasure, to represent the temporality of the physical body. The voiceover was the foundation for the project and was originally designed as a stand alone piece. The animator gathered most of the original footage from videos and still images off of the laptop that belonged to Devin. The images are relatively simple so the viewer can focus on the progression of the drawing and follow the narrative, rather than the using the images to tell the story. After the artist was comfortable with the shots and the movement of the piece in video, he took it into the animation studio to start rotoscoping using iStopMotion and a custom camera system that he had designed. The software has the capability to project one frame at a time, giving him the opportunity to sketch over the marks that helped to tell the story. He simultaneously set the intervelometer on a Canon G5 digital still camera for sixty-seconds per frame, recording whatever was in the frame at that time. This process forced the artist to continue drawing, and not get distracted by operating the camera, nor deciding when the next frame was finished. 

Compared to Grella's previous film, Glimpse, completed in 2007, this process was very different than anything he had done in the past. The entire project had to be planned out and each shot was thought through, where as Glimpse was more of a free flowing, stream of consciousness exploration. He did this because he was hoping that the finished piece would be easier to follow in a traditional narrative structure.

Director: Dustin Grella
Producer: Dustin Grella, Matt Israel
Writer: Dustin Grella
Editor: Chu Chu Lin
Director of Photography: Jelani Gould-Bailey, Matt Israel
Sound Mixer: Gary Millus
Animator: Dustin Grella

Devin Grella (voice), Dustin Grella (voice)

Dustin Grella was born in North Carolina, grew up in Ohio and lives in New York City. In May 2009 he graduated from the School of Visual Arts with an MFA in Computer Art, having received scholarships from the department and the Alumni Association as well as the Paula Rhodes Award for Excellence in Computer Art. His animated short, Glimpse, won awards in international underground festivals including Best Animation, Audience Choice and Best Experimental film. Dustin’s first solo show, in 2007 at Summit ArtSpace in Akron, OH, was the first solo show in ArtSpace’s history. His work is the subject of a documentary film scheduled for release in July 2009.

Grella develops artifacts and events that explore the human experience through the passage of time.  His work focuses on the design and creation of systems that gather the thoughts or feelings of individuals at particular moments.  Through animation, installation, and even the postal services, Grella combines equal measures of sincerity and absurdity, structure and improvisation. By highlighting seemingly mundane tasks, he focuses on the importance of the moment. Notes To Self [2002-], is a ongoing series of over twenty-five hundred letters that he writes and mails to himself daily. These letters occasionally surface as objects in his work.

Director's Filmography
2009 Prayers for Peace
2008 Consumption
2007 Glimpse
2006 Tests: zero-ten