Helen Hill’s vibrant, humorous, handcrafted works use diverse techniques including puppets, cel and stop-motion animation, live action, painting and drawing. Her filmmaking combines a playful sense of participation and community with a clear-eyed recognition of the somber rhythms of death and rebirth. Film prints (courtesy of Harvard Film Archive) include Mouseholes (1999), Madame Winger Makes a Film (2001) and The Florestine Collection (2011) – completed posthumously by her husband, Paul Gailiunas.
Join Experimental Response Cinema and the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz for this very special evening, curated by Jason Cortlund & Julia Halperin (Now, Forager)!
- Raindance (4 min, 16mm, sound, 1990)
Rain Dance, made at Harvard in 1990, was dedicated to Elijah Aron who was writing a novel about Rain. The song for the film’s soundtrack was written by Elijah Aron and Helen’s husband Paul Gailiunas and performed by Paul Gailiunas and Matthew Butterick.
- Vessel (6:30min, 16mm, sound, 1992)
Vessel was inspired by a poem Helen wrote that was first published in “The Rag” in 1991. Hill’s silhouette puppets reflect the influence of her favorite filmmaker, Lotte Reiniger. This film also introduces her use of the bright colors resonant of her favorite artists: William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Vincent van Gogh.
- World’s smallest fair (4:10 min, 16mm, sound, 1995)
The World’s Smallest Fair was made at CalArts in 1995. Helen applied for a grant specifically to bring artists together, and having always dreamed of owning a cotton candy machine from Cromers Peanut Store, a party warehouse in her home town, she used the grant to purchase the machine and 12 cans of Flossine with enough money to spare to produce this animated film. The film’s story revolves around her fellow CalArts students using cotton candy as a medium to produce art. Paul Gailiunas and Elijah Aron also make appearances.
- Scratch and crow (4:30 min, 16mm, sound, 1995)
Scratch and Crow was produced as part of Hill’s MFA degree at Cal Arts. The film grew out of Helen’s experiences as a young woman visiting her cousin’s farm in Fairview, North Carolina. In the film, Helen animates the lives of chickens using a rich color palette. Animated cats hatch eggs; watermelons fall from the sky; chickens become angels and fly out of tombstones; coiled springs symbolize inner meanings and then the film ends.
- Tunnel of love (4:20 min, 16mm, sound, 1996)
Tunnel of Love was made to illustrate Paul Gailiunas and Elijah Aron’s song “Accidental Romance”. Hill called it a romance activist film, meant to give good advice about falling in love. It also captures the carnival atmosphere that Helen remembered and loved from the South Carolina State Fair. The film features a tea party with Cal Arts friends and the photo booth photos that Helen collected and loved.
- Your new pig is down the road (5 min, 16mm, silent, 1999)
Your New Pig Is Down the Road is a cinematic love letter to Hill’s husband Paul Gailiunas which she filmed during a summer in Ontario at Phil Hoffman’s Film Farm. Hill beckons Paul Gailiunas to follow her down the road where Paul’s new pig waits. The film features their much loved daisies, their much respected Saint Francis, and their baby pig Daisy. After they were married, Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill kept a pot bellied pig in New Orleans which they named Rosie.
- Film For Rosie (3 min, 16mm, sound, 2000)
Film for Rosie was made after Daisy their potbellied pig died prematurely. This film is Rosie’s pigeology and features all her relatives.
- Mouseholes (8 min, 16mm, sound, 1999)
Mouseholes remembers Helen Hill’s beloved grandfather, Pop. In the film, Pop’s mother and aunts lovingly greet him with a tea party in heaven.
- Madame Winger makes a film: A survival guide to the 21st century (10 min, 16mm, sound, 2001)
The film version of the reference book of handcrafted film techniques Recipes for Disaster expresses Hill’s belief that the idea behind a film is more important than the technology used. The film describes inexpensive ways to make films, including hand processing and direct animation.
- Bohemian Town (3:30 min, 16mm, sound, 2001)
Bohemian Town is a visual poem dedicated to Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas’s love of the North End of Halifax. Gailiunas’s band “Piggy” performs the song that is the centerpiece of the film.
- The Florestine Collection (44 min, 16mm, sound, 2011)
After discovering more than 100 handmade dresses in a trash pile one Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Hill set out to make a film about the dressmaker, an elderly seamstress who had recently passed away.
This project was completed by Helen’s husband, Paul Gailiunas, after she passed away.
Helen Hill (May 9, 1970 – January 4, 2007) was an experimental animator, filmmaker, educator, artist, writer, mother, and social activist who lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Hill began creating short animated Super 8mm films at age eleven. She earned her B.S. at Harvard University in 1992. While majoring in English, she also minored in Visual and Environmental Studies, where she made the 16mm animated short Rain Dance as well as two other animated films. After receiving an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Experimental Animation, Helen, along with her husband Paul Gailiunas, spent time in Canada, where she continued to create films and teach film animation at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (now NSCAD University) and at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (AFCOOP), before moving to New Orleans in 2000. In New Orleans she taught animation at the Video Access Center and with the New Orleans Film Collective. Her short films, including Bohemian Town (2004), Madame Winger Makes a Film: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century (2001), and Mouseholes (1999), have been screened at festivals around the world. Always inventive and personal, her films were created using a number of animation techniques, including cel animation, hand-drawn animation, painting on film, and stop-motion using three-dimensional puppets. She is also the author of a book called Recipes for Disaster, which is a compilation of filmmaker’s techniques for hand processing film.
Tragically, Helen Hill was murdered by a random intruder in her New Orleans home in the early morning of January 4, 2007, one of six murders in New Orleans in a single 24-hour period. She made 21 films in her short life. Several of her films were damaged or lost when her home was flooded during Hurricane Katrina, but the remainder survived and in an extraordinary collaboration between Helen’s family, the Harvard Film Archive, New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, Colorlab, the Orphan Film Symposium, the University of South Carolina, and countless individuals, Helen Hill’s films, including shorts, animation, and home movies, were quickly organized and donated by Paul Gailiunas to the Harvard Film Archive in 2007. Shortly thereafter, guided by the coordination efforts of Dan Streible, ten of her films were preserved by Harvard and Colorlab. One title, Rain Dance, was preserved at Colorlab, under the direction of Bill Brand as an NYU MIAP project, and all were put back into distribution in late 2007.