Home / Features / Arts & Entertainment / Drawing On Experience
Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

Drawing On Experience


Al Bohl working with silhouettes.

Artist Al Bohl moves into filmmaking

For many, retirement means doing nothing at a minimum and taking it easy at a maximum.

Not for Al Bohl. “The first thing I did when I retired was write and illustrate three books,” Bohl says.

Bohl has had what he calls “a varied career.” During Covid in 2020, after teaching animation in Bossier Parish Schools for nine years, the 70-year-old decided to be his own boss.

“When you’ve invested 50 years in educating yourself and endeavoring to perfect your skill, how do you sit down? How do you quit?”

Bohl’s skill is creating art. He’s done it as an artist, musician, songwriter and filmmaker. His latest is a six-minute film, “The Esteemed Priority.” It’s a stop-motion film using silhouette paper-cut puppets.

“This story is one I’ve always wanted to tell. … The basics of the story is like what Burt Bacharach said: ‘What the world needs now is love, sweet love.’ Love is the only antidote for what’s wrong with the world today. We have so much hate, so much prejudice, so much racism. … The only answer for conditional hate is unconditional love.”

Except for the music, Bohl spent a year and a half working on every aspect of the film.

Al Bohl has created “The Esteemed Priority,” a stop-motion film.

“I executive produced it from cradle to grave. I came up with the concept, I put my own money into it, my own time, my own hours. I shot and reshot scenes. If I didn’t like the way a scene played, I reshot it. This is 10,000 frames at least that I shot for this film.”

It’s not like Bohl, who was born in Minden and has lived in Bossier City since 1960, didn’t know what he was doing. He has illustrated over 50 books and so many magazine covers he’s lost count. Remember McGruff, the Crime Dog? Bohl illustrated the Dog’s comic books.

“I had always done cartooning. I figured that was the pinnacle of everything. But when I went to study art (at LSUS), I put cartooning aside and endeavored to learn everything I could about classical drawing. I came out of it better equipped to be a cartoonist.”

But it was a failed effort when Bohl was 18, which led to the McGruff project and a highly successful career.

“I had always enjoyed drawing, but one night, I got a call from a guy who said there was a puppet company in town, and they wanted to meet with me. They said, ‘We understand you like to draw. We have these puppets, and we would like someone to do a comic book about (them).’ They gave me a script and (a drawing of) what the puppets looked like. I got home and tried for days and days and days. Finally, I just had to give up. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. But that really set a hook in my jaw to find out. That is one thing that started me on my journey of going to school studying art and going to any kind of conference I could go to or taking on jobs. Investigating how to do it.”

Bohl ended up writing a book called “Guide to Cartooning.”

“It taught every discipline of cartooning – comic books, comic strips, animation, you name it, it’s in that book. It’s an entire course.”

Early in Bohl’s life, there were signs he was destined to be an artist.

Maybe too early. “The first nightmare I ever had was my parents standing over me. They gave me a rag and they were saying, ‘Wipe it off the walls!’ I had drawn on the wall. I guess I had gotten in trouble for frescoes, even when I was 4 years old.”

A little later, there was another defining moment.

“My first recollection of drawing and getting praised for it was in second grade when we were asked to illustrate the poem ‘Trees.’ ‘I think I should never see a poem as loved as a tree.’ I got positive feedback, and after that, I was hooked.”

Voice recordings bring the project to life.

The six-minute film utilizes puppets.

The multi-plane apparatus creates the illusion of depth.

Characters and scenes come to life through animation.

Bohl has entered “The Esteemed Priority” in six film festivals. He says he’s completed 100% of his passes.

“Generally, you get 10 rejections to two acceptances. So far, I’m six for six.”

At the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France, “The Esteemed Priority” was nominated for Best Senior Film.

In making “The Esteemed Priority,” Bohl wants to be an example to his fellow retirees. Just because you leave the office doesn’t mean you stop being productive.

“It seems as if most of the friends I have, they’re just looking for something easy. In other words, ‘I’ve done it. Now it’s time for me to sit back and let everybody else do it.’ I feel as a creative person that I can’t do that. My mind won’t shut off. As long as I’m physically able, I want to do something. It’s not that I want to challenge anyone, but I would love to try and inspire other people to look around and say, ‘What can I do? Surely there has to be something I can do.’”

To learn more about Al Bohl and his projects, visit www.albohl.com.


The Forum News