Close your eyes and step back to a time when more things were made from scratch. Grandma’s cookies. Houses built by your family that stood unwavering for generations. A book so beautifully written that you can place yourself in the setting and the characters are vividly defined in your mind. The commonality between these things is that someone put their heart, soul, and individual tastes into their craft. It’s what makes a common item unique. Special. It feels good to experience these things because you understand the dedication that went into their creation. “Bandit Hill” is that project to Jill Kintner and it’s the short-film equivalent to your grandmother’s most prized recipe.
Full of flavor, nostalgia, and love, “Bandit Hill” transcends the common shred video and transports viewers into a world of whimsy. Built from scratch by Kintner, Juicy Studios, the 2D Workshop, myself, and host of other creatives, “Bandit Hill” is a place to find joy during a time when life can feel overwhelming. Marrying live action riding with 2D animation, it’s a world full of woodland creatures oozing with personality in a fairytale land where the clouds and forest come alive.
We’ve spent the past three-plus years building this project. It started well before Covid hit, but as the world changed, so did the importance of the film. It turned from “just another fun project” into a creative pursuit that helped keep our mental health in a positive place while the world fell into this unknown state. During this time Kintner also brought her Mind Maintenance project (more on that below) to life to help give people a fun outlet while they were stuck at home. As “Bandit Hill” got deeper into production it became clear that there were serious benefits to working on a project like this to help sharpen the mind and keep the good vibes flowing. I’ve worked alongside Kintner throughout this project and wanted to share her thoughts on how mental health and creativity are intertwined and how she used this project as an opportunity to create her Magnum Opus.
Please give us your perspective on Bandit Hill and what makes it unique.
This project began with the idea of bringing the artwork from my Red Bull helmet to life in animation. When designing the helmet, I pulled bits and pieces from my sketchbooks, woodland surroundings, little creatures, course maps, etc. The forest is where I spend most of my time, so this scene connects to where I live in the Pacific Northwest and stars all my favorite characters. It’s all a bit surreal to be able to ride in my imaginary hand-drawn world of Bandit Hill.
Does focusing on creativity help with your mental health?
It does! Drawing and design are great outlets for me to express ideas. I am such a visual learner that drawing sometimes serves me better than words. Whenever I cannot be 100% with biking or need an escape, I go deep into this domain and really like using my hands to create something. I like the linear aspect of taking an idea out of my head and putting it on paper where I can see it. Things feel a little more tangible from this perspective. Lists, goals, strategies, and plans all work better for me this way, so I would be lost without a sketchbook.
What is Mind Maintenance?
Mind maintenance is my way of sharing a creative outlet with our community to promote positive mental health through art. In the early stages of the pandemic, I resized and uploaded one of my coloring posters for people to print and fill in at home. I thought it would be a calming, peaceful activity to do when we were all isolated, to help alleviate some anxiety as it did for me. I wasn’t sure if anyone would do it, but they did, and it was a lot of fun to see the variety in how they have filled it in, and a lot of support came back from it.
Was the goal of the project to encourage people to dive deeper into their creativity?
Creativity sometimes gets overlooked in stressful times, but it does help process emotions and becomes a positive outlet of expression. Using both sides of your brain is essential for mental health and overall well-being. As an athlete, I know that a healthy lifestyle is full of creativity, physical activity, and support to maintain a good headspace. I enjoyed connecting personally with my fans and giving encouragement. We all gained confidence by drawing every week, and this was a lot of fun to see so many clever ideas.
How does Bandit Hill fit in with Mind Maintenance?
Bandit Hill is woven into the characters of mind maintenance and is an extension of my journey, blending artwork into biking. When we first started this project, I developed so many new skills that improved my illustration style and switching to digital helped a ton! One goal with Mind Maintenance was to introduce bits of Bandit Hill with the templates to get people familiar with the characters, so when the project was released, people would recognize the scenes the cast. I can’t wait for everyone to see the actual movie and connect the dots! It might give some insight into why I draw squirrels all the time.
Why do you draw squirrels all the time?
(Laughs) I used to sign cards with a little squirrel drawing for my dad as a kid. He loved them and said the fluffier the tail, the better. Everyone needs a power animal!
Why is it important to focus on labor of love-type projects?
Because in the end, this movie will live forever, and it is everything we knew it could be! It’s delightful, one of a kind, and I genuinely love it. The whole team put their hearts and souls into this project, which wasn’t quick or easy. The level of detail that went into this 3-minute flick is astronomical, but that’s what it takes sometimes. Creating the set, sculpting the acorn, drawing the characters were all a lot of fun. Each person on our team made massive contributions to the overall aesthetic, and I am grateful that Red Bull believed in the idea enough to allow us the creative freedom to make this how we wanted.
Why do we need projects like Bandit Hill?
Well, it’s nice to do something different and let ideas come to life. I think this video can appeal to anyone, but kids seem to connect with it the most. And it’s fun for me because how often do you get to be a hero? I love how this project allowed me to showcase my riding while creatively telling a magical little story.
What would you have done differently?
It would have been great to launch this project in person with a super cool experience and finish the accompanying book in time for launch, but Covid had other ideas. The book will come though, and we’re hoping to have a cool in-person immersive experience some time too.
How did you pivot this project to debut during a pandemic and the associated challenges?
It was challenging for sure. We were faced with lots of delays for launch because I wanted to share instantly and in person, but we couldn’t do that.
You’ve had a lot of time to sit back and think about the process of creating Bandit Hill while you’ve waited for its release. Can you talk about the emotional journey of creating this project? What did you experience, and where are your thoughts on the project now?
I was nervous in the beginning because sharing my artwork was a little scary. I felt vulnerable and a little rusty with my skills. My inner perfectionist struggles as an artist, but I had to take that step to be out of my element and uncomfortable to move forward. I should have known that practice, making mistakes, analyzing, learning from others, and trying again, is the only way forward. I grew a ton with brainstorming ideas with our team and collaborating. Scotty, our director, was the best and gave so much time, patience, and care to this project. I miss getting to talk to him every day and having a laugh. I am in awe of how the animations gave my simple drawings so much personality. It is unbelievable how this all came together.
Bandit Hill the film is just one piece of the puzzle. Kintner has created a website full of merchandise that showcase Squirrel, Fox, Snail, and other characters from the story. A children’s book is forthcoming, and her long-term goal is to create immersive events that kids and parents can attend on their bikes and ride through Bandit Hill themselves. Stay tuned for more information on all things Bandit Hill on her website.