In Animation, Faculty Member Yoshi Makishima ’11 Finds Storytelling Has No Limits

For Yoshi Makishima ’11, animating a story is a way to put your stamp on every aspect of it. The animator is a director, a writer, a designer, and an actor, making choices that affect everything from characters’ personalities to the overall tone of a film.

Yoshi’s short film Night was an official selection at the 2019 San Diego International Kids’ Film Festival last August. She submitted the four-minute piece after completing it for a class at the Harvard Extension School.

Yoshi, a performing arts faculty member in Milton’s Middle School, began animating when she was a student in the Upper School. For her senior project, she worked with former modern languages teacher Mary Jo Ramos to animate Spanish stories for Middle School students. After Milton, Yoshi attended Smith College, where she majored in English, and took animation courses at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Night follows an unidentified figure through a city covered in darkness to a forest. Yoshi made the character genderless, ageless, and without other identifiers so that viewers could relate to the figure. The inspiration came from a summer with repeated electrical blackouts; Yoshi found the sudden plunges into darkness and quiet to be isolating.

“I spent a lot of time in the dark, which made me think about light, and the absence of it, and how lonely that can feel,” she said. “It was a major inspiration, and something I thought a lot of people might relate to.”

Being an official selection at a film festival means being screened there. At the San Diego Film Festival the screenings happened in small groups, and the film that won in Yoshi’s category was in her group. Yoshi couldn’t attend the festival because it was held when teachers were preparing for this academic year.

Yoshi was able to share Night with a special audience of tough critics: her students. Many of them showed genuine interest in the film and in animation in general. Yoshi is thinking of ways to incorporate animation into the School in some way — perhaps through a workshop, if scheduling allows. And she would love to see more girls get into filmmaking.

“It does seem like there’s a real hunger for it, especially at this moment in time,” she said. “The kids are so comfortable with computers and they’re also media literate in a way that is astounding and exciting. Making films used to be so much more of a niche interest. It used to be something you’d have to go out of your way to learn about. But it’s a language these students are so comfortable speaking.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The curiosity to ask why and the courage to speak out are qualities that lead to innovation and change. The individuals featured in this issue embody these qualities. Through their questioning, leadership, and willingness to share their views, they are making a difference–in their professions and in the world.