Still from The ItchingThe Itching, a clay animation film short written and directed by Dianne Bellino, assistant dean of the School of Art, and animated by Adam Davies (B.F.A. Media Arts ’07), premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival this winter.

The prestigious annual film festival in Park City, Utah received over 8,000 short film submissions and selected 72 for competition. The Itching was one of 12 films shown in the short film program “Animation Spotlight” at the festival in January.

The Itching is a parable about a shy wolf who tries to befriend a group of hip, fun-loving bunnies, but descends into anxious itching. The story is told without dialogue, using expressive characters and sets, evocative sound design, and dark, surreal humor.

The Itching was shot over a seven-year period, with Bellino and Davies taking on multiple production roles and hand-making all the characters, sets, costumes, and props. The film’s initial funding came from a Pratt Faculty Development Grant, when Bellino was an adjunct assistant professor in the Media Arts Department (the forerunner of the Film/Video and Photography Departments), and she was later awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to pursue The Itching.

“Having the chance to show The Itching at Sundance was really exciting,” said Bellino. “I am especially grateful to the Pratt community for supporting the film, including School of Art Dean Gerry Snyder, Film/Video Chair Jorge Oliver, Film/Video Lab Manager Matt Hysell, and everyone else who helped with facilities, equipment, and feedback. Without the initial Faculty Development Grant, the film would not have been possible.”

During the festival, Bellino and Davies were presented as a team with the newly created Debra Hill Film Grant by Women in Film, Los Angeles, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to women in the global entertainment industry. The Debra Hill Film Grant is given to an independent filmmaker whose work represents a singular vision and ability to think beyond the normal conventions of filmmaking. Only two short films and two features were selected for grants from Women in Film.

Previous work by Bellino, who directs both live action and animated films, has been screened at festivals, galleries, and on Netflix and Fandor.  She has been selected for residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Ucross Foundation.

Davies, who studied stop-motion animation during his time at Pratt, has worked on commercials for clients such as MTV and Nickolodeon. He currently teaches filmmaking through the Media Lab at the University of California in San Diego.

The Itching will be playing at other film festivals this year, with a screening planned for fall 2016 in Pratt’s Film/Video building on the Brooklyn campus. Click here for updates on the film.

Image: Still from The Itching