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Original Title:Tule Lake
Director:Michelle Ikemoto
School:San Jose State University
Category:Animated Short Film/Student Film
Nationality:U S A
Rating:All Ages
Year Completed:2012
Techniques:Ink on paper & 3D computer
World Premiere:2012 ASIFA-SF Spring Screening
Online Information:


During the Japanese-American internment of World War II, a woman held at the Tule Lake segregation camp with her family leaves her barracks one night…
Based on true events, “Tule Lake” is story of perseverance, shown from the perspective of a Japanese American internee during World War II.  Held in the Tule Lake segregation camp with her family, a woman steps out of her barracks one winter night...
During the Japanese American internment of World War II, a woman held at the Tule Lake segregation camp with her family leaves her barracks one winter night...

In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were, by government order, forcibly relocated to internment camps across the country.  Surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, the Tule Lake “segregation center” in northern California was the largest of such camps and did not close until after the war.

Set in the winter of 1943 after martial law was imposed on the camp, Tule Lake is an animated short film about perseverance, based on the true story of one internee and her actions one night.


“Tule Lake” is an animated, student produced film that takes place during the Japanese American internment during World War II: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment saw over 110,000 people of Japanese descent living along the US West Coast, a majority of whom were American citizens, relocated to prison camps by government order. The story is a personal account, based on the experiences of Sakae Ikemoto, my late grandmother.  She was held with her husband and two sons at a temporary detention center, then  interned
together at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California, from 1942 to 1945 (the exact dates are unknown). She gave birth to my father in this camp.

As my grandmother’s health declined later in life, her unpleasant recollections of Tule Lake became her most vivid memories, and she would speak of them repeatedly, to the exclusion of any others.  On August 29, 2009, she passed away.  The family traded stories about her at the funeral, where I was reminded of one in particular: wherein she risked her life in camp on a small token to establish some sense of normalcy and comfort for her family.

In this story of her generosity, optimism and limitless dedication to her loved ones, I recognized my grandmother as I’d always remembered her, rather than the woman she became, haunted by unhappy memories.

Not long after her passing, a short story assignment for a 30-second piece of animation in college became the impetus for a much longer project.  Throughout my school career, I further developed the storyboards inspired by my grandmother’s experience into a six minute short film.  With the encouragement of my parents and my animation professor, I was given a first time opportunity to recruit and direct a team of my peers to produce the short within the framework of a class.

To research the setting of the film, my parents and I drove to the Tule Lake relocation site the winter before pre-production began.  Almost none of the actual camp remained, with only the husk of a jail cell still standing in its original place.  We were fortunate to be aided in our research by Jimi Yamaichi, a former Tule Lake internee whose work at the Japanese American Museum in San Jose contained a replica of the camp barracks complete with artifacts found at Tule Lake.  Along with loaned reference material from Jimi’s own collection, these resources provided invaluable to the visual development team in grounding the look of the film in its historical reality.

With every one of us on the team balancing full course loads alongside film production, “Tule Lake” went from finished storyboards to a fully animated short movie in about a year.  Summer break was spent on pre-production, while animation and background painting took place during the 2011 fall semester.   The process of making “Tule Lake” was a long, demanding learning experience full of new challenges at all levels of production. I’m indebted to my classmates in the San Jose State Animation/Illustration department, many of whom worked grueling hours (some working through serious injuries) and volunteered their time for the love of creating animation.  They are the most hardworking, tightly knit, passionate group of artists I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with.  Their dedication to their fellow classmates and to their craft is the only reason this film ever made it off the ground.  The encouragement of my family, and the support and guidance of my teachers David Chai and David Yee, are the only reason I could have dared to begin it.

Sakae Ikemoto’s story is one among many, of a community of patriotic  Americans whose civil rights and personhood were violated in a climate of hysteria and racism.  She is also one among many who endured with grace and dignity for the sake of family, although the experience would take its toll on her decades later.  While my goal in making this film was above all to honor the memory of my grandmother, it is not without the knowledge that it occupies a moment in time marred by an event affecting thousands.  And I hope, in time, to see many more of these stories shared, before the experiences they represented are forgotten.


Michelle Ikemoto (Director)
Michelle Ikemoto embraced animation at an early age, drawing constantly as a child and consuming any animated media she could get her hands on.  Her dream of being part of the animation industry led her to San Jose State University, where she became passionate about storytelling through storyboarding as well as character animation.  During her studies, she collaborated with faculty and peers on a variety of creative projects, from independent films to a budding global climate change awareness campaign.  Tule Lake is the first film she has written and directed.  She is currently working in Vancouver, Canada, animating on shows such as Cartoon Network's Rick & Morty and DC/Warner Bros' DC Superhero Girls.  She is also particularly fond of musicals and cultivating her comic book collection.  
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Salvatore Criscione (Production Manager)
Since grade school, Sal Criscione has been inspired do computer animation. After attending community college he started in the Animation & Illustration program at San Jose State University. There he gained friendships that resulted in collaborative projects like the heart-warming film Tule Lake.
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Alan Pasman (Production Manager)
Alan Pasman attended San Jose State University where he focused his studies on Animation and Illustration.  He has worked on several independent student, and through these collaborative group experiences, he found he had an affinity for working with others, and was naturally drawn towards roles where he could help coordinate, organize, and manage.  Alan’s passion in the screen arts also extends to post production where he enjoys the ability to problem solve with editing and compositing, all while maintaining a close working relationship with the directors to help realize the desired vision for the film. Alan is a highly driven individual who greatly enjoys collaborative projects and participating in the creation of fun and inspiring films.
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Cody Gramstad (Visual Development Lead)
Much of what defines me as an artist and designer is the diverse, creative environment that I was raised in.  I grew up in an artistic community outside of Seattle, Washington.  In my youth I was mentored by a myriad of artists ranging from painters, sculptors, doll makers, writers, and designers.  This variety of early influences has given me a unique perspective on how to use art and design to reach a diverse audience.  I recently moved to California and discovered SJSU's Animation / Illustration Program. It was here that I was able to take the chaotic knowledge and experiences of my earlier life and refine them into a usable and marketable creative style.  I am currently in my final year of the Animation / Illustration Program and am looking for creative positions in the film, game, and television industries.  
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Erin Schleupner (Visual Development Lead)
Erin Schleupner is a recent graduate of the San Jose State Animation/Illustration program and is currently employed in the gaming industry.  She has collaborate creatively on six separate short films during the course of her studies, with Tule Lake being her first film working as a Visual Development Lead.  She is currently working as a digital artist at Storm8.
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Timothy Tang (Production Design)
Timothy Tang is a conceptual/character illustrator but Rubic's Cube experts have concluded that he is a musician that writes illustration. You see, he is quite a complex individual. Timothy thinks with his soul because his brain is currently in a giant super computer located in Laboratory 28, deep in the heart of the Congo. His body is merely a shell for innocent victims to be in awe of. And to top is off, he drives a Decepticon Delorean... complete with a PS7, many leather-bound books and the smell of mahogany. Timothy enjoys Manila mangoes at the beach and Japanese curry on cold days. Feel free to e-mail him if you have any further questions. He is one of the most lovable and super chillest dudes ever.  
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Joanna Johnen (Animation Lead)
Joanna Johnen found her passion for art early in life and was greatly inspired by Disney’s Fantasia to pursue a career in the field of animation. During her education at San Jose State University, she focused this artistic passion into learning character animation, while refining skills in character design, storyboarding, and visual development. Joanna has worked on several student films doing character development, model sheets, layout, character animation, and animation supervision, managing others and organizing work flow. Joanna strives to dedicate herself to always improving her skills and continuing to learn. 
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Chris Lam (Animation Lead)
Chris Lam is a recent graduate from San Jose State University’s Animation/Illustration program.  Growing up, he enjoyed drawing as a hobby, creating small comics for his family and friends.  His education at SJSU was his first formal training in the field of animation, and transformed his hobby into a career choice and overall passion.  He completed his final two years at SJSU working with peers and faculty on over ten animated short films.  With a concentration in CG character animation, Chris aspires to collaborate with other artist and animators to create endearing films and memorable stories.  His nickname is Clam, and he also collects rubber ducks.  Currently an animator at Double Fine Productions.
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Jong Kim (Composer)
Jong Kim is an amateur composer living in Seattle. Currently writing for small groups of instruments, Jong enjoys exploring form, texture and other aspects of music to continue developing his technique and vocabulary. He is excited to have completed his first film score, the music for the film Tule Lake.



40th Annual Annie Awards, 2013
Nominated for Best Student Film

Adobe Design Achievement Awards, 2013
Semifinalist, Editing and Post Production
Semifinalist, Animation

Animation Block Party, 2013
Official Selection

AniMazing Spotlight Festival, 2013/2014
WINNER, Section One (Short Entries)

APAture, 2013
Official Selection

APAture Comix & Zines Expo, 2013
Official Selection

Asians On Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

ASIFA-East, 2013

ASIFA-SF Spring Screening, 2012
WINNER, FIRST PLACE (College Student Film)
     (College Student Film)

Boston Asian American Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

BUtiful Film Festival, 2013

CAAMFest, 2013
Official Selection

CAAMFest San Jose, 2013
Official Selection

California International Animation Festival, 2013

Cinequest Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

CSU Media Arts Festival, 2012

CreaTiVe Awards, 2013

Eugene Celebration Film Zone, 2013
Official Selection

Official Selection

Golden Orchid International Animation Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Great Lakes International Film Festival, 2013
NOMINATED, Best of Animation

International Film Festival Manhattan, 2013
Official Selection

Kerry Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Northwest Animation Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

San Jose International Short Film Festival, 2012
Official Selection

Seattle Social Justice Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Social Justice Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

SoDak Animation Festival, 2013

Vancouver Asian Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Women and Minorities Film Festival, 2013
Official Selection

Women’s Independent Film Festival, 2013
WINNER, Best Animation (Animated Film)
WINNER, Best Directing (Animated Film)
WINNER, Best Visuals (Animated Film)

USF’s Human Rights Festival, 2013
Official Selection