Home > 11/3/10 Justin and Shel Rasch > Justin and Shel Rasch

Justin and Shel Rasch

Before teaming up with Shel, Justin wrote, directed and animated several short films on his own. With over 12 years of professional animation experience, Justin now works as a Lead Animator at for Sony Video Games as well as periodically contributing animations to various feature film and TV show projects. He graduated from Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1996. Shel has a background in theater and dance; her Choreographic Works have been widely commissioned and well received throughout the US. Together, Justin and Shel own the production company Stunt Puppet Pictures, which is currently producing several projects including pre-production on a new Stop Motion Animation Feature Film. Justin and Shel live in Los Angeles with their three continual motion kids.

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  1. November 3, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    For me, Justin and Shel were a great complement to Heather last week. I’m mostly into CG, but if there’s another way for me to animate, it’s stop motion. Like Justin said, I love how tactile physical puppets are. Real stop motion has qualities we just can’t get in CG.

    I’ve said multiple times how much I like games, so it was interesting that someone in the industry finally came, but he almost completely ignored that fact. If he wasn’t going to talk it up, I don’t feel like we missed out on anything. I love how passionate they are about their films – I think we all know the feeling of utter love for and dedication to a personal project.

    They did a good job of making their situation seem ideal, or at least they didn’t have an ounce of criticism for it. That freedom to do what you love is enough to ignore or downplay the struggles of keeping up with it.

  2. November 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Justin and Shel are a perfect couple. Their live is so fantastic. As a couple, they can work and flight together, and they even have 3 kids…… Anyway, I appreciate their works. I think a “professional person” means he or she has experienced something others barely experienced. As they said, their cat ate up all the cat food which was supposed to be the animation set, I can imagine how bad Justin felt at that time.. But he finally figured it out by rematching every single frame…I think the process he experienced is the most expensive treasure….Cause sooner or later, he will face to other difficult situations which he may never meet with before, and I think he will conquer it at that time cause he already has the ability and experience to get over a difficult situation. The way they worked, is a good lecture for us.

  3. November 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I think the most charming part is how did they use their own time to work on their personal project. CG animation for Justin is just a job which support his family and himself to live, and the stop motion is the real dream for them. I was amazed by his delicate job. Even for the spread particles, he animates them frame by frame. Making animation is such a time consuming job and full of pleasure. It is good to see them get pay back on the festival circuit.

  4. Lisa Chung
    November 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I was most inspired by Justin and Shel’s concept of just jumping in, making mistakes and learning as you go. They made a really great point about how they had watched “Gerald’s Last Day” the night before the seminar and saw over 500 things they would have redone BUT if they had waited to perfect those techniques, the film would have never been made. It’s so easy to get intimidated, wrapped up and feel that you need to know everything before making a film. Shel and Justin were the opposite. They embraced the learning-trial-and-error period and wasn’t afraid to seek help. I loved how they didn’t let money get in their way. They knew deep down that simply by doing what they love, the resources and funding would somehow work itself out. Not only did they received ample support from the stop motion community, they got someone to finance their next film. Incredible! Also, I am beyond impressed with how they juggle their personal life. They both have full time jobs, 2 sons, a daughter, the stop motion project and still squeeze in time for date nights. I love how they have made it a conscious choice to not sacrifice time with their family or each other, even with everything on their plate. Although they had to climb mountains to get where they’re at, they still spoke so humbly about their success. Very inspiring!

  5. Cecilia De Jesus
    November 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Justin and Shel’s presentation was a real treat. It was cool to see how well they work together and what great work they produce. I thought one of the most interesting parts of the presentation was when Justin showed how he used wire in each frame to control certain movements. It’s amazing how much attention to detail they give to their work. It was also really refreshing to see people who are so excited and in love with what they do. They seemed so happy and humble about their achievements. It’s nice to see such down to earth people living their dream and doing so well.

  6. Louis Morton
    November 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Stop motion is so often thought of as a slow and tedious process, but the way Justin and Shel describe it is completely different and refreshing. They attack their projects with such physical energy and I think it comes out beautifully in the work. It’s so awesome to hear about how they stage out the fight sequences before shooting them. It’s rare to see such fluid action in stop motion and it makes sense that such elaborately choreographed sequences need such planning. Like other people mentioned, I also really appreciated such an in depth look at behind the scenes and the detailed explanation of mistakes that were made along the way. It’s so generous and rare for animators to share such experiences and I found them to be incredibly helpful. It reminded me of how important it is to document each stage of a production, because each stage plays equal part in generating the whole. After seeing all of the animation tests and model mock-ups I had an even greater appreciation for the films. Hooray for hearing from a couple that are so passionate about animation, every step of the way!

  7. Rachel Jaffe
    November 9, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Seemingly unhampered by the frustrations that so often assail animators upon stumbling into roadblocks — whether a snag in a run cycle or the cracking coat of a puppet — Justin and Shel Rasch displayed nothing but an endless enthusiasm (verging at times onto outright exuberance) for the craft to which they’ve devoted thousands of dollars and countless hours of their off-the-clock lives. Treating each phase of filmmaking as an opportunity to learn rather than as yet another step through which they have to slog to complete their film, Justin and Shel’s eagerness and readiness to master the intricacies of stop-motion were almost palpable in degree. Hugely encouraging in the optimism with which they approached every aspect of filmmaking — spanning character design and fabrication, rig manipulation, and even editing and sound scoring — Justin and Shel formed (as Dan mentioned in his post) the perfect counterpoint to the faintly disheartening air that pervaded Heather’s presentation last week*.

    *By no means am I implying that Heather’s presentation was uneducative or unenjoyable — just that (to such a shy person as myself) her description of the pitching process — a torturous procedure often reliant upon arbitrary arrangements of personnel, or (even worse) circus-like displays of unshakable charisma before the fearsome collective of a studio committee (rather than craftsmanship or artistry or, dare I write, talent) — inevitably resulted in a slight demoralization**.
    **But rest assured: I shortly recovered when I remembered that I don’t plan on pursuing a career in television anyway.

  8. Javier Barboza
    November 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Justin and Shel ,their passion for animation I have not see much people match it. There dedication and strong support for each other was inspiring. Gerald’s last day was touching and sweet , some more finessing on minor things could have been achieved, but how they put it as artist, if you nitpick every signal detail , it will never been done. For more artist and animators and for myself your work is never done and you could always changed it and add more , but how long can you do that until the film completely changes.

  9. Ian McCormack
    November 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    We’ve had some great guests over the last 1+ years in seminar. People who are legends in the field, people whose carreers I’d like to mimic, and people who I learn a great deal from. Justin and Shel stand out because they were pretty cool.

    Hearing Justin’s story was pretty interesting but what captured me the most was just his normal schedule. He’d go to a job he liked, spent time with his family and got to do animation he wanted to do on the side. Most people are forced to sacrifice one or two of those to get the others but he managed to balance them all nicely.

    On top of that, they seemed like generally nice people. They were able to tell a story well and seemed pretty down to Earth. Not to name any names but we’ve had guests that described what they did like they discovered the cure for cancer.

  10. Amy Lee Ketchum
    November 10, 2010 at 9:40 am

    As many of us have already said, Justin and Shel’s presentation was very inspiring and provided a great model for how artists can have careers, families, and personal artwork. Craft, focus, and commitment are three characteristics that I attribute to their success and not simply because their first film was successful. Even without hitting tons of international film festivals and gaining an audience, the act of diving in and doing something they had never done before was an achievement in itself.

    In terms of their film, “Gerald’s Last Day,” I was struck by how such a simple story line could pack so much emotion in such a short film! Less can be more. I also really enjoyed the character tests that were made for each character. They were really charming and showed a comparable level of care to the actual film.

    I’m inclined to say that Shel and Justin attain a balance between life and art, but what they’ve done is make life into art and vice versa.

  11. Juan Gonzalez
    November 10, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Their love and commitment for animation is contagious and inspiring. They are good at what they do, dream high and strongly pursue that dream within reality showing a possibility for those wanting to be independent animators. Others complain or excuse themselves for not doing animation due to responsibilities in work and family, Justin and Shel have them all and understand their position and make all the live changes to allow themselves to keep making what they love. I will keep their example in my mind for the future.

  12. Jordan Hansen
    November 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Justin and Shel were more than anything, inspiring. The dedication and hard work they put into the medium is astounding. What’s more, they are having some success. It is great to see people so dedicated being rewarded for their efforts. I hope they continue to have success. It is strange to me though, there is such a small community of stop motion puppet animators but most of the films done in this style are fairly successful. Even true amateur films seem somewhat successful, not that that classification applies to Justin and Shel, just an observation about the medium. As with the other guests we’ve had this semester, I really appreciated their openness and candor. I hope that this is a trend that continues for the rest of the semester.

  13. Shaun Kim
    November 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Justin and Shel are full of passion in animation. It is not possible without those amount of passion for creating own animation to do multiple jobs such as animator for daytime job, father for the evening, and stop motion animator from mid-night. I could understand his feeling in terms of doing multiple rolls, because I also have a baby and do animation during the daytime. Justin and Shel’s love to make animation really gave me really strong inspiration to do multiple roles in a successful way.

