Local filmmaker to Premiere Latest Creation


“3 Keys” makes its debut 7 p.m. Friday at the Museum of Northern California Art, 900 The Esplanade.contributed photo

By Leila Rodriguez, Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED: 04/11/18, 4:31 PM PDT

Chico >> Independent Chico filmmaker Josh Funk earned his place as a stop-motion monster movie maker, and now his latest creation, “3 Keys,” taps into the supernatural, subconscious fears of dolls. 

The spooky short film makes its debut 7 p.m. Friday at the Museum of Northern California Art, 900 The Esplanade, with themes appropriate for a Friday the 13th movie screening and may not be suitable for younger viewers. 

“3 Keys” follows a patient (Brigette Funk) plagued by recurring nightmares that always start with a peculiar door and three skeleton keys. Depending on which key she uses to unlock the door, the patient is transported into an unfamiliar world, and she recounts her terrorizing dreams to a psychiatrist (Robert Donnelly) which offers viewers a maddening psychosis. 

Stop-motion puppets, marionettes and miniatures bring this 15-minute spooky tale to life. 

Puppets and props from the production will be on display at the screening along with brief behind-the-scenes footage so viewers can get a better idea of how Funk made the movie. 

Concepts for the horror/fantasy film began shortly after Funk’s son was born three years ago.

The new father was eager to work on his next film and utilized the odd hours parenthood generously offers to work on his script. 

As his little one grew, Funk began drawing inspiration from his toddler, like how a prism in his son’s room reflecting light became the inspiration for fairy creatures. 

Beloved Muppet puppeteer, Jim Henson was a childhood favorite of Funk’s, but as a kid, he feared dolls and often had nightmares starring the stone-faced toys. 

“I was very interested in how these inanimate objects could be brought to life to scare you or to entertain you, and that was kind of the basis for (‘3 Keys’),” Funk said. 

For the last scene, Funk said he wanted to amp his frightful story, so he sat down with the star of the film, who is also his sister-in-law, to find out who or what spooked her the most as a child. 

Brigette Funk told him of an eerie clown doll, and Funk had every detail re-created down to every last ruffle fashioned from a puppet maker in Prague. 

This was also the first time Funk worked with marionettes. 

“We constantly did re-shoots to make it scarier and scarier because if you’re not a talented puppeteer, it’s hard to bring something like it to life,” Funk said. “But we made it work.” 

Working with family is common in Funk’s movie-making realm. 

Funk made a short film featuring his son Jonah last year, and Funk’s younger brother starred in “The Spaceman” which won Best of Festival at The Sundial Film Festival.

The full-time artist has garnered countless film festival awards for other projects like his first short film “Wormholes,” and locally, Funk has lent his talents to creating stop-motion music videos for Chico bands Michelin Embers in “Diggin’ On” and Severance Package’s “Scissors Gonna Cut Ya.” 

His creative playground in the world of animation and stop-motion holds no bounds and “3 Keys” is no exception. 

“When you work on something so meticulous for so long you don’t even know what you have,” Funk said. “I’m excited to hear what people think and it’s nice to hear it was effective in the way that I wanted it to be effective.”

Scary tale : Local animator’s new short film is the stuff of nightmares

By Howard Hardee 

This article was published on 04.05.18.


Josh Funk doesn’t want to contemplatethe number of hours he spent writing, producing and animating his new short fantasy film, 3 Keys. It took four months to create the puppets, animation and practical effects for a single scene, and his most ambitious project to date consumed most of his free time over the last three years.

“Counting the hours would just drive me crazy,” he said.

The local independent stop-motion animator makes his living by freelancing promotional videos, music videos and commercials for a variety of clients, and he works on personal projects like 3 Keys on the side. The roughly 15-minute film is the follow-up to Funk’s last major stop-motion project, Spaceman(2014).

Spaceman was about this guy who builds a cardboard spaceship, goes to an alien planet and fights a monster, but there was no dialogue,” Funk said. “It was almost like a silent black-and-white film. When I was making [3 Keys], I really wanted to push myself in every aspect. I wanted it to look better and sound better and I wanted to work with new people.”

The story starts with a psychiatrist (local actor Robert Donnelly) and his patient (Funk’s sister-in-law, Brigette Funk), who has recurring nightmares. The dreams always start in a dark and spooky basement, where she finds three keys in front of a mysterious door. There’s an element of Alice in Wonderland as each key transports her to a different place.

“So, there are three different dreams I’m showing throughout the film,” Funk said, “and they all involve puppetry of some kind and sets and visual effects.”

3 Keys is set to premiere at the Museum of Northern California Art April 13 and 14. The event will include a short behind-the-scenes video, a Q&A session with Funk and the cast, and a display of puppets, miniatures and props from the film. A host of actors, artists and Chico State students (Funk teaches a course on animation) donated their time and talent to bring the project to life.

Funk has submitted 3 Keys to about 20 film festivals and contests, and it already won an Award of Excellence in FilmFreeway’s prestigious Best Shorts Competition.

The film incorporates elements of horror and suspense drawn from Funk’s own childhood fears, but it’s not at all gory, and falls comfortably into the category of a fantasy/thriller. He started writing the script in 2015, working mostly late at night while watching his sleeping newborn son, Jonah.


“I was thinking of childhood so much, and I started thinking about how I used to be scared to death of dolls,” he said. “I saw a clip of Chucky [from Child’s Play] on Entertainment Tonight and it just traumatized me. … I still have recurring nightmares about Chucky.”

He also borrowed from fairy tales, in which doors often serve as symbolic thresholds, and repetition of the number three also bears significance. As with any fairy tale, 3 Keysconcludes with a moral. Without giving away the ending, it’ll suffice to say the protagonist’s nightmares are rooted in her waking life.

“The main character is someone who refuses to admit that they do anything wrong,” he said. “Until they can admit their own faults, they’re not getting out.”

 Keys premiere, two showings, Friday-Saturday, April 13-14, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $5
Museum of Northern California Art
900 Esplanade