Friday, May 15, 2009
One Good Yank -- new clip posted (now with titles added)
This is my entry to the May challenge at StopMotionMagic (the successor to StopMoShorts). The only criteria Marc and John specified was "puppet struggles". I like it... nice and open-ended -- not too specific. Well, I was already doing exercises with Skulkin, and was preparing to try some mime stuff, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Incidentally, the contest is running till May 30th at midnight, so there's still time to get an entry in. You can use existing puppets and sets, bare armatures, anything you want. You can even enter films you've already finished. They're pretty easy over there.
This shot took me (believe it or not) 3 nights to complete... but I only worked on it for about an hour or so each night. You can easily see where I cut off between sessions by the way the background light creeps down the wall suddenly. That's the Solux Framing Art light of course.... a very frustrating little device that rather tantalizingly features a nifty little adjustable set of shutters to shape the beam easily - otherwise it would be no problem to just put it away and not use it. It didn't occur to me until I was almost finished, but I should have folded a piece of paper a few times and jammed it into the swivel joint to tighten it.
My secret weapon is Claude Kipnis' The Mime Book, which I highly recommend to all animators. Who better than mimes to teach us about movement and how to express using only the body? The main thing I concentrated on for this exercise was flexibility of the spine and beginning his movements from the torso. Kipnis says a movement that is originated from an emotion in the character will begin from the center of his torso and undulate out to the extremities. So I did this for all of Skulky's movements, ignoring it only when he's yanked off his feet by his invisible adversary, when the movement begins from the extremities (hands) and everything else follows rather reluctantly.
I was also very conscious of something from Lecoq's Le Corps Poetique (The Moving Body); "Action has no drama in it... all the drama is in the reaction". It seems to be true.... things get a lot more interesting when he starts to interact with the invisible rope and whatever is at the other end of it! It implies things you can't see... makes you wonder (mystery). And it's also conflict.
This being a single continuous shot, it's the smallest cell of drama that exists... a single cell that can accrete with others to form organs (scenes) and finally a complete organism. But a cell like this one is nearly complete in itself... it contains a complete microdrama with beginning, middle and end, so in that sense it's actually a single-celled organism... I'm trying very hard to resist the temptation to dub it a Dramamoeba. Ok, no, as well as the term fits, it just sounds stupid!!
In retrospect I wish he had found the rope lying on the floor... tripped on it and then felt it and picked it up. That would make a lot more sense than just grabbing it out of the air as if he knew it was there. I also wanted to put some more 'business' in... he could have shifted his grip on the rope, hefted it over his shoulder and turned around to pull it harder, et... but it was getting really annoying because I was whipping his torso around so much and every frame I had to go in and try to put his hands back precisely where they were before.
A couple more reasons that I feel this line of approach (mime, Lecoq etc) is perfect for me.... Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin studied mime (or if they never formally studied it, they were certainly two of its foremost practitioners!). Lecoq has his students begin their training with the Awakening exercise... pretending to come to life for the first time in this world and begin to explore it in silence. This not only reminds me of Quest, but also of just about every Harryhausen creature ever put on film!!! And in my reading on Mime, I keep running across references to the idea of the Primal -- the characters and worlds conjured by the actors should seem fresh and new, as if only just created... as if we're witnessing the birth of the world and of the creatures in it. This is very similar to my last point -- but it's important to me because it articulates something I've tried to say in the past about the films I want to make... I want to conjure this primal world.... I want the films to take place in primordial settings... no social situations, no commercial products or prefab architecture... I'm talking ancient ruins, the forest primeval, dank caverns and dark, rotting ships! (And incidentally, this also reminds me of Harryhausen.)