MANALAPAN – “Fishy,” an animated film that is the work of Joseph Sulsenti of Manalapan, was the recipient of two awards at the 28th Dusty Film and Animation Festival in New York City.
The film received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Character Animation and an award for Outstanding Achievement for Animation Production Design.
“Fishy” tells the story of a shipwreck that leaves a sailor stranded and hungry in the middle of the sea. A drag queen mermaid emerges from the ocean and teaches the sailor how to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
Sulsenti, 22, is preparing to graduate from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and hopes to bring his talent to the film industry.
“In regard to my future in animation and filmmaking, I must continue to tell stories I am passionate about telling in the best possible way I can,” he said.
The Dusty Film and Animation Festival was held at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) from May 5-8. The festival features the work of more than 100 filmmakers and animators graduating from the school’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation programs.
The awards presented by SVA recognize the quality of the animated characters’ performance and the overall quality of the production, according to the school.
Sulsenti said he decided to simplify the production by focusing on the performances and said he sought to create interesting characters viewers could relate to in order to develop the most captivating plot.
“I really focused on creating a story with compelling characters and a wide range of emotional moments to showcase a performance,” he explained. “Setting 90 percent of the film in the middle of the ocean called for opportunities to create simple background designs, allowing me to keep them clean and crisp pretty easily. ”
According to Sulsenti, living in New York City for the past four years inspired his writing of “Fishy.”
“Experiencing drag culture heavily inspired the idea of cross-dressing and gender-bending in my film,” he said.
Much of the storyline in “Fishy” is very personal for Sulsenti, who said he wanted to spread a message to those who viewed his film, especially parents.
“The little boy (in ‘Fishy’), who is based on me, is inspired by my own past and how as a child I loved playing with girls’ toys,” Sulsenti said. “The father-son relationship comes from stories I have heard of young children who have been cut off, disowned and thrown out by their own parents because of the parents’ inability to understand their children.”
According to Sulsenti, he designed “Fishy” to put a parent into the role of a child whose parents do not allow their children to be who they are. While Sulsenti said he was honored to be recognized for his efforts, he said he hopes that message will continue to be spread as a result of his film.
“I want to help parents understand the importance of supporting their kids no matter who they are,” he said. “If ‘Fishy’ could inspire one parent who is having trouble understanding their child to try to accept them for who they are, love, and encourage them to do what makes them happy, I’ve done my job.”