Before you embark and get lost among Roosters Rest Woods, where a lot of photography has been taken such as here, here and here, you first have to climb the picturesque trail that wraps its way up a steep hill. The hill overlooking the neighbouring fields and farms like patchwork not visible in these photos. On the decline, before the tunnel of trees you are greeted with the curious bleating of sheep as they watch in amusement as I jump over fences and gates to disappear amongst the sitka spruces. It was a typical rainy day in Ireland when these photos were taken, not the fun kind of rain that it is a joy to watch where it bounces off everything but the misty kind where it clings to your clothes and saturates everything, and on this day – my camera lens. Although I do like this kind of mist as it adds to the effect of diffusing the scenery, blurring the boundaries of distance and softening the silhouettes of those pesky sheep.
A further collection of images from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. One of the most difficult shots to film was the boat scene, I went through a few different iterations of cutouts with varying levels of successes and failures. I originally tried to use the same cutout of the man from the previous scenes but I wanted this scene to be fairly wide angled to show a lot of the landscape as the man moves towards the lighthouse. I had to make a new cutout of our hero about one thirds the size of the original and get it just right as the weight from the LED light and lantern on the right meant that it was heavier and in previous attempts warped the paper and flopped the boat downwards – making it difficult to move across the screen. A nice surprise that happened with this scene is when the cutout was slightly further away from the stage, the blue LED lights lit below bled onto the boats undercarriage and helped allude to water. Another scene that was difficult was the pinnacle moment when the Hero lights the lighthouse with his lantern… the amount of times I filmed this because the characters arm was ripped off because of the weight of the LED is something I don’t want to mention – it actually was disemboweled a few frames after what is shown, but you would never know that.
The first group of stills from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. Originally the colour of this film was going to be all warming sepia tones coupled with inky blacks, I found this lovely textured brown packing paper thrown amongst the pile of amazon boxes and discarded clothes in the store room of our house, after sticking the packing paper onto the picture frame that would become the stage and lighting it from behind – I soon realised that the paper was too thick and the resulting black silhouettes were not as prominent as I liked, I needed the paper to be thin enough and the light to be strong enough that you could see some elements within the distance of the protagonist, to show more depth but also show that he is moving from a variety of different landscapes. I ended up using white grease paper and as for the colour changes I bought a strip of LED lights for previous long exposure experiments that ended up working well with the grease paper so a lot of the colours chosen for pinnacle parts in the film are meant to bring the viewer deeper into the psyche of the protagonist using colour theory.
Truth be told when I decided I wanted to make a short film for this kick about regarding the strange landscape of Dungeness and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage and garden I was feeling rather blue when the idea came to me. I don’t know why I sometimes torture myself when I feel sad, but the melancholy song that brings tears to my eyes entitled Twice by one Swedish group I admire called Little Dragon was playing in my head on a loop. A lot of the scenes from The Lighthouse Keeper are inspired by the gorgeous music video which can be seen here. The original story for The Lighthouse Keeper was a lot more melancholy, coinciding with how shit I felt, but I couldn’t accomplish it with just two hands and would have needed an assistant to help me with puppeteering the characters. While sitting on the idea for a while I decided to change the story to a more uplifting one so that I could accomplish it, and I think it turned out a better one.
I then abandoned this project for some time. The stage has been looming behind me for far too long as focusing in on perfectionism of the sets, lights, and movements of the characters felt relentless, trying to delve into a different medium one that is hands on and one that I can’t delete away mistakes was at times really testing. I really wanted the film to be as analogue as possible and for everything to be shot in camera, but realising it was an impossible approach and that I would have to rely on trickery done right to look like it was all in camera was the right methodology and ended up as a far more enjoyable experience. I leaned on newer technology as well as predeceasing technology that old films did so well.
A lot of behind the scenes footage has been filmed of what went into the making of this short film but I think I would rather let it be and not ruin the magic by showing how it is done… or showing the many instances where the stage toppled off the table, or when the characters arm flew off, or when my fan for the weather scene took everything along with it. Dismantling the stage, folding the grease paper, popping the many tools and props into jars and putting the little characters to rest in neat folders feels nice but in an odd way as there is something so unique and cherishing about finishing a film that you made with your hands, my bedroom certainly feels a lot roomier now that the stage is no longer.
This weeks kick about over on Red’s Kingdom revolves around the life and times of German animator Lotte Reinager who was the pioneer of shadow puppet animation. The responses from all the creatives offer an eclectic bunch of contributions to feast your eyes on. When doing research for the Howard Sooley – Prospect Cottage prompt I came across the inspiring work of Reinager and since then I have been busy cutting, gluing and making for a shadow puppet animated short entitled The Lighthouse Keeper which centres around the peculiar landscape of Dungeness and a couple of burley blokes. Creating something for the sake of creating and figuring out the hurdles and bumps is what proves most enjoyable about delving into a fresh medium that I have yet to attempt. The stage is now set, the characters are ready to move, the lights are on and with it the sheer joy of seeing the cutout shapes and silhouettes lit up ablaze brings a smile to my face that makes the absolute bomb site of my shrinking bedroom all worth it.
I am sharing the majority of the cut out shapes, the stage and silhouettes that will feature in the film as well as some lighting and staging tests that feature the main protagonist. I will be showcasing all the nitty and gritty process here, things that worked, things that didn’t and how I plan on animating elements that would require more than just my two hands.
This weeks kick about over on Reds Kingdom revolves around Fundus Photography. When looking up images of fundus photography I was reminded of Olafur Eliasson and his otherworldly The Weather Project, but also the people that got to experience such an event. With all this in mind I have been yearning to do some digital painting as it has felt like yonks ago since I have held my wacom pen and got lost in some jazz music while painting away. I envisioned a blazing sun from a planet where the sun fills the