Meet Christopher Cuthrell, the New Producer of QuakerSpeak

Christopher Cuthrell in the historic Race Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo by Gabriel Ehri.

An interview with Christopher Cuthrell is included in the July 2023 podcast

Christopher joined the Friends Publishing team last month, and is taking on the duties of producing the QuakerSpeak video series. A graduate of New York City’s School of Visual Arts with a bachelor’s in fine arts and animation, Christopher is also a product of Quaker primary education and currently lives in New Hope, Pa.

First of all, welcome to Friends Publishing! We’re so glad to have you on the team.

Thank you so much! I’m really excited to be here.

So I know you attended a Friends school for K–8, but don’t identify as Quaker. What attracted you to our work?

When I attended school, our community wasn’t truly “Quaker,” but strongly influenced by it. We attended weekly meeting for worship and were told about the testimony of equality, but never learned what Quakerism was on a deeper level. Prior to being introduced to Friends Publishing and QuakerSpeak, I believed that Quakers were nothing more than deeply devout Christians.

I found Friends Journal by chance while looking to change my life path toward filmmaking. Since I was familiar with Quakerism, or at least what I believed to be Quakerism, I found a point of connection. However, as I began watching QuakerSpeak videos on YouTube, I started to learn that everything I thought I knew about Quakers was wrong. I learned that the community was so much more than I could have ever imagined. I saw a beautiful wealth of experiences, values, kinship, and love shared across a diverse array of beliefs and people. Quakerism became so much more to me, and I’m grateful to be a part of sharing that message.

How did you become interested in animation and making films?

I have always wanted to be a part of the magic I experienced in film and animation growing up. As long as I can remember, I’d tell my mother that was my dream. I began studying film in high school, and was freelancing on the side. I was fortunate enough to be left alone in the school video room one night and found that Adobe Photoshop had an animation window. From that point on there was no going back, and I spent the next seven years learning animation. Though I’m working in film once again, learning the animation medium has informed a lot of my creative thoughts and approach in videography.

Your beautiful animated short film The Boy and the Moon has been shown at a few film festivals, and you’ve also worked on videos that profile creative individuals and feature personal interviews. Can you tell us more about how you approach these various styles? And what are some of your influences?

The feeling behind working in animation compared to films that focus on individuals is very similar. With animation you are observing the world and finding the beauty in it that moves you to put it to paper, or nowadays put it to tablet. When filming people it’s the same: observing the beauty in their words and stories and piecing it together so that beauty is front and center. I am very grateful that the individuals I have interviewed trusted me to put their stories together. My work has been greatly influenced by the films of Studio Ghibli and other anime films like Night on the Galactic Railroad, in addition to the 1993 animated series adapted from Eric Carle’s children’s books. The love for the world that these works express has helped form my own, and I hope to grow in how I express that love through video creation.

What can viewers expect for Season 10 of QuakerSpeak, premiering at the end of this month? And what’s the best way for people to follow along?

Past producers Rebecca Hamilton-Levi and Jon Watts have done incredible work in showing the diverse voices that are present in the Quaker community. For season 10, that is a legacy I plan to continue. QuakerSpeak will return to highlighting individual Quakers, beliefs, and journeys with high-quality, in-person footage and also will continue exploring the unique range of ideologies and approaches to living as a Friend. As well, this season will highlight minority groups within Quakerism and create a safe space to discuss inequalities, injustices, and how spirituality leads us together. Lastly, we’re giving the series intro a fresh, new look that will reflect the voices the project has collected over the years. I hope to continue the wonderful work my predecessors have begun, and lead newcomers, like I was led, to see how captivating Quakerism is.

The best way to follow along with the project is to subscribe to our email newsletter so you’ll never miss a new video.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store. Okay, last question: what are your interests outside of video production and learning more about Quakerism?

As of late I’ve been learning the Unity game engine and the programing language C#. I have never had experience working in 3D environments prior, so it’s been a fun opportunity to experiment in a completely foreign medium. When not feeling like I’m deciphering an alien language, it has been a great way to stretch my comfort zone for creating and channel creativity. Along with learning, I also enjoy reading. Recently I’ve been trying to cross Moby-Dick off of my life-long and always-growing reading list. My favorite novels include Kitchen, No Longer Human, The Good Earth, and Wuthering Heights. Most of all, I love spending time with my family whenever we can. We have three cats and a very feisty hamster that we all love dearly.

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