Doan’s film ‘Sticks and Stones’ featured on film festival website

Black and white photo of a young boy with a top hat and a flannel coat. The photo is overlaid with colorful abstract drawings of figures and pencils.

William Doan’s animated film “Sticks and Stones,” which explores his relationship with his stepfather and the toxic masculinity that fueled his depression and anxiety, has been selected to stream on the UnLonely Film Festival website as part of a featured collection selected by the organization.

In response to the growing public health concern of social isolation and loneliness, the Foundation for Art & Healing launched “Project UnLonely” in 2016 to broaden public awareness of the negative physical and mental health consequences of loneliness.

“It's really gratifying to know our work is part of these organizations that do so much to raise awareness and provide help for those struggling with mental health issues,” said Doan, director of the College of Arts and Architecture’s Arts & Design Research Incubator.

The Foundation for Art & Healing is a nonprofit organization rooted in medicine and science that mobilizes its partners and the public to embrace the arts as a proven path towards improved personal and public health. The UnLonely Film Festival, in its sixth year, promotes opportunities for connection using creativity and the arts.

“Stick and Stones” is the second film produced by Doan and his team as part of his “Anxiety Project,” which was conceptualized by him as a way to share his story through visual and performance art. In January 2022, the film was named the winner of the Art with Impact Short Film Competition.

The film is directed by Cindy White, an adjunct research associate in the College of Arts and Architecture. Alexander White, Cindy’s brother, served as the animator, and her son, Leo, provided the voice for a young Doan.

Joining Doan and the Whites were Tara Caimi, script development; Stephanie Swindle Thomas and Cody Goddard, post-production; and Richard Biever, who scored the film.

Doan’s next film, which is in the final stages of production, focuses on research that gathered stories from frontline nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was conducted alongside Dr. Michael Evans, assistant dean for undergraduate nursing education at the Penn State Commonwealth Campuses. The film will be submitted to festivals this fall, according to Doan.

The venture into filmmaking has been transformative for his career, Doan said, but it has also reaffirmed his belief in the power of collaboration.

“I never imagined I'd be making animated films at this point in my career,” Doan said. “The success of these films and the collaborative team that has developed them is something I'm truly grateful for.”