Faculty Grant series: Filmmakers invite Prof. David Spolum for extended London studio visit

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Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Prof. David Spolum spent part of his summer in London, diving deep into the film work of the Quay Brothers. His trip, made possible in part through a Faculty Life Research and Practice Grant, gave the Liberal Arts Department professor the chance to study work that these filmmakers have yet to release. 
Invited by Stephen and Timothy Quay to visit them in their new North London studio, Spolum “did reconnaissance” on the space and, he says, “learned more about the status of their projected third feature-length film, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.” The film, Spolum says, is based on the writings of Jewish author and artist Bruno Schulz, who was killed by the Gestapo in 1942. 
The Quays, natives of Norristown, Pennsylvania, “are considered two of the greatest stop-motion animators in the world,” says Spolum, who has long admired their work
“The Quays have been working on (Sanatorium), which will be a unique synthesis of stop-motion animation and live action, since 2005,” Spolum says of the brothers, who have created more than 60 short films, documentaries, advertisements, music videos, and installations. Strongly impacted by literature, the Quays have art backgrounds in illustration and film and graduated from what is now University of the Arts in Philadelphia. 
“I now have a deeper understanding of the Quays’ approach to Bruno Schulz’s prose, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, and will be able to answer more questions that students may have about the film (when it is completed) whether they are aesthetic or technical,” Spolum says of the summer experience. ” I like to have an answer to every question, but when I don’t, the Quays have always been very generous with their time in answering my students’ questions in the past.  The Quays’ creative process is unique in the realm of film directors, and I will be able to lift the veil on that, so to speak, for students in the future.”
Two men in sepia toned photo moving figures in stop motion animation

The Quay Brothers, Stephen and Timothy, at work on “Street of Crocodiles,” released in 1986.