  14. Maria Sequeira
    November 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Justin and Shel were incredibly inspiring. They were very down-to-earth and it was easy to see the passion and love they had for their work. In fact, their passion for life as they have managed to balance work, relationship, and family! I also commend them for reaching out to the stop motion community and not being afraid to ask for help and solve problems. I really like what Shel said, that stop motion is a series of problem-solving exercises! But because each film is so different, I think you can’t predict what sorts of puzzles will arise. Most importantly, what I got out of their presentation is to just dive in and make a film!

  15. Yang Liu
    November 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Justin and Shel impressed me by how much they spent their leisure time on what they love doing. They are very inspiring because their films shows that there is time for making your own animations, and with great quality and result, even you have a full-time job, and a big family. The stop motion films they showed us were really delicate, and I was surprised by the amount of work they put in just to make these puppets. I believe Justin’s skills in character animations really helps him work with puppet easily, since the reel he showed us was already very impressive, and the movements of the CG characters were very accurate. Their success in festivals also inspires me to work on my own works even when I get a full-time job in future. This reminds me of the topic we were discussing last time “school is the last chance to work on our own film”. Maybe there is an option for us to create our own film, but it’s just a matter of time and passion, just like justin and Shel.

  16. Miguel Jiron
    November 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Justin and Shel’s presentation was so lovely, inspiring, and sort of a model for anybody interested in independent animation. It was great to hear how they managed their time; it’s almost unbelievable that they juggle their passion with their jobs along with raising a family all at once. It’s wonderful to see that as a couple they were able to empower each other and reach their goals; both of them said that without the other everything would’ve been near impossible. It’s so inspiring to see their undeniable enthusiasm and passion that makes their day to day stress and time crunching not just manageable but totally worth it. So often do people make excuses and cool their passions, or view things as essential sacrifices, that it’s incredibly refreshing to hear Justin and Shel share their little world with us. I relate with their ambition on their first project, where there are 500 things that could be better, but without actually going through it they never would’ve made a film. I’m a big believer in this pushing forward in creative projects, where you don’t have to know everything. IT’s a bigger perspective on the creative process; not every thing you do has to be some sort of perfect project. It’s more like, every project is a step closer, and you’ll never know where/how to go without going through all the “mistakes” and learning curve.

  17. Gregory Jones
    November 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I have to say, Shel and Justin are quite the power couple. Seeing how the two manage to pull off the incredible feat of animated film making while successfully balancing family and day jobs is absolutely astounding. Not to mention, their films are pretty great. It was quite helpful of them to show us some of the scenes in progress and how they pulled off some of the more elaborate bits like having a character in mid-air and doing camera moves. Those are small things, but huge in helping us create the projects we want. Furthermore, knowing the learning process they went through to even get this far is inspiring and comforting. I know I’ve certainly been troubled by the range of animation on some of my long projects, but it’s great to know that that’s to be expected. Awesome stuff.

  18. Burak
    November 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Justin and Shel’s presentation was really down to earth and inspiring. They are almost like the animation superheroes! Having had a chance to also visit their house and set thanks to Justin Connolly, I can say that without exaggeration that they are really really amazing and they probably are superheroes. Holding two jobs at the same time, mother, father, cg animator day time and being a superhero at night and still being that much passionate and energetic was really inspiring. I left the seminar last week with a passion to do more and better animation. Did I say I’m sure they are superheroes?

  19. Eric Tortora Pato
    November 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Shel and Justin were awesome. They were awesome, in short, because they bought us toys to play with. However, the ultimate expression of their sheer awesomeness was in the fact that they were of the opinion that they had brought us toys to play with. The invitation to just come up and grab the puppets, to twist them about a bit, feel the foam and work with the motion and bends of the figure, said so much about their perspective so quickly. The Ideal mood and perspective to be in in this industry is of children who have been given free reign to cause mayhem and make up games and play at will, and Shel and Justin seemed to embody that energy, that magic disposition of being allowed to run wild, better then just about anyone else who has spoken to us. Now some of this could be said to go with them being reasonably on the younger side, but really I think it is more that they are people with personalities that sustain themselves and keep them in high energy. I also think there was a lot to be said for Justin’s experience in so many different forms of animation complimenting his skill and abilities in all of them. That was a fun night, last Wednesday. Bring ’em back again in the future.

