Van Gogh paintings brought to animated life

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    Scenes from the feature-length oil-painted, animated film, "Loving Vincent." CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT—

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    Scenes from the feature-length oil-painted, animated film, "Loving Vincent." CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT—

  • A scene from the feature-length, oil-painted animated film, “Loving Vincent.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT

  • Nikki Stier, third from left, attends the premier of “Loving Vincent” with other members of the Good Deed Entertainment team. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Nikki Stier


  • Scene from “Loving Vincent.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 10/21/2017 12:09:00 AM

DEERFIELD — Vincent van Gogh’s life story is perhaps best told in the 2,000 artworks he left behind before dying at age 37, plagued by mental illness and poverty.

A new, groundbreaking feature film, “Loving Vincent,” looks at van Gogh’s life through 65,000 animated oil paintings, based on the artist’s own self-portraits, landscapes and street scenes. It took seven years to make, with 125 artists producing the paintings that replicate scenes from van Gogh’s most famous works — with an assist from a former Deerfield resident.

“Loving Vincent” is the world’s first oil-painted, feature length animated film, and it’s now showing in major cities — and at the Amherst Cinema Arts Center at least through Thursday, Oct. 26. However, the film has done well and its run may be extended next week, said a theater spokeswoman.

Nikki Stier, who grew up in Deerfield, is head of production for Good Deed Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based company distributing this film in major cities throughout the U.S. — and she wanted the film to be shown as close as possible to her hometown.

“Growing up in Deerfield, I know that Amherst, a college town with an appreciation for the arts, would be wonderful fit for the film,” she said. “Additionally, Royal Talens, the official paint supplier for the film, is based in Northampton. They came onboard as our partner for the film and hosted live painting events around the country, in support of the film’s release.”

Good Deed Entertainment is an independent production and distribution company founded in 2013, but this is its first year as a distributor, Stier said. She said she was introduced to the film by her husband, who saw a teaser that the filmmakers posted early last year. “We fell in love with the film and knew that its uniqueness and originality was something that every distributor/filmmaker dreams of,” she said. “It wasn’t fully completed,” she said, “but we fell in love with the script. It raised some questions about van Gogh that we had never really thought of. They worked closely with the van Gogh Museum (in Amsterdam). It’s a really accurate, thorough job.”

Nikki Stier graduated from Frontier Regional School in 2005 and began studying filmmaking as an undergraduate at Babson College in Wellesley. She went on to get a master’s degree in producing for film and television at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles). She went on to work for 20th Century Fox, then left to become director of development at Good Deed Entertainment, where she was promoted to head of production. Stier also teaches “Low Budget Filmmaking and Story Development” at a UCLA extension.

Her mother, Kathy Stier, is a science teacher at Mohawk Trail Regional School and her father, David Stier, is director of the Springfield Science Museum.

Work on “Vincent” began in 2008, when it was initially planned to be a short film, and involved several years of testing and training even before painting on the shots used in the film began. A call for artists drew 5,000 to apply for the paintings. The 125 painters selected had to go through training in Poland, to learn to paint like van Gogh while leaving their own painting styles behind.

Scenes in the film that van Gogh didn’t paint, such as his early life, black and white images were created as flashbacks, in the style of the photography of the era. Van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters in his lifetime, which are quoted from in the film. And he only decided to become an artist at the age of 28 — which gave him about nine years of painting until his death.

Stier said the film required 65,000 oil-painted frames, 6,500 tubes and 1,300 liters of Royal Talens paint — a brand coincidentally named “Van Gogh.” Although the paint is made in the Netherlands, the North American distributor for the paint is in Northampton.

In 2014, the filmmakers tested nine brands of paints from six manufacturers to find a range of colors to create the van Gogh-like imagery. “The color that mattered most to us was yellow,” said Hugh Welchman, co-writer, co-director and producer. “We needed a brand that had a good range of yellows, and for the yellow to be very saturated.”

Ironically, Royal Talens North America was unaware that paint had been used for the film until a customer saw a film trailer and asked Vice President Kyle Richardson if it was their paint. Richardson said he contacted an affiliate in Poland, where much of the film was made, and learned they had sold 1,200 liters there of oil paint. “The Flemish palette that van Gogh used was very heavy in yellows,” he said. Other colors seemed to be a good match to the paint van Gogh used, and so Royal Talens has gotten involved with the film by holding “Loving Vincent” painting demonstrations with some of the 12 American painters who were involved in making images for the film. Richardson said one such demonstration was held at the company’s Northampton warehouse last week.


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