Inspired when Minneapolis filmmaker Angella Kassube turned one of his own poems into an animated short film, Todd co-founded Motionpoems with her in 2008.
Fifteen years later, the world's leading poetry film company boasts, 150 films in its archive, a touring retrospective, $175,000 in payments to artists, a European unit, Pulitzer-winning poets and Super Bowl ad producers among its talents, and robust education and public art programs.
Motionpoems films receive 200,000 views per month. More impressively, the credits on many individual films run 50 talents deep, which prices them at over $1M in value—nearly all of it volunteer. Motionpoems has thousands of followers on Vimeo and YouTube channels.
At its heart, Todd's Motionpoems brand is about making poetry more accessible to readers, and creating collaborative opportunities for poets and filmmakers alike. With the addition of its public art program, the organization's mission evolved to "champion multimedia collaborations that result in new forms and new conversations."
Clients and partners have included The Poetry Foundation, Graywolf Press, Best American Poetry, Copper Canyon Press, and the University of Southern California Film School. Venues have included the Walker Art Center, Aesthetica Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Hammer Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Dalí Museum, Cannes Lions Film Festival, and many other festivals and theaters around the world. Laurels and awards are numerous, including Best New Director at Cannes Lions, Best Debut Short at the Galway Film Fleadh and many shortlists, plus a citation from The National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Award. These films have also featured in numerous publications such as AfroPunk, Boooooom, Director’s Notes, NOWNESS, Shoot Online, and Shots.
Visit additional entries on this site to learn about other Motionpoems projects:
- Art + Medicine film series for the Center for the Art of Medicine
- Hothouse Filmmaking Festival
- Arrivals and Departures at St. Paul's Union Depot,
- MōMōVA: The Moving Museum of Virtual Art, and
- Motionpoems for Young People.
During Motionpoems's 10 years as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Todd served as Founding Executive and Artistic Director, managing annual budgets of up to a quarter of a million dollars, before Motionpoems was officially dissolved by its board of directors in 2020. Poetry filmmaking, however, continues to be part of Todd's creative practice. Most recently, he produces poetry films for The University of Minnesota Medical School's Center for the Art of Medicine and its two-time regional Emmy-winning American Public Television program "Art + Medicine," and other clients.
It is often the case that visionary ideas become essential to a culture
after first having been considered merely amusing.
— Daniel Slager
Publisher and CEO of Milkweed Editions
The global center of filmmaking is Hollywood,
but the global center of poetry filmmaking is Minneapolis.
— Thomas Zandegiacamo Del Bel
Director, Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Berlin
Todd committed entire production seasons exclusively to female voices and artists of color. Each of Motionpoems's six guest season producers has been a woman, each passing the baton to another.
A package of curriculum materials is available free for teacher use here.
To schedule a screening, commission a film, volunteer, or support Motionpoems, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
My time at The Playwrights' Center introduced me to the thrill of cross-disciplinary collaboration, a thrill poets rarely experience. Motionpoems has revealed a great thirst for poetry among the world's filmmaking and animation community, and I love nothing more than when when these hybrid works of art come over the transom—complete, a vision fulfilled—and I get to share them with the poets who inspired them. I'm grateful to my co-producers, staff, board, and the many who've supported this initiative along the way.
For their extraordinary work as season and special project co-producers, Todd is especially grateful to Angella Kassube, Jennifer David, Amanda Miller, Carolyn Casey, Claire McGirr, Cori Cooperider, Roxanne Artesona, Lisa Effress, Helmie Stil, E. G. Bailey, Jeff Stevens, James Lindeman, John Hermanson, and Eric Fawcett.