  20. Matthew Steidl
    November 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I felt obligated to ask Justin about his work schedule because during his presentation, it truly seemed superhuman. He was so energetic and excited about his work, that I found it tough to believe he only slept for 2 or 3 hours per night for years at a time. I think his situation it one towards which we strive, to some extent or another – being able to balance work, play, and family is an impressive feat, and I’m sure it helps him keep his sanity. I enjoyed watching his video game reel; as a character animator, I am heartened by all the work that seems to be available in that field.

    Having Shel there as well was really neat, for it sort of explained how Justin does manage to balance his crazy schedule – because she is passionate about animation as well, they can work as a team, which I’m sure is a great help.

    It was a great seminar; my thanks to Justin Connolly for getting in touch with them and helping to bring them out here!

  21. Justin Connolly
    November 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I just realized that I completely forgot to write my post for Justin and Shel’s presentation…OOPS. Well, as anyone who knows me can tell you, Justin and Shel have been a huge inspiration to me and they have helped me tremendously with my descent into the world of stop motion. They are an amazing couple who have a lust for life and a passion for film making that is both inspiring and contagious. I am glad that so many people enjoyed their presentation a few weeks ago and that I was able to share them with the rest of USC.

  22. Ryan
    December 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I think the best word to describe Justin and Shel is passion. It’s incredible the passion and commitment Justin has for his work and animation overall. It seems he has found a way to add hour in his day. They seem to have found a great balance between family independent work and money work. It goes to show that anyone can find a way to get there work out there and there is no one way to go about anything. Justin’s Animation by itself is incredibly good and inspiring. Its great to see that he doesn’t separate stop motion from any other animation and sees it all as the one thing.

  23. December 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    As many other bloggers mentioned, I found Justin and Shel’s presentation incredibly inspiring. Their successes in animation seem to be true testaments to the strength of their passion and their commitment to each other. Justin and Shel seemed dedicated to not only finishing their personal animations, but also to having a balanced family and work life. I’m very grateful Justin was able to bring them to USC and introduce them to us!

    A side note, Shel briefly mentioned her ‘day job’. Upon inquiry, I confirmed that part of what she does is teach Alexander Technique, a method for moving (in many ways, ranging from daily life to performance). I am particularly interested in using Alexander Technique in conjunction with animation, and it was interesting to see how Justin and Shel had both used their knowledge of movement to inform their work in animation. I can’t recommend Alexander Technique for animators highly enough!

  24. Allen Yau
    December 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    This seminar was a night full of surprises! First, Justin and Shel was not stop motion animators, Shel even was not an animator at all, and yet they love this media so much and devoted so much. Second, they just learned literally everything from internet, the amount of information on the web and the passion of stop motion animators surprised me.

    Their time management gave me a third “wow!”. How can a game animator works in the day, spends time with children and wife in the night, and yet still have energy and passion to animate in the midnight? How can a dancer mom with several kids spending time to take care of everything in the house and still willing to devote into a whole new field?

    They have really inspired and reminded me that how far can an animator go with only passion. What a wonderful and inspiring testimony!

  25. Linda Jules
    December 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Although this has nothing to do with the presentation, I would like to say how thrilled I was to hear Justin and Shel speak after recently watching their short film on a Delta flight!!!

    The biggest thing that I took away from the Rasch presentation, was the amazing way that the couple drew inspiration to create their animation. Inspiration is a funny word that get thrown in conversation without much thought. At first when Justin said he drew inspiration from a co-worker that was looking for a wife, I sort of shrugged and said to myself, all animators are required to throw in a one liner about what inspired their film. But when he dove deeper to say that his co-worker seemed more like a dog looking for an owner by trying to adapt himself to the ways of some book formula for love, I started to listen. I realized that what he was saying was not just what inspired him. He adopted his friend’s life and let that infiltrate his story, and eventually his animation.

    During this whole semester I have struggle with finding inspiration, and I couldn’t figure out why. I see now that what I was doing was trying to get inspired by passing thoughts or ideas, like “I’m inspired by McLaren”. The Raschs helped me realize that true inspiration is finding something that you enjoyed and letting that be the guide, and the foundation of the story that you created (and it doesn’t hurt to include your actual inspiration in your film). Maybe this realization has come to some of my classmates earlier than it did for me. But, to hear this lovely couple speak on the source for their animation has really helped me out of my inspiration slump and into a mind of drawing true inspiration from life.

    • Sheila M. Sofian
      December 15, 2010 at 11:38 am

      Great comments Linda!

  26. Kim Cagney
    December 16, 2010 at 11:44 am

    It was definitely interesting to hear the story of their dog film in progress, and how it got funded. Alternative forms of funding are of course extremely circumstancial, and they certainly lucked out in that case, but it is good to consider that there are alternative sources of funding, if you can find them, or they can find you.

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