VERSAILLES — Great films, be they short or long, seek to make viewers think about themselves and the world in which they dwell.
Sometimes, iconic characters and stories come along to make their mark upon a viewer’s life, leaving a lasting impression on childhood dreams and adult ambitions. Who can forget the first time Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, clicks her sparkling ruby slippers in vivid technicolor; or Luke Skywalker, in A New Hope, gazes wistfully at the Tatooine moons; or, more recently, Elsa, in Frozen, sings “Let It Go” at the top of her animated lungs?
These unforgettable moments, captured in vibrant dimensional detail, are the fruits sown from seeds of vivid imagination, creative planning, and painstaking attention to detail. For Versailles native, Quincy Baltes, his new short animated film, “The Mandrake,” has been a labor of love in his journey as an artist.
Graduating from Versailles High School as valedictorian (2016), and, in 2020, from the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], a private, nationally top-ranked Georgia university for art and design-related degree programs, “The Mandrake” will screen virtually Oct. 27 in the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s Student Shorts: Animated Shorts competition, which showcases the best of student filmmaking from a broad range of categories including live action, narrative, documentary and animation. Baltes’ film was among just 22 films selected from a field of 828 for this international competition. “The Mandrake” is an animated short is about an old farmer-rabbit, who must contend with a witch’s spell, crying baby, and an incredible turn of events which compel him to make a life-changing decision (no spoilers).
When asked what people or places inspired him to write and envision his film, Baltes had high praise for his rural roots. “I think there’s something that growing up in a small town does to you. You notice small things changing,..how slow-paced the world is there. It’s made me very detail-oriented and curious…I was deeply influenced by the nature surrounding me and I draw from those wholesome childhood memories when I create art. Nostalgia is a huge factor in the work I make.”
Although the characters, themselves, are original, some specific memories stand out as meaningful to the development of the scenes and atmosphere throughout “The Mandrake,” according to Baltes. “The cottage and the atmosphere of the farm is inspired by my aunt Lisa’s garden…I would go with her to sell vegetables and herbs at a farmer’s market, and that’s always stuck with me. As far as the characters, they are kind of just classic archetypes…Herman the rabbit is most closely like me…”
When reflecting upon his upbringing in Darke County, Baltes credits his many teachers, and especially his mother, Nichole, as having the greatest impact upon his thriving art. “I had a few really great high school teachers to encourage me to pursue art, since they saw that it really interested me. But my mother was a graphic artist, draftswoman, and illustrator. She always encouraged me to do art — even if I didn’t always feel it was something I was going to do as a career. She really encouraged me to pursue it once I had decided on going to SCAD.”
Nichole Baltes confirmed this early observation of her son’s amazing talents, “Quincy was always writing, and doodling, from an early age, before five years old. He was always watching me draw and paint, and started writing poems, creating artwork and illustrating for family and friends. His giftedness really showed when he was in high school, singing in Encore for four years, playing flute, trumpet and bassoon in band, and being in the Darke County Art Show.” Baltes was also a main member of the Quintessentials, — a ‘Jersey Boys’ style singing group that won Ohio’s Got Talent in 2016.
On his journey from Versailles to Savannah, Baltes commented, “When I graduated from high school, I went into SCAD thinking I’d be an illustrator or in the development side of animation. It wasn’t until I got to SCAD, I noticed how much collaboration there was and how much I’d be — or could be — doing; I didn’t realize I had this passion for filmmaking and creating moving images until I went to SCAD. It moved from a singular dream to a dream of creating something with other people….”
As a former student, Baltes cites inspiration from many creative sources, such as Studio Ghibli — a prolific Japanese filmmaking company, and vintage 20th century illustrators, such as Beatrix Potter and Ernest H. Shepard.
With regard to competitive nature of this particular art form, Baltes remarked, “The nature of the animation industry is certainly competitive. But what I’ve learned is that the collaborative elements of the industry far outweigh the notion of competition…But if you have the developed skill-set and drive, you will find a place for yourself. When creating ‘The Mandrake,’ we all came in with different skill levels. Having mutual respect for each other…was how we were able to create something beautiful in the end.”
When asked what advice he would give to a young artist who might be thinking about a future career in professional animation, Baltes said, “Never wait to be taught art or more specifically animation. If you wait for someone to teach it to you, you’ll never learn in time. Get started, practice, seek knowledge — no matter what level you’re at. Some of my most trusted peers and mentors at SCAD gave me that advice, and I pass it on whenever I can.”
Currently, Baltes works as a full-time illustrator and animator at Fern, an Atlanta animation and design studio. He hopes to further his skills in the area of visual development, such as character, prop and environment design, for feature animation.
To watch the premier of Baltes’ film, be sure to follow the SCAD Savannah Film Festival link at filmfest.scad.edu/schedule/student-shorts-block-b-animated-shorts . For more on Baltes and his work, visit online at www.quincybaltes.com
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.