The main focus of my grad film is experimentation. With the amazing pool of resources and talented advisors I have in my midst I wanted to use this opportunity to try something that I’d never tried before. It’s crazy, I know. Will it work? I have no idea. But I’m gonna give it a shot.
My whole life I’ve wanted to become an animator. I actually have drawings of myself from kindergarten explaining that when I grew up, I either wanted to be a clown, or work for Disney. I’m completely confident in my traditional animation abilities. Even though I know that I am far from a master with the pencil and paper, I feel that that is where I excel the most. Which is why I decided to divert from that format for my final film at Emily Carr. I have my whole life ahead of me where I will be (hopefully) working as an illustrator and animator for various studios and on personal projects. I feel as though I have not yet given myself enough of a chance to branch out in my animation techniques. For this film, I’ve decided to combine the techniques of live action film and stop motion animation. The ending result will be two characters represented by printed out film stills of live action actors incorporated in a real miniature set created from mainly cardboard and paper. Complicated. Yes.
Two years ago, I first saw the short Fast Film by Virgil Widrich. Widrich is an artist and animator from Austria who began his career in film at the young age of 13, when his parents gave him a super 8 camera. For his short, Fast Film, Widrich selected scenes from 300 golden era films, printed them out, and manipulated them to create an entirely new film. Not only did he play with the physical manufacturing of these printed film stills, but he also created his own cast of characters by stringing together scenes featuring classic heroes, heroines and villains, to create a hero, heroine and villain reflective of these inspirations. For example, the hero in Fast Film might at any time be represented by Indiana Jones or Rick Blaine, but still be the same character. Widrich goes further with his interpretation of characters in his earlier short, Copy Shop, in which a man continues to make copies of his self and follow his own life around. Widrich’s use of paper in this short was a great initial inspiration for my project. Other sources of inspiration I have found for the particular style I am working in are the short Sniffing Bear by Co Hoedeman and Train of Thought, a graduation film by Leo Bridle and Ben Thomas that has a more than helpful making-of video available on their website.
A final major source of inspiration has come as of late, and that is the representation of the character M. Hulot, by his creator Jacques Tati. Mr. Hulot is a character that repeatedly shows up in French Filmmaker Tati’s works and it is Tati who always portrays him. He is a mime like individual with a child’s curiosity and a sort of emotional separation from the rest of the world. As I am working with live action actors, I find that using scenes of actors with little to no dialogue translate well into the realm of the animated character as much of the “acting” relies on body language. This is essential for the characters in my film. In fact, the last place that the mannerisms of the late Jacques Tati can be seen in Sylvain Chomet’s animated film L’Illusioniste, which Tati himself wrote and consequently starred in as an animated version of himself. As well as an inspiration for character, Jacques Tati’s approach to filmmaking reflects my approach to my grad film. “To create a universe cinematographically you must not only create your own “fauna,” but also the planet where that fauna will grow. You must be able to regulate the amount of oxygen in the air and the cycle of the ocean tides” (Chion). This was Tati’s approach to his work, and what I believe should be the level of control an independent animator should apply to their films.
When I first started out, I knew that I wanted to work with two things: Paper cutouts of film sills and the concept of relationships. My first script involved two lovers whose relationship was represented through the paper they were made out of. When they were together, they were one piece of paper. When they fought and broke up, the paper spilt in two. This first draft of the story I considered to be a mostly dramatic piece and was based off of a real experience, but didn’t really seem to fit well into my style of working. After some peer critiques and self-reflection, I realized that the storyline was flat and predictable, and I was basing the success of my film on the method of animation that I was using. I was determined throughout the summer and well into my fall term that I would not change my story, however, I realized that this stubbornness, although it came out of the intention of being productive, was only hurting my project. When talking about the process of making the groundbreaking film Toy Story, John Lasseter mentions “You cannot base a whole movie on just the imagery alone. It has to be the story and thShoe characters” (Lyons). I had to change the story to something that worked better, and was more relatable. The revised version of my story focuses on the situational problems of two roommates who differ in personalities but need to share the same living space. The close quarters they are limited to cause tension in their relationship. I’ve lived in many different houses in Vancouver with many different roommates and know all too well the kinds of arguments one can have with a person you need to share space with.
My film is not striving to be brilliant, if I reach that end I will be more than happy but the truth is that I am creating this film to test my own creative abilities. I intend to enter my finished film in festivals internationally and afterwards hopefully create an identity for my work and myself online when I release a web edition. I’d like to use this film as a stepping-stone to my career as an independent animator.
Chion, Michel. “The Films of Jacques Tati.” Cahiers du Cinema. 5. (1987): Print.
Lyons, Mike. “Toon Story: John Lasseter’s animated life.” Animation World Magazine Nov 1988: n. pag. Web.