The film $9.99 is a thoughtful exploration of the weighty concepts behind the meaning of life. Based on the short stories by Israeli writer Etgar Keret, the drama unfolds in the microcosm of an apartment complex in Sydney, Australia.

The narrative is brought to life through the use of stop motion animation, a painstaking animation technique where animators make inanimate objects come to life by physically manipulating every individual frame of film. One minute of stop motion can take days, sometimes weeks, to finish.

Finishing a film of this nature is a daunting task, and patience is definitely a virtue. As it is in traditional animation, the animating and the vocal work are completed separately and married towards the end of production. Vocal work in $9.99 took only three weeks to complete. The animation took 10 months.

$9.99 made quite a splash in the animation community last year when it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Annie Awards, which are presented by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood.

Director Tatia Rosenthal was a student at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University when she found her enthusiasm for the art of stop motion.

“Very early on I took a class that surveyed stop motion techniques, and it was just great fun,” she says. “I really like the aesthetic.”

Today, the most recognizable stop motion films are exercises in fantasy, The Nightmare Before Christmas being one of the most popular examples. $9.99 really sets itself apart from its contemporaries by playing out as a decidedly adult drama, a brave choice in a field dominated by lighter fair.

Of course, quality projects attract quality actors.

“Nerve-wracking, until he said no,” Rosenthal laughs, when asked what it was like approaching Geoffrey Rush with a project like $9.99. “But Rush liked the script and was willing to give us his time. It really just changed the trajectory of the project, having him onboard. It immediately places you on the map as a real project.”

What was the most challenging aspect of making $9.99 for Rosenthal?

“The biggest challenge, on a practical level, was to get people to believe in it and finance it,” she pauses, adding, “It was a very ambitious project, emotionally, as far as how do these emotions get conveyed with puppets. And some people wanted to know why we should do them with puppets. So, the practical aspect of getting people to invest and then to prove to those who thought it wasn’t worth doing – prove them wrong – that was the biggest challenge.”

So, if rallying support was Rosenthal’s biggest challenge, then what was the most satisfying aspect of $9.99 once it was finished?

“There was a real concern of why should this be done, and I think that the biggest satisfaction was to see that people respond to it the way that I had hoped,” she says. “To see that those emotions do come through, that the world was created, that it has a tone, that the drama works.”

Like any good artist, Rosenthal is proud of her work, though she isn’t beyond criticizing herself.

“I wouldn’t say that there aren’t things I would have polished more, or if I had more time or more money that there wouldn’t have been a different looking puppet or different shot. There’s always what you would have done differently,” she concedes, and then proudly adds, “Overall, I really recognized it as what I set out to do.”

$9.99 releases in select theaters June 19.