Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Together | Fragmented

'Together | Fragmented' is my latest short film. It is an animated documentary exploring the changes we are facing amidst the current Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the first complete work I've made this year.

I got the idea for it around March when the virus really started to take effect on our daily lives, with social distancing measures implemented and travel restrictions put in place. As a filmmaker and artist, I felt compelled to respond to what was going on by creating an animation documenting it. This is a life changing historical event and I didn't really know how else to respond than besides creating something to process my feelings.

When I started the project, I didn't know quite how the finished piece might look or the direction it would take, though I did know I wanted to include everything which we do differently now and how different day to day activities look under this new regime. My partner and I shot quite a lot of footage for me to rotoscope, based on some rough ideas I sketched out and wanted to include. Some came quite naturally, such as tape and signs in supermarkets, socially distant queuing and washing hands, though some took a bit more thought. Some didn't make the final cut, even after I had animated it, as they just didn't look right.

Initial ideas

When I had about seventy seconds of animated clips, I decided that that was enough: I felt anymore and it would risk appearing repetitive and I was finding it hard to come up with new ideas for scenes which weren't close to any of the ones I had already done. I wanted to get the film to last ninety seconds, so would need to come up with around twenty more seconds. My initial idea to fill this gap was to include various virus related 'buzz words', such as 'unprecedented', 'lockdown', 'infections' and so on in between each animated clip. I tried this out on a small section and was quite happy with the result, but I felt it was lacking meaning. After a day or two away from the project, I came up with the idea that I could ask friends and family to record their thoughts on the current situation, which I could then add to the film and animate their words in between the rotoscoped sections.

I was surprised that I had the number of responses I did and was really pleased that people were willing to contribute with really thoughtful material (and a banjo)! As animated/ experimental documentary is an avenue I want to continue to explore, this was a perfect way of directing a project under that genre.

Hands is a motif I like to include in my films and there are a fair amount of them in 'Together | Fragmented', though I wanted to make it different to my previous short narrative film 'Nothing New' which is purely just hands! This would allow me to open my mind to other ways of visualising things and allow for a more diverse portfolio/ showreel in terms of what I'm capable of animating. Looking at the end product, I think this was a wise decision.

Through the process of making this film, I have had all the usual doubts in regard to whether it's 'good enough' or if it's too 'naive' or 'obvious', though despite this I am really pleased with it. I think the voices juxtaposed with the visuals give it a lot of depth and I think the style of the animation works well with the subject matter. I think I have inputted a good amount of creative ideas, so it doesn't come across naively, whilst making a piece of work which is current and significant.

I think I could develop this into a longer piece somewhere down the line, as I feel it's a quite effective amalgamation of techniques. This has definitely given me further proof that animation and documentary are a good combination and further contributed to my ambition to create something on a larger scale in a similar fashion.

I know I've already written a fair bit here and I'm sure you're all super keen to watch the film, though I would like to talk a little about stylistic choices and the visual look of it. If you are familiar with my work, then you might have gathered that I enjoy a hand drawn or analogue aesthetic, as opposed to a polished or smooth computerised style. I think this is mainly down to the way I was brought up and my background in fine art. I have always seen film as an extension of that and since moving my practise further towards animation/ experimental film during studying film production at university, it has emphasised this way of using moving image as another artistic medium.

I enjoy experimenting with different techniques, textures and colours and in 'Together | Fragmented' it is no different. If I made the film with my hands, then I want this to come across in the outcome by having each line 'breathing' or 'boiling'. Perhaps this won't work for every film I make, as it might not suit the subject matter, but as this is a very human centred film, I feel it does.

I used a thick outline for the animations, which is aside from a thin one I have used up until this point. I was experimenting with various styles some time ago for another project and tried using a thicker line: I immediately liked the result. I wanted to use it in this project right away! Again, it might not be suitable for every project, but as I wanted this one to be as 'handmade' as possible, I think the choice of line thickness reflects that.

So, where can I watch the film? I hear you ask. Ah yes, just click here!

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