Honors: Eva Louise Hall

Sesann chair provided by Museo, Kansas City / hair and makeup by Erica Johnson / photo by Jim Barcus

The KC filmmaker’s animated “Mira” has garnered international screenings and a best of show award

A lonely waif/busker, who plays the accordion for tips on the street, finds herself victimized by a charismatic, successful and demonic singer who steals the crowds, and, eventually, the busker’s self-worth. The theme of abusive creative relationships is central to “Mira,” animator, performer and filmmaker Eva Louise Hall’s most recent stop motion, 11-minute animated film exploring, she says, “how creative aspirations and kindness can be weaponized and can turn something you love more than anything into a living nightmare.”

Central to the film is Hall’s attachment to the accordion, an instrument she describes as “wild, bizarre and beautiful.” “I never dreamed that picking up this odd hobby would ever take me on such bold and beautiful art adventures,” she said on Facebook.

“Mira” debuted in KC at Upside Bungee last May. It has since been shown at film festivals in Vancouver, Brazil and Spain, as well as the Santa Fe International and the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, where it won “Best of Show” in the Shorts Spotlight category.

“I made the majority of this film through moments of great pain and tremendous joy,” Hall said on her website, “alone and isolated in my small studio.”

“Mira” features prominent local talents, with musical direction and score by Calvin Arsenia and voice/acting by Jessica Paige, Vanessa Severo and her daughter, Ava. J. Ashley Miller mastered the audio, and Mira’s accordion theme was written by Hall’s close friend, Erica Marie Mancini, who, Hall said, plays the accordion on aerial silks.

Hall herself has worked in acting, music and puppetry. She’s designed a giant bee and a giant octopus, sometimes inhabiting them at events. She produced and sang in three music videos for the band Joseph Warren and the Wonderlust Revival. She’s sung and played accordion for various music performers in town.

Hall uses raw materials and physical objects along with digital imagery and applies a huge dollop of imagination. The tiny accordion she fashioned for “Mira” is as impressive as the big blue, lobster-like water monster Mira’s tormentor transforms into. Inspiration also comes from Hall’s three large pet hermit crabs.

Her puppets, sets and animation have been exhibited at the Nelson-Atkins, Crystal Bridges, Prairiefire, the Wichita Art Museum, TedxKC, and in Fiji at the National University and the Suva Hibiscus Festival. They also, in collaboration with Stonelion Theater, were headliners in a month-long tour of Vietnam and Laos designed to promote protection of endemic wildlife, specifically the endangered pangolin.

But with filmmaking, Hall says, she has found her “distinct language” and “preferred tool.” Before “Mira,” she created “The Weathering,” about death and mourning; “Citrouille,” about fear of loss; and “Nautical Apsara,” a choreographed dance performance about art and the artist, in which she herself is the dancer, who then morphs into a stop action figure.

Still from “Mira” showing the protagonist Mira (from the artist)

Animation and film allow her a platform to choose her subjects, just as Walt Disney did here many decades ago. But Hall expands the sphere of animation, telling dark tales of woe and struggle. “I have really enjoyed being a woman director in the horror landscape!” she said in a recent email. “It’s almost like my perspective as a storyteller catches people off guard.”

Hall’s mother was an actress and her father a theatrical fabricator. She grew up internalizing that the greatest toys and experiences are ones “you made yourself.” That has never stopped.

Hall graduated from the Visual Narrative Program at The School of Visual Arts in New York. She is now an assistant professor of animation at the Kansas City Art Institute.

In 2020 she was awarded Asifa-Hollywood’s first annual Animation Educators Forum Thesis/Competition Grant, as well as a grant from the SVA Alumni Society and one from Arts KC. That grant was used to fund the “Mira” gala premiere, which promoted the film and thanked the roughly 60 patrons who had contributed to it.

Started in January 2020 and completed in spring 2023, “Mira” took three and a half years to complete. It required five different sets and 20 different puppets. It was produced frame by frame, usually requiring an hour for each second of shooting. Sometimes a few seconds took as long as a week.

“Animation is such a long, hard work. You have to keep doing, doing, doing, to learn,” states Tissa David of Animation Educators, on the website animationeducatorsforum.org.

Hall is now in the planning phase for her next animated film. The main character is young Nep, the last member of a failed Earth colony who faithfully toils to maintain his family’s moon cabbage farm, in denial that his situation is hopeless. Through encounters with a malevolent spirit and then a kind one, Nep finds wisdom and the courage to face and overcome his fear of death.

“I think I am most proud of how I have been able to abstract my own internal, emotional experiences into characters in my films that are very different from me but have the same emotional core,” Hall said. “This abstraction of my own experience allows me to connect with other people, especially when the subject matter is very difficult to talk about.”

Hall’s work, including the interactive narrative film, “The Weathering,” and a set piece from “Mira” can be seen in the “NEW, SIX: KCAI Biennial” at the school’s H&R Block Artspace through March 2.

Breaking news: In March, Hall learned she has been invited to screen “Mira” at the 2024 Atlanta Film Festival. “Our first Academy Award qualifying festival,” Hall noted on Facebook.

CategoriesCinematic Visual
Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

Leave a Reply