In Philip Page’s version of “Genesis,”God is a woman.
It may seem like Page — a photographer, animator, professional DJ and former journalism professor at North Carolina A&T State University — was in deep, philosophical thought when he came up with the topic a year ago, but he wasn’t.
“It’s just a concept that kind of came,” he says. “It wasn’t a big epiphany.”
“Genesis”is a five-minute, two-dimensional, computer-animated short film that follows the title character Genesis, named after the first book of the Bible. She is faced with the blank canvas of Earth and upon it, creates her own vision. Page began the groundwork for the film in December 2019. Although the piece is only five minutes long, it took six months to complete.
“Animation is a very tedious process,” Page says, and he did it alone.
The film is drenched in Aggie Pride as everyone involved attended A&T. Page scouted social media and his inner circle for talent. Bethany Anderson — a creative director from Greensboro who currently resides in Las Vegas — cowrote the film and provided the voice of Genesis. Desiree Dixon, who voiced Eve, is a professional dancer from Patterson, NJ. Ja’Nyla Thompson, a senior at A&T and one of Page’s former students, served as production assistant. Page enlisted the help of Vanessa Ferguson — a musician from Brooklyn, NY, who now lives in Greensboro, — to compose the score for the film.
The recurring theme of Black girl magic in both the film and its creation, is apparent. In a way, Ferguson acted as Genesis during the making of its score as she was faced with a new task. Despite having vast musical experience such as enrolling in piano lessons at 5-years-old and making it to the Top Eight during Season 12 of “The Voice,” Ferguson was keeping a secret from Page the entire time.
“I didn’t tell Phil I had never done a score before,” she says.
She was excited to get back to work after her live performances were halted due to the coronavirus. She says she was at home processing everything when some “interesting things,” meaning a phone call from Phil, fell into her lap.
“Doing ‘Genesis’ was awesome,” she says. “It came at the right time; 2020 has been absolutely crazy and unexpected for everybody, I think.”
The small group of creators never met face-to-face during the creation of the film. Occasionally, Page would tap into Dixon’s computer via screensharing to assist with audio recording. He further eased the process by sending recording equipment to the talent. Page emailed the unfinished film to Ferguson to start on the score.
Once she viewed the project, she found the silence of the film to be quite loud.
“It was so moving without any music, without any sound at all,” she says.
She even consulted her own “Genesis” for help with the score.
“I prayed over it and I wanted to create something that would complement what was going on,” she says.
After gathering important elements for composing the score, such as instruments to use and tempo, Ferguson settled on her piano, creating a music box-like tune. The notes of the piano are played lightly and a few at a time as Genesis makes soft, graceful movements, touching things with her fingertips.
Page ventured into filmmaking after realizing that audio recording and mixing, the same things he does while deejaying, are involved in the process. He cites a love for two-dimensional animation, such as anime, as inspiration for the film’s style. He opted to keep his own work as simple as possible for “Genesis” since creating the visuals was a one-man show.
“You don’t want a more daunting animation process if you’re doing it by yourself,” he says.
In true professor form, he says he’s left the ending up for interpretation, influencing viewers to create their own.
“It’s kind of like people playing with toys,” he says. “Some people make up their own interpretations and that’s what I want, more so than a dictation.”
Despite the numerous people asking him, Page says he will not create a “Genesis”sequel. He believes when stories are continued, they eventually morph into something far from the original plot. That’s what he doesn’t want for “Genesis.”
“What’s done is done,” he says.
A public release date for “Genesis” is TBD. To learn more, visit GenesisShort.com.