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Fresh Takes: Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s LGBTQ Love Letter, ‘Reach the Sky’

Director’s stop-motion music video, showcasing three queer friends and lots of yarn, delivers a message of support to those struggling to be themselves.

Debuting online today, Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s touching stop-motion music video, Reach the Sky, is a stop-motion love letter to the LGBTQ community, a message of support to everyone who struggles just to be themselves. The animated short follows three queer friends in three queer cars that become separated by an unexpected queer fork in the road. Falling into diverging journeys to discover self-love, community, and a legacy of queer icons, Reach the Sky celebrates diversity with compassion and a lot of yarn.

The film, directed by Sterlin-Altman (Hi, it’s Your Mother), incorporates the crochet dolls of Chason Yeboah, and is set to Thom Gill’s arrangement of the Rita MacNeil song, “We’ll Reach the Sky Tonight,” recorded by the Queer Songbook Orchestra. The film is produced by QSO director Shaun Brodie.

According to Sterlin-Altman, Brodie first approached him with the idea behind the film. “Shaun approached me to direct a film that was not only a video clip for the Queer Songbook Orchestra's rendition of ‘We'll Reach the Sky Tonight,’ by Rita MacNeil, but also a kind of video message to the world from QSO sharing the group's values for the queer community,” he reveals. “The purpose of the film was to celebrate the queer identity through compassion, fantasy, and the iconography of the many great queer people throughout history, and to do all of that animating the crocheted naked dolls of Toronto artist Chason Yeboah. So that is what my team and I worked to do! Reach the Sky works to break some of the clichés of LGBTQ narratives, a lot of which are depressing and focus on the anxiety of being different. Instead, our film uses tactile stop-motion to be sweet and uplifting, with humor and absurdity and mermaids.”

“In 2017 we recorded ‘We’ll Reach the Sky Tonight,’ a 1989 song by Rita MacNeil that has a strong message of friendship and community,” Brodie explains. “Our guitar player, Thom Gill, arranged it for the QSO and sang it on our recording. A short time later, [QSO Poet] Stephen Jackman-Torkoff and I came across yarn artist Chason Yeboah and her knotnaked [@knotnaked] dolls at an art fair in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Right away, we fell in love with these dolls, and with Chason’s intent in creating them. Gradually the idea formed of combining the dolls and the song into a stop-motion short film/music video, and we were very lucky to find the perfect animation collaborators in writer/director Daniel Sterlin-Altman and DP Evan Derushie. This team came together with a shared vision of creating something unique for the queer community, which speaks to inclusion, acceptance and the value of knowing our lineage.”

The director hopes audiences find warmth and reassurance in his film. “Reach the Sky is fun and validating: a story where queers are mystical, loved, naked, and accepted,” he notes. “This film has a pure soul, and is here for your comfort, particularly during this freakish time currently for social interactions.”

For more information about Reach the Sky:

Reach the Sky website:
Queer Songbook Orchestra website:
Queer Songbook Orchestra Facebook:

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.