The Funhouse Waltz

In a forgotten, abandoned carnival funhouse, the sins of the past are doomed to repeat their dark secrets for all eternity.

  • Carvin Knowles
  • Carvin Knowles
  • Carvin Knowles
  • Carvin Knowles
    Key Cast
  • Carvin Knowles
    Original Music
    Good Deeds, The Case of Evil, American Pie, Akeelah and the Bee
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Music Video, Short
  • Genres:
    Horror, Stop-motion, Ballet, amusment
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 13 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 2, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    9,000 NZD
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    14mp Still Camera
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Carvin Knowles

Carvin Knowles' music appears in over 25 feature films, but when he began filming The Funhouse Waltz, he had no experience in actually MAKING films. Over the next 10 years, his self-taught lessons in stop-motion would take over his entire world, changing everything, forever.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

After more than year on the Film Festival Circuit, I have taken the feedback from a dozen or so judges and made 52 tiny editing changes to The Funhouse Waltz, all aimed at making the film move and flow more easily. In the end, the runtime remains exactly the same, but this is a better film than when I began.

I first conceived the idea for The Funhouse Waltz on 12 October, 1995. I was asked to submit an orchestral music demo for a horror film, but no plot synopsis was given to me for the film. So on a half-hour lunch break from my day-job, I wrote a bullet point plot outline. In order to hit all the right scenes for a horror film, my outline was in the form of a funhouse.

The next day, 13 October, I wrote a complete concert waltz made up of horror themes. As with any good funhouse, my waltz told a story, one that would haunt me for a decade until, with no animation experience and little knowledge of film-making, I decided to build and shoot The Funhouse Waltz myself. Luckily, I had friends who worked for Disney at the time. In a single night, they taught me the basics of animation. But after that, I was on my own. A man obsessed with a miniature world of ghosts and skeletons and clowns.

My script was, at first, the waltz I had written: A ride through an old-fashioned funhouse. I thought it was enough. Each theme painted a strong enough mental picture. But as I continued, all the images from my first sketch played in my mind. To add a little structure, I made a list of all the shots. Following my shot list, each scene was built according to plan. But an unintended story took shape in the course of the "ride." As I shot, the actions of my characters began to tell their own story. The film was expanding beyond the original outline. Why was there the ghost of a little girl in the house? Who was she? Who was the old judge in the portrait? The questions that each new scene raised propelled a new story forward, shaped from hundreds of fragments of old ghost stories that everyone has heard. From the beginning, it was clear to me that the ghost girl had fallen down a well. Now, she wanted to tell me how it happened. I became lost for years in a ghost story that I didn't quite understand. And I kept shooting.

Funding for the project came from music I wrote for other films, from American Pie and a half-dozen other teen movies to Tyler Perry's quirky comedies. In keeping with its low-budget DNA, Materials for the film included cardboard boxes, paper-towel tubes, recycled packing styrofoam, drinking straws, wire hangers and litre upon litre of acrylic paint. For a while I had a studio built in the empty rooms of a High Street law firm in Auckland. But the firm moved to the suburbs and my studio moved to my kitchen table.

After 10 years of obsessive animation, I am pleased to present The Funhouse Waltz in all its primitive, stop-motion glory. I would wish that you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it, but that much enjoyment is simply not possible in under 10 years.