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FILM KITCHEN

Dating Games

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There must be a word for the opposite of "anthropomorphization," the Disney-approved practice of ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman beings, and which has given us mice that wear pants. "Animalize" comes close, and it partly describes what happens in Jeff Morelli's short video Woodbunny: Little Treasures of Love.

A young man acting like a rabbit mugs an archer, then has some adventures in the forest. He runs across two squirrels, portrayed by two young women. He also falls in love with a Mother Nature sort of character. The actors wear T-shirts and jeans -- not fur -- and seem to be having a fine time, animated as they are by Morelli's clever editing and sound effects, which make Woodbunny feel like a live-action cartoon.

Morelli brings his reverse-anthropomorphized bucolic romance to the Jan. 14 Film Kitchen. Also featured at the monthly screening series are Hannah Can't Swim, a short film by Randall Good, and The Zyphon Chronicles, a comic video by Scott Vrable.

Morelli grew up in Albany, N.Y., and studied film at Point Park College. These days he works at the nonprofit Pittsburgh Filmmakers, where he has access to the tools of moviemaking -- and also to people who'll follow him into the woods and run around climbing trees for his camera.

Morelli says the inspiration for Woodbunny predates his interest in filmmaking. "I had a lot of experience as a child in the woods," says Morelli. "I played in the woods a while, too -- until I was in junior high."

Randall Good traces his own film career to a pretty specific point in time: the night his parents rented the video of Oliver Stone's JFK. Good, then age 14, loved the film and wanted to know how Stone had hooked him, a search that eventually led him to the Rochester Institute of Technology's film program.

Good's thesis film was Hannah Can't Swim, a gorgeously shot, dreamlike drama about a young woman hoping to find love on a commuter train. Hannah has shown at festivals around the country (including last year's Three Rivers Film Festival).

Like an earlier film of his called Shower, Hannah is an interior drama utterly unlike Stone's epic. It was partly inspired by his youthful days taking the train from his parents' home in Pottstown, Pa., to see films in Philadelphia. But Good still credits JFK. "It was the first film that really obsessed me," he says, adding, "I think I watched it with my mom and she fell asleep."

Studying filmmaking at New York University, Scott Vrable has had instructors including a screenwriter who's pals with Harry Potter director Chris Columbus and one who's Nicole Kidman's acting coach. It all sounds a little heady for a kid from Greensburg. But after his freshman year, Vrable returned to his roots, recruiting some hometown buddies for what he calls a "summer project": A quick cheap shoot to realize a short comedy script. His Zyphon Chronicles, he says, came from wondering "What if an alien had to go on a date with a human?" While the shoot was a quickie, he adds, it was also his first with a crew -- by which he means not people he paid, but people he fed for helping.

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