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The Fountaineer

Director: Matthew Sandager

United States, 2022, 11 min

Shooting Format:Digital

Festival Year:2023


Crew:Writer: Matthew Sandager. Producers: Adam Moss, Daniel Kaizer, Angi Kuhn. Composer: Ryan Blotnick


'The Fountaineer' is the story of a humble maintenance man who fixes drinking fountains by day; but at night, dreams of one day building a spectacular water fountain masterpiece. 'The Fountaineer' is ultimately a story of overcoming obstacles to realize one’s artistic ambitions.


About the director

Matthew Sandager is a filmmaker, animator and artist based in New York City. His work has been commissioned by Sesame Street and his critically acclaimed short films, videos and photography have been shown in film festivals and galleries around the world.

His short film, The Fountaineer is the story of a humble maintenance man who fixes drinking fountains by day; but at night, dreams of one day building a spectacular water fountain masterpiece. This stop motion film was directed and animated by Matthew from his original script.

Previous work include his short film Dear Henri, which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and went on to be shown in over 35 film festivals around the world. His ongoing work for Sesame Street has led to several films for the long-running children's television program including The Number Three (Breakfast Magic) and Belly Breathe.

Matthew was born and raised in Minnesota and is based in New York City. He received his undergraduate degree in studio arts from the University of Minnesota and his Masters Degree of Fine Arts in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he was the recipient of the Paula Rhodes Memorial Award. He is currently an artist in resident in LMCC’s Workspace Residency program in New York City.


Filmmaker's note

‘The Fountaineer’ is the story of a humble maintenance man who dreams of creating a spectacular, world-class fountain, until tragedy strikes and his dreams are nearly destroyed. My first fully stop motion animated short is inspired by the films of Jacques Tati and Charlie Chaplin, performers and filmmakers whose physicality and economy of story influenced the design and movements of my title character.

The Fountaineer represents a regular person whose daily life is filled with extreme tedium–the constant repetition of fixing the same problems at work everyday. He walks through the world unnoticed and under-appreciated, while beneath the surface lies a deep well of artistic talent and aspiration.

I wanted to show how people, including artists who spend much of their time at day jobs, translate their life experiences into creative endeavors. For the Fountaineer, memories of visiting beautiful places with his family are channeled into the design for his fountain, the act of creating serving as both an escape from his life and a way to process it.

As a filmmaker and an artist, I enjoy the process of making - the overall production design, and especially the set building, puppet design, and prop fabrication. I love when you can see the handmade feel of things, the tiny details and surprising use of everyday materials. That is the magic of stop motion to me, seeing the inanimate come to life.

Because there is no dialogue, the musical score of ‘The Fountaineer‘ is a crucial element, almost like another character. The track “Hat and Beard” from Eric Dolphy’s 1963 album Out to Lunch was the perfect template for the style of music, and served as a touchstone when I began collaborating with the jazz composer, Ryan Blotnick. It was an incredible honor to be in the studio with him when eight musicians recorded his score live. The individual instruments speak as characters, creating motifs for the water, fire and other elements, and the use of a period style of jazz leant itself to fun stylistic touches in the editing and overall feel of the film.

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