Making Stop Motion Animated Magic

Categories: Blog
Why This Matters: An ASC Regional Artist Project Grant helped UNC Charlotte associate professor Heather Freeman create her first stop motion animated film.
A still from the short film “Artemis” by Heather Freeman.
By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

A 3D printer helped Heather Freeman become a film festival favorite.

Freeman, an associate professor of digital media at UNC Charlotte, has received several accolades since  her 2016 stop-motion animated short “Artemis” hit the film festival circuit, including:

  • A nomination for Best Animation at the Kerry (Ireland) International Film Festival
  • Third Place for Best Animation at the Artlightenment Art and Film Festival in Nashville; and
  • The Best Animation award at the UK Screen One International Film Festival.

The four-minute film, already screened in 35 national and international film festivals and two gallery exhibitions, is a polytheistic consideration of what happens when a car hits a deer. Artemis, Apollo, and the Ghost of Elvis all appear after a distracted driver hits and mortally injures a stag on a moonlit, rural road.

“This deer is mortally injured, it’s seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Freeman. “What’s it going to see?”

Freeman used a $2,000 ASC Regional Artist Project Grant in 2015 to purchase the 3D printer she needed create the miniature puppets for the short film. The process of printing the puppet heads and faces and casting the silicon bodies from 3D printed molds took several months.

She said the grant was instrumental in allowing her to move ahead on her project.

“I would have eventually figured out a way to do it,” Freeman said, “but it would have been twice the cost or twice the time or both (without the grant).”

“Artemis” is the first entry in “Terra Firma,” Freeman’s planned animated series of short stories. One story will follow an elephant whose sister has died, while another will explore how an obsolete computer handles an epiphany about its own obsolescence.

“They’re separate stories looking at moments of tragedy or of grief but then trying to find that turning point in the moment that leads to grace or enlightenment,” she said.

Heather Freeman.

“Artemis” is Freeman’s first stop-motion animated film; she’s created more than 20 other animated films. Stop animation better connects with the southern rural landscape this film explores, she said. Plus, the film allowed her to learn more about an animation process she appreciates.

“With digital animation,” she said, “if you need to stop, you can and you can pick up where you left off the next day. With stop-motion, if you have a particular shot, you have to finish that shot.”

Heather Freeman produced her animated short film “Artemis” in her home studio.

“Artemis” will finish up the film festival circuit late this summer, Freeman said. While no Charlotte-Mecklenburg screenings are scheduled, she plans to put the entire film on her website,, afterward so that anyone can watch the film.

“Artemis” was also supported by grants from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Blumenthal Foundation.