Creativity 50 2011: Kirsten Lepore

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Kirsten Lepore
Kirsten Lepore

Has a clump of sand ever made you laugh? And then cry?

Animator and director Kirsten Lepore a New Jersey-born, now L.A.-based animator and director, has a hard-earned gift for making the inanimate emotional, never more so than in her 2010 short film, "Bottle," in which the aforementioned clump and his snowy counterpart carry on a heart-melting-then-breaking long-distance romance.

"Bottle" is just one of a string of stop motion works from Ms. Lepore, who has gained acclaim for creating seemingly simple, but surprisingly emotional and hugely entertaining narratives. She first came to our attention in 2007 with "Story From North America," a student film she made while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. started making the rounds. The four-minute hand-drawn animation, about a boy who summons his father in the night to kill a spider but instead receives a message about his place in the universe, manages to be at once unsettling, funny, and an awesome display of craft.

Ms. Lepore's 2008 short, "Sweet Dreams," in which a cupcake goes on an epic adventure and returns a changed dessert, earned Best in Show at LACMA's Young Director showcase and a special jury prize at SXSW. "Bottle" brought more recognition; the film won Best Animation at Slamdance and the first ever student award the International Animated Film Society's prestigious Annie Awards, among several other citations.

After graduating from MICA, Ms. Lepore worked as a freelance animator for two years, on projects for brands including MTV, Nestle, Glamour and Facebook, before returning to school. She's currently pursuing an MFA at CalArts, where she made Bottle, and she's represented by Caviar Content.

Ms. Lepore says she started making films when her father gave her a camcorder in the fifth grade but got serious after she taught herself Flash in high school. "The media have changed drastically but I've been making films ever since."

Many of her creations may have a simple feel, but are in fact mind-bendingly labor intensive; she spent nine months on "Bottle," and she's currently working on her MFA thesis, a two-year labor of love that will wrap in 2012. And then, if we're lucky, we'll see lots more. "When I finish school I'd like to continue directing short animated spots, whether that be my own work, a music video, or a commercial piece."

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