Animator recreates tragic memoirs, brings crowd to tears

by Zana Pommier

Imagine telling a stranger the hardest, most gut-wrenching thing you’ve ever gone through in your life. Now, imagine sharing it with millions on national television.
Tim Rauch, an animator responsible for making sorrowful stories come to life, does just that. In his visit to campus Wednesday, students reacted heavily to the grief-driven, animated recollections.
The mastermind behind these stories, StoryCorps, is an organization dedicated to finding real people and recording and sharing their most heart-wrenching memoirs. Offices in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco are open for the community to record their memories. Each week, StoryCorps chooses one biography that is aired on NPR’s Morning Edition.
“That’s what StoryCorps is all about, and it’s a really unique and special way of understanding people around and valuing your life and their life and all the things about it,” Rauch said.
The Rauch brothers decided to take StoryCorps recordings to the next level – animation.
In each video, the storytellers are carved into pixelated versions of themselves who recreate important parts of their narratives. This allows an honest format to stay true to the stories and allows viewers to be put into their experiences.
“That’s what life is about, and trying to understand how to deal with the comings and goings of the people around us,” Rauch said. “The responsibility to present them in a way that honors their story, in a way that’s true to them, is important to us.”
After a recording is chosen, one of the first things in the process is meeting the storyteller.
“That research we do in going to visit them is important, and we find all kinds of ways to put real things from their lives into the work,” Rauch said.
In one animation, a father told the story of his two sons who died saving lives in 9/11. After visiting their home, Rauch decided to incorporate pictures of family photos and the sons growing up. From the father’s perspective, this was his main way of recalling his sons.
Rauch believes this is the secret to success: finding things in other people’s lives that speak to you.
“Anything that you find and you watch and makes you see things differently, or you really respond to the energy the artist’s putting forward, that’s what you should dig in and try to find more of,” he said.
But creating the animations is only part of a long list of things that need to be done in the process. In addition, the brothers work with storyboards and a background artist. Between sharing his responsibilities and creating a half-a-minute of animation a week, a StoryCorps short takes two to three months to complete.
Despite his success, Rauch didn’t always know where his life was headed. He spent his college career in art school, drawing and painting, but always felt like something was missing.
“It wasn’t coming from me,” he said. “I kind of got lost while I was in school. I really had to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. That’s where I got back into animation.”
Despite feeling lost in college, Rauch knows his education wasn’t wasted. Although he wasn’t working directly toward his career with StoryCorps, he was always developing his creative mind.
“Even if you’re making a beautiful drawing of a wolf today, things you’re using to make that drawing you might be using to make a website in five years,” he said.
Rauch’s advice to current students?
“Your assignments are just your teachers’ way of trying to train you, and your teachers are training you,” Rauch said. “Through their own lens, and own perspective, you need to be out there making work that’s important to you. Something that’s your thing that you own, that you’re trying to develop and you’re pursuing aggressively.”

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