Dusty Studio is a boutique animation design and production house specializing in a pastel-on-slate technique, also called chalkboard animation. Over the past fifteen years, they have created animated segments for feature films, documentaries, short films, commercials, explainer videos, and fine art installations.
Dusty Studio was founded in 2009 by Dustin Grella (IMDB, Curriculum Vitae), shortly after finishing “Prayers for Peace”, an animated short film about his relationship with his younger brother, who was killed at war in Iraq. The film screened at hundreds of festivals, winning almost fifty awards worldwide. “Prayers for Peace” was created utilizing a unique chalkboard animation technique during a time when most commercial studios were using 3D animation and motion graphics.
After winning the Walt Disney Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Grella continued working on new projects. With the support of artist Julia Heyward, Grella was able to use her Tribeca loft as a haven for experimentation, beginning with a series called “Animation Hotline.” The series invited anonymous callers to leave voicemail messages, which Grella then turned into short animations. The large quantity and variety of content provided an opportunity for Grella to explore different styles and techniques. The freedom to make mistakes was an essential element of the hotline animations that wasn’t an option for commercial projects.
Dusty Studio kept the lights on with some larger projects from Open Society Foundations and Pfizer, which paved the way for more hotline animations. The New York Times started using the Animation Hotlines for their Op-Docs column and an entire series on the topic of homelessness was created for Housing and Services, Inc.
In 2013, Dusty Studio outgrew their home in Tribeca and moved to a new loft in the rapidly changing South Bronx. With their newfound studio space, they were able to create an installation/event sponsored by HP Computers at the Sundance Film Festival. The studio also collaborated on a music video for The Hold Steady and a series of holiday spots for J.Crew. In the next few years, they would continue working on “Animation Hotline” videos and other creative projects like Hummingbirds’ Wings and Landscape Animations in between commissioned pieces such as the documentary series Think Like a Scientist and an animation about Times Square for a live TED talk on Broadway for PBS.
By 2017, the “Animation Hotline” had grown in popularity and was screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Studio worked on a commissioned piece for the Amazon Studios LORE series, and Lars Von Trier commissioned the studio to do an animation for his upcoming feature, The House that Jack Built, to be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, Dustin Grella was hired at Queens College to help develop their animation program. The studio work continued with a series of short films for the Intrepid Museum, similar to “Prayers for Peace”, about service members who were stationed on the aircraft carrier during its commission. One of the more experimental projects, a live 22-minute performance of a Radio Diaries podcast, with a live animation that needed to be timed to the storyteller, was created.
In 2019, Grella moved to Brooklyn and started looking for a studio closer to the new location. During that time, he closed the studio doors in the South Bronx and moved all operations online. The studio worked on the animation for a Facebook video and a series of posters for Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center while testing out the new online environment. They had no idea that this would position them perfectly for the unimaginable changes experienced in early 2020. With most live-action studios out of commission, content providers turned to animation, which could be created in isolated units. Dusty Studio was able to coordinate the “dream team” of previous employees, now scattered across the globe, working together again, this time online. During the pandemic, Dusty Studio created introductory videos for conference speakers, now held on Zoom, as well as continuing with experimentation and adopting a new watercolor aesthetic for a video promoting disabilities in the workplace. As with most animation studios, Dusty Studio remains mostly remote, with a modestly sized physical studio for drawing on the chalkboards, with most other work created through a unique system of file sharing.
During all of this, for the last twenty years, Dustin Grella had been working on his “Notes to Self” project. A daily routine where he writes and mails himself a letter. Stuffed in thousands of letters is a record of many of the highs and lows of the studio as well who knows what else.
Dusty Studio is always on the lookout for new talent.
For freelancers or potential staff positions please feel free
to submit your reel and/or resume to our talent roster.
The internship program is currently on hold.
Please check back around May 1
to see if this has changed.