In dreaming up a world haunted by armies of evil snowmen, filmmaker Jack Penney said the biggest challenge was keeping his cat away from the filming props.
Jack is the now-award winning filmmaker behind the Dead North picture Eat Your Carrots. He is also 10 years old.
Eat Your Carrots is a five-minute movie that combines live action with stop motion animation using Lego pieces. It imagines a world where a bad crop of carrots grow into villainous snowmen and attack Yellowknife with their weapon of choice – Molotov cocktails. That’s why Jack cautions his younger sister Lucy, “you have to eat your carrots.”
In his fantasy horror filmmaking debut, Jack said seeing his movie come to life was “pretty cool.” He said the idea for the film’s narrative was “just a random idea that came into (his) head,” borne out of his sister’s refusal to eat her carrots.
With the help of his dad, Jack took four months to write the script, animate his drawings, film the live action and the Lego stop motion, create a score using GarageBand, and edit the shots together – all the while fending off his cat, Pixie, from stealing the Lego pieces.
Eat Your Carrots won a Dead North Zombear award at the 2019 festival for best death, an epic snowman explosion, and was featured in this year’s Toronto Blood in the Snow film festival.
In last week’s sitting of the Legislative Assembly, MLA Katrina Nokleby recognized her Great Slave constituent. She said Jack’s “cinematic success at such a young age is a good example of how the NWT strives to foster its creative community.”
With all of the “weighty” topics to address, Nokleby told NNSL Media it’s nice to sometimes spotlight someone in the community and thought it would be a good way to tie it back into some of the funding available to NWT artists.
“The best part of the territory is our cultural landscape,” she said. “I think it’s awesome that someone Jack’s age gets the support they need in the territory. Our small population means we can better support people in some ways.”
She said promoting the arts was “a very fun part” of the Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) portfolio she held until earlier this year and she has always been struck by the multi-faceted nature of NWT people being one thing by day, and “an awesome beader or painter,” by night.
Nokleby highlighted the $250,000 in GNWT funding available to NWT artists through a creative industries funding in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. She said the funding is open visual artists, filmmakers like Penney, performance artists, and others.
“I strongly encourage all Northern artists to apply.”
Jack hopes to continue Eat Your Carrots’ broadcast on the national stage. He expects to soon hear back whether or not his film has been accepted into the 2021 Dawson City International Short Film Festival.
Though he has been an extra in previous years of Dead North films, Jack said he prefers being behind the camera and plans to continue making films in the fantasy horror genre.
He’s not yet sure what his next subject might be, but said he and his sister have already started the brainstorming session.
“My baby sister wants to make a movie about unicorns.”