“note to self” is a 2D animated film completed as the thesis project for my MFA degree. This film uses experimental imagery and often abstract visual metaphor to tell a narrative story that discusses suicide, self-harm, depression, trauma, mental health, and the complicated issues surrounding these subjects.
“note to self” tells the story of a teenage girl fighting through her struggles and uncertainties in the metaphysical space of her own mind. Sienna, the protagonist, has resolved to kill herself and is working through her conflicted feelings to rationally explain why. Posed as a conversation with a part of her own psyche, a sort of “demon” which exists in the form of a spirited, floating mouth, Sienna explores her reasons for leaving life. On this journey she encounters many creatures and traverses many places that represent her experiences, traumas, psychological issues, and discontentment with life and the world. Due to this, she has decided that death is her best option. This isn’t so easy, however, as she is soon confronted about her decision by the specter of her future self. The future-self, a character that has been pursuing her in the background for the duration of the film, reveals to Sienna that she’s worth waiting for, and that, in truth, Sienna does have hope. In the end, Sienna decides to have mercy on herself: her future self, whoever she is, has the right to exist. She deserves a chance and, as this future self is a new and distinct person from Sienna, it is not Sienna’s life to take. Sienna fights her way back to life.
The imagery throughout the film is metamorphic and expressive to represent the feelings and energy throughout the film as Sienna, and the audience, experiences them. This film was created using primarily 2D, hand-drawn, digital animation, relying on varying line, color, and texturing styles for each part of the film. While there was a prepared script and narrative created for the film, the art style and production were created through a more atypical, experimental process that relied strongly on the emotional context of the scene and the expressive nature of art. The final result was a sequence of scripted scenes that were animated and filled with art in an expressive and partially spontaneous process to create a more raw and genuine communication of the protagonist’s story and ideas. This process, while unusual and difficult to manage (in large part due to its novelty to me), made for authentic representations of highly personal, even controversial issues and enhanced the emotional value of the film.
In regard to its subject matter, it is necessary to acknowledge the content of the film and the motivations that lead to its creation. By proceeding with this film, it was a task in itself to consider the various statements and discussions surrounding the sensitive topics of suicide, depression, psychological disorders, and mental health in general. Not only was it imperative to develop a background of intensive research into the subject, but also (perhaps more critically) to get in touch with my own feelings, experiences, and history on the subjects presented. It would be dishonest to deny that the sentiments expressed by the character are, in large and small ways, deeply felt emotions and sincere perspectives that I have encountered both personally and through others close to me. Naturally, this served as the creative palette for my work. It was both a crucial resource for me to draw from and inform my art creation process, and the basis upon which I pursued this film even despite some doubts in the onset. Drawing from inherently, severely, personal battles and difficulties with the topic at hand, this film did at times take its toll in nearly every space of my life. It was an increasingly challenging film to make in many ways, and yet it brilliantly also became one of the most cathartic and artistically honest experiences of my life.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Computer animation--Themes, motives; Computer animation--Technique; Animated films--Themes, motives; Animation (Cinematography); Suicide--Drama; Parasuicide--Drama
Imaging Arts (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Film and Animation (CAD)
Hayes, Chloe Renee, "note to self" (2019). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus