In the summer after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself paralyzed in a bout of anxiety and in a state of wanting to do everything and nothing at once. Prior to this I had poured all my energy into completing my homework and other school related tasks and found little time to delve into movies, shows, or a good book. When I could hardly go on, however, I found myself mindlessly scrolling through random YouTube videos (instead of watching a movie for example, because that would amount to failure). It was here that I stumbled upon indie filmmaker Jonni Phillips and her wonderful world.
Phillips's films deal with the tough human emotions and experiences we all grapple with throughout life. A general feeling of being out of touch with oneself is explored in almost all of her longer animations, two of note being The Final Exit of the Disciples of Ascensia and, my personal favorite, Goodbye Forever Party. This exploration of human emotions combined with interesting and well created plots about cults and conspiracy theorists makes for an all-around cathartic viewing experience. That is, these films offer a great release from the stress and anxiety many of us experience daily.
Not only is her story telling and grasp of the human condition profound, but so too is the world that she has built around the characters of her separate films, which comes together in her anthology Wasteland (which is probably best viewed after her other films). Today she is working on a feature length animation titled Barber Westchester, a sequel to her 2020 series Secrets and Lies in a Town of Sinners which centered around the troubled lives of families living in the fictional town of Des Amato. This new animation focuses on one of the characters within that series; the only sane person in her cult-like family, Barber Westchester.
The artistic style and techniques used by Phillips further separates her from the mainstream animation world. As opposed to a simple 2d or 3d animation format, Phillips works through a multimedia animation style, making her an auteur in her own right. From the inexpensive production of Goodbye Forever Party, which used cheap paper cutouts overlayed on panels of glass to produce field of depth and recorded with an old computer camera, to the digital 2d animation in Secrets and Lies in a Town of Sinners, to her Claymation work in The Earth is Flat, Phillips truly has carved out a style of animation uniquely her own. It is both this style and the subject matter explored that produces a Jonni Phillips film which is a must watch for any lover of art and animation, and for anyone who is human with human emotions.
Most of her works can be found on her self-titled YouTube channel,. Her films are, for the most part self-funded and so if you enjoy them (which you will), you can support her and .