I’m well into the beginning pre-production of my new film, tentatively titled If I was god… and decided that it might be nice to publicly note the various stages of the inevitable self-doubt I experience as I carve my way towards the end. It might be interesting (if just for me) to diarize my evolving thought processes as I arc from indecision, through the difficult “how to kill your babies” stage, and finally the “Oh crap, I think it’s finished” stage. As my last 3 films have taught me, it should prove to be a chronicle of pain.
This new film is about me – remembering back as a 12 year old boy in grade seven, dissecting a frog, applying electric probes (to trigger the classic frog-leg twitch), and speculating on having the powers of god. I can’t imagine a more significant and daunting time as grade 7. You’re fresh out of the coddling embrace of elementary school and into the each-kid-for-himself institutional scale of junior high. You can almost smell the power of approaching adulthood, but for now, you’re right back at the bottom rung of the social hierarchy.
I want to experiment with various animation techniques in this project – to free me from the endless process of slaving to one particular style, and especially from the mountain of drawing (drawing is not my strength). An added side benefit is that it would force me to work with others, since I don’t have experience in some areas of animation, and so share work-load, ideas and… pain.
So, I cleverly devised an idea that justified the use of different animation techniques, but that wouldn’t seem like a stew of styles just for the sake of creating an eye-candy mash-up (like a TV commercial). The story I’ve come up with will use stop-motion puppets at its core, but with forays into other animation styles – 2 forms of 2D drawn animation, and 2 other forms of stop-motion.
Each episode is triggered by becoming lost in reverie as I contemplate the various textures and detritus of a typical grade 7 classroom (science posters, dioramas, papier-mâché volcanoes, etc). I contemplated a CGI animation component, but eventually abandoned the idea as I want a very organic hand-made feel to the film. There’s no shortage of CGI films out there and it’s very tough to have your fingerprint noticed under that homogenizing veil of pixels.
Anyway, my clever plan back-fired slightly and has resulted in a project that’s become quite complicated (mind you, Runaway was sure no walk in the park). Still, I’m looking forward to the process as it certainly won’t be boring. Layered on top of all this technical goodness, is the fact that this film will be shot in stereoscope. I can’t wait to see how the classroom scenes look with that subtle sense of depth and surreality.
If I was god… will be similar in tone to my other 3 films. I love a film that’s ostensibly for kids but has a darker under-tone that might also appeal to adults. In fact, I really just make the films for my own tastes. I thought I had steered away from that recipe in Runaway, but it became clear to me at some screenings for kids, that they actually like that film – maybe even more than The Cat Came Back (based on the reactions of the 250 kids present). I suppose no-one can ever really escape their own sensibilities.
I promised myself (and the NFB) that I would create a film with a much shorter production schedule than my previous films (my average is a disturbing and embarrassing 8 1/2 years per film). I’m aiming for a 2 1/2 year schedule on this one and I’m already, shockingly, a year into the project. And it’s now almost exactly 3 years to the day since I finished my previous film Runaway. So a year and a half from now, I’m hoping this blog is: complete, therapeutic and totally pain-free.
PS. I really do love making these things – my self-induced torture just makes me appreciate it all that much more when It’s all done.
Next Instalment: Thoughts on the process, decisions I’ve made and possibly decisions I’m worried about making.