Cordell Barker

How I Spent My Summer… Working

FilmsThe Craft

I always seem to be working long hours during the summer months while everyone else seems to be living a life and embracing the heat. At least, that’s how I read it. It must be an immutable law of self-employment.

This summer, I’m working on animation as usual, but this time on a very different form. For one thing, instead of being stuck in my studio, I can do most of it outside on my fantastic porch.

My porch is serving as the prop construction site for my latest film: If I Was god. And since this film is coming to life in the strange new world of stop-motion animation (strange and new for me), the whole spring and summer of 2013 is filled with designing and making things like papier-mâché planet spinning devices, mechanical flip-books, and brain-undulating levers and gears. I’m just making the props that I will be personally animating. Most of the film uses the props created by Deborah Sullivan and Samantha Scafidi, and animated by Sylvie Trouvé and Dale Hayward. But I’m creating the props for the sections I’ll be animating myself. It’s quite the eye-opening experience.

This is the kind of thing I absolutely love doing, but I’ve discovered something. It’s not nearly as much fun when you know there’s a deadline and it’s self-deemed as very important stuff that others will judge. Still, it’s an awfully nice change to work with my hands in a 3-dimensional sense again (about 17 years ago I made a back-scratching device out of bike chain, sprockets, cams, levers and, of course…dinner forks!!!).

There’s something very satisfying about creating a mechanical device that ends up working just as you designed it. Well, not exactly as designed, but that’s what’s so great about the process – all the fiddling and adjusting on the fly (figuratively and literally, since I’m also making an articulated fly).

Personally, I think I’m better at this kind of thing than I am at 2D animation. Or maybe it’s just that I enjoy the process more. It appeals to the gear-head inside of me. Anyway, it’s fun, so I hope it all proves worth-while and looks good when finally incorporated within my over-all film.

But then again, I’m not so sure I even want my sections of animation to look good. My sections of the film are supposed to look naive compared to, and to be differentiated from, the professional looking animation of my stop-mo crew – Dale and Sylvie. In a way, I get to hold myself to a lower standard than I hold others.

But summer is almost over and I still have a frightening pile of constructing to do. The toughest being the articulated creature, the SPR. I’m not even going to explain what that is – but it’s a beast of a mini-construction chore. The image of the SPR armature (an articulated construction skeleton at this point) I’m building hints at the oddity of my summer.

I’ll probably never have another one quite like it.