Rabbits Under the Shed started as a script written by Mia Stegner ’21 for her Writing Television Pilots class last summer. It’s now an award-winning animated show made by a host of Emerson students, Stegner’s family, Lesley University students, and students in the Philippines.
For Stegner, coming up with the idea of talking and singing rabbits under a shed was fairly easy.
“There are literally rabbits under the shed at my house in our garden,” said Stegner, who directed and wrote the film, including original songs. “I was writing outside one day, kind of brainstorming, and I had to think of different pitches to write a screenplay [for last summer’s semester]. I was watching the rabbits and got distracted. I got the idea of what it would be like to talk to them, and I’m always curious what their den looks like under there.”
Stegner wanted the film to highlight different themes, including inclusion, and using talking animals seemed fun.
Getting all of the cast and crew to work on the project was a lesson in recruitment for Stegner. She posted flyers around Emerson and posted on Facebook, she asked fellow Emersonians she thought would fit the project. Finding animators and storyboard artists was harder, so she reached out to schools with animation departments, like Lesley University. Working on the project for the Lesley students satisfied internship credits needed for class. Students in the Philippines saw Stegner’s Instagram posts and jumped into the project.
Full Fathom, an Emerson student club, selected the film as one of its projects, provided a $500 budget, and helped promote the film.
Stegner’s brothers, Evan and Ryan, got involved, her father provided sound effects, and her cousin provided foley art.
“I was grateful to work with my brothers and bring them in. We all get along and share the interest in filmmaking and writing,” said Stegner, who also has a blossoming music career.
In turn, Stegner directed a sweet 25-minute film about a girl who decides to run away from home after not wanting to eat her broccoli, and ends up in her backyard. She learns that rabbits can talk, and hangs under the shed with them. A hawk also joins the unexpected crew.
The bunnies, naturally, fear Harvey the hawk at first, but Harvey explains he’s a vegetarian, which caused his family to disown him.
“There are themes of queerness with Harvey getting rejected, and that eating grass is unnatural,” said Stegner, comparing Harvey’s plight to coming out.
The film has already gained critical acclaim winning Best Animation Film in the Mental Health, Bullying and Cyber Safety March edition of the Golden Bee International Children’s Film Festival 2021. Stegner has also received two EVVY nominations for Outstanding Narrative, and Outstanding Writing for Television.
Stegner and her brothers are already working on a sequel.
“In the sequel, Harvey is going to come out as nonbinary. We have a song about that, and we have a passion about LGBTQ [representation] in children’s media,” said Stegner.
Emerson students who worked with Stegner on the film include Taylor Kelly-McMahon, Kendall Deutsch, Erika Martin, Nick Stapp, Hannah Mittermeier, Chloe Nanian, David Sabot, Mila Rolston, Rebekah Czukoski, Max Besser, Miles Benepe, Ricki Kalayci, Selena Latouf, Emmi McIntosh, AZ Nowell, Fiona Torrese,
David Greene, and Claire Rodenbush.