Filmmaker chooses emotion over animation

Some people are such overachievers. Take Courtney Steciuk, for example. She submitted not one but two films to this year’s 15 Minutes Max fest. And one of them was animated. Before you get upset about not realizing you could have put forth more than one film, I want you to know: you can’t. The committee notified Courtney that she had to choose only one film for submission. It was like deciding which child was her favorite (no matter what parents say, they always have a favorite).


Director, writer, editor, cinematographer, over-achiever Courtney Steciuk.

“I worked really hard on both and pretty much lived at my computer during the month I worked on these projects,” said Courtney. “It was hard to choose, but I picked ‘Journey of a Telltale Dreamer’ because it stars my son, Robbie, and I felt a closer personal connection with it.”

Courtney felt insecure about her animation film, but still decided to enter it to see what happened. You have to admire the gumption. It was her first attempt using 3D models and she was very aware of the roughness of the animation. She learned a bounty of new techniques and became proficient with programs necessary to create her final product.

“The animation was definitely the most challenging of the two,” Courtney said. “There were a lot of elements of that project that were new to me.”

With “Journey of a Telltale Dreamer” Courtney told a story that is open to interpretation. Going in to the project she knew special effects would be important as her audience is taken along the voyage of a young boy’s dream. Courtney figured out how to incorporate a beacon of light to guide the dreamer as well as a sinister, shadowy figure that evokes hesitation, fear and doubt.


Steciuk’s son reaches for the light in Journey of a Telltale Dreamer.

“He encounters this dark figure that he first is afraid of,” explained Courtney. “He then faces the dark figure, which turns out to be himself. The integrating of the mysterious figure in to the boy represents him facing his fears…many times in life our fears are what hold us back.”

Where did Courtney acquire such wisdom? Perhaps at Hudson Valley Community College, where she completed the Digital Media Program. She also has a degree in business and studied audio and video production at the New School of Radio and Television. The director credits her video art professor, Kyra Garrigue, as the person who has provided the encouragement and instruction that allowed Courtney to evolve in to the editor and cinematographer she is today. Beyond the Capital Region, she looks to Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino and Shirin Neshat as major influences.


The traveling filmmaker in San Francisco.

Becoming a filmmaker was a natural progression for Courtney. She has always been passionate about photography and with film, she has the opportunity to add in multiple elements (sound, editing, the ability to relay passage of time) in order to tell deep, elaborate stories. Though Courtney is a one-woman-company in which she must execute each movie-making position, her favorite role is that of editor. Stress melts away as she sits on-one-on with her footage.

“[Editing is] where you get to add all the final touches like sound and special effects,” said Courtney. “It makes or breaks the project.”

With her top-notch work ethic, emotional connection to her projects and love of editing and sound design, Courtney Steciuk may very well find herself on a future-filmmaker’s list of role models.

Signing off to watch “Chicago” in the park,



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