Humanizing Girls: Conversation with “The Emily & Ariel Show” Filmmakers Emily Hoffman and Ariel Noltimier Strauss

| June 3, 2016

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

The following is a guest post from Occidental College Media Arts and Culture student Matt O’Connell.

What happens when women in their early 20s get ready for a Friday night? Using stop-motion, animated video, and fabrication techniques, Emily Hoffman and Ariel Noltimier Strauss give a glimpse into young adulthood in their short The Emily & Ariel Show.

The Emily & Ariel Show will screen as part of Shorts Program 2 at the 2016 LA Film Festival on June 3 and 7 at ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City.

The filmmakers as stop-motion puppets

The filmmakers as stop-motion puppets

Let’s hear a little background about you two. Where did you meet, and when did you decide to become this creative team?

We met at RISD in a stop-motion class. We had a project where we each made our own puppets and then had to pick a partner to work with. After a puppet speed dating session, our puppets, Bunny and Lady, hit it off (sparks flew). After our first date, The Bunny & Lady Show, we decided to continue working together for The Emily & Ariel Show.

What sparked your interest in animation? You guys have a distinct aesthetic that perfectly compliments your content.

ARIEL: I started with video, and I liked animation because of the amount of control you have. I like making worlds, and the scale of animation lends itself easily to this. With stop-motion in particular, I love how off the movement is. It’s not fluid. I think this speaks more to how real life feels: a little bumpy and awkward.

EMILY: I started as an illustrator and decided to take an animation class for fun. I was instantly taken with the magic of animation, being able to bring a world I created to life. I’ve always been interested in tactile art-making, so I fell in love with how hands-on stop-motion is.

Could you elaborate on the production process? The short is a little over two minutes, but I’m sure the stop-motion took plenty of time to complete.

We started with fabricating our puppets and sets while developing our concept. The two fed into each other. We knew we didn’t want it to be scripted, but we talked about plot points and actions to carry the story along. After some minor story-boarding, we set up some cameras and lights, got a six-pack and filmed ourselves for a couple hours. From that we edited it down to the 2.5 minutes you see in the animation. From there, we went through a painful process of moving the footage into Photoshop, frame-by-frame, and organizing our faces from every shot. We printed them out, lied to our friends that they were invited to a pizza party, and forced them to help us cut out over 3,000 heads. Finally, we began animating, using a process called rotoscoping, which for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a style of animation in which you work off video imagery frame-by-frame to follow motion.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Who are your biggest inspirations? I’m not too well-versed in animation, but I was reminded of that Jan Švankmajer sort of puppetry. I almost saw some Tom Goes to the Mayor in there, too.

In terms of content, we were extremely inspired by Broad City and the relationship between Ilana and Abbi. For our aesthetic, we looked at Cecile Perra’s work. She makes dolls with collaged photographic faces. We wanted to explore that collaging of photographic/live action elements within stop motion. We also looked at some rotoscoped animation. One of our favorites was Snack and Drink, a short animation that uses rotoscoping with a home video quality – it artfully describes the mundane.

What was the inspiration behind the environment that puppet Emily and Ariel inhabit? The attention to detail is just phenomenal.

We wanted to explore how much we could make our created space seem grounded in reality. While our audio isn’t exactly perfect, we wanted to mimic a home video vibe, something your friend would shoot that feels comfortable and goofy. In terms of the set, we wanted it to feel and look like a believable apartment that 20-something girls would live in. Sticking to the collage aesthetic, we took pictures of objects and things we both have in our apartments and scaled them down to puppet Emily and Ariel size.

So Emily and Ariel are spending an average night together, doing activities that deviate from the presupposed cinematic narrative. No tension or conflict, just best friends hanging out. Why do you feel those banal moments of everyday life are worth exploring?

The overarching point of The Emily & Ariel Show was to humanize girls. While this may seem dramatic for such a silly short, it was important to us to show girls “just chilling.” The pre-party ritual of getting ready is somewhat of a universal bonding experience for women. We very consciously indulged in activities that are stereotypically female — putting on makeup, trying on clothes, dancing around — while being aware of the fact that they are stigmatized, and from our own experiences, conscious that sometimes we do “get ready” with other people’s opinions in mind. But despite, or along with, that, these activities are also something we do for ourselves. They take place in a uniquely comfortable space free from the male gaze.

It’s been really exciting for us to show this to audiences of all genders and ages and have them react so positively. We’ve had both men and women come up to us to tell us they felt like they were welcome into our relationship and space.

That average twenty-something female experience is superbly articulated, even if it’s revealed in these brief moments. Is this something you hope to continue exploring with future projects?

Yes, this is a theme that is dear to both of our hearts.

Emily and Ariel do the Macarena

Emily and Ariel do the Macarena

Why did you use “The Macarena” in the film?

It’s just one of those songs that pops into your heads now and then. We randomly started singing it while we were filming, and we quickly realized it provided a good structure for the piece. Thanks again to Los Del Río for generously letting us use it!

Can you talk a bit about your time at RISD? How did those experiences shape your artistic vision?

The best part of RISD was being constantly surround by a community of inspiring artists. It was awesome being able to bounce ideas off of friends whose opinions we respect.

Emily Hoffman and Ariel Noltimier Strauss are recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design. 

See more of Emily’s work:

See more of Ariel’s work:

The Emily & Ariel Show will screen as part of Shorts Program 2 at the 2016 LA Film Festival on June 3 and 7 at ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City.

Matt O’Connell’s guest post is part of our ongoing series of film school students interviewing aspiring filmmakers.

matthew o connell

Matt O’Connell is a student filmmaker at Occidental College. His first short film, STOP, had its premiere at the 2016 Chicago Underground Film Festival.

Category: FSSnews

Tweets by @FilmSchoolShort


Film School Shorts is made possible by a grant from Maurice Kanbar, celebrating the vitality and power of the moving image, and by the members of KQED.

Film School Shorts is a production of KQED.



Series Producer
Lisa Landi

Associate Producer
Julia Shackelford

Peter Borg

Zaldy Serrano
Christina Zee White

Original Music
Written and Produced by

John Andrieni

Kevin Cooke
Marie K Lee

Social Media Specialist
Aldo Mora-Blanco

Sarah Hoffner

On Air Promotion
Bridget Louie

William Lowery
Abby Staeble

Director of TV Production
Sandy Schonning

Executive Producer
Scott Dwyer