The term “labor of love” can aptly be applied to Chris Sullivan’s animation saga, Consuming Spirits, which celebrated its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. Over a 15 year period, Sullivan shot the film frame by frame in 16mm, moving effortlessly among a variety of animation styles—pencil drawing, collages, stop-motion animation and more—to create his own signature style.

Sullivan combines these dazzling images with a complex and intricate narrative that weaves the lives of three connected spirits—Earl Gray, Gentian Violet, and Victor Blue—who all dwell in the rustic town of Gardener’s Corners. Channeling a bleak sense of Americana, Sullivan blends his haunting storylines with a strange sense of underlying tenderness. Deliberately paced and visually stunning, Consuming Spirits is unlike anything you have experienced.

Consuming Spirits opens Wednesday, Dec 12 at Film Forum and will run until Tuesday, December 25. On this occasion, Tribeca caught up with Chris Sullivan, who graciously shared the story of his Festival journey with us.

Consuming Spirits

On his Tribeca experience, Sullivan could not be more positive: “Consuming Spirits celebrated its world premiere at Tribeca 2012, and I could not have had a better experience and launching point for my film. At Tribeca, I had three full houses, the most engaging audiences I’ve ever experienced.

From the film’s successful launch at TFF2012, Sullivan provides more good news: “From Tribeca came two more festival invitations to screen Consuming Spirits, along with positive reviews. Only a few weeks later, I received an offer from Film Forum to show my work at its famous theaters in New York City. The honor only really dawned on me a week or so after it happened, when I saw the amazing company I was in—Wuthering Heights, Amour, Beware Mister Baker, and Tabu—and it all really began to hit home.”

Sullivan continues: “After my experiences in New York City,, things were a bit quiet and I was able to breathe for while. I began to receive invitations and acceptances to festivals where I was really hoping to show Consuming Spirits. By August, things really started to pick up. My film has shown all over the world at different festivals, including the Maine International Film Festival, Osian’s Cinefest, Raindance UK, the Milano Film Festival, the Starz Denver Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, the Olympia Film Festival and many more.”

Sullivan’s reaction to his success is appreciative to say the least: “What has been amazing at all of these festivals is the experience of blind-siding audienceswith the film and getting great responses. Consuming Spirits has shown to full houses, mostly thanks to word of mouth. I will always remember the particularly wonderful audiences of Denver, Olympia and my own home town of Chicago.”

He adds: “Along with witnessing the amazing trust and investment these strangers put into my sometimes demanding 130 minute film, I also had the opportunity to meet some of my animation and filmmaking heroes and had the pleasure of seeing Consuming Spirits shown with films such as Persistence of Vision, Journey to Planet X, and La Camioneta."

Sullivan finally reflects: “Perhaps the most rewarding part of these Festival experiences for me were the Q & A’s after the film. I was able to celebrate with appreciative viewers what I had been through and the triumph I felt when I emerged from the storm of production with a complete film in my hands. In the words of Werner Herzog, I felt my film was ‘retrieved from Hell and snatched from the hands of Satan himself.’ ”

Consuming Spirits opens at Film Forum on Wednesday, December 12, with Chris Sullivan appearing in person for Q & As after both 6:30PM shows on Friday (12/14) and Saturday (12/15). In February 2013, the film will be exhibited at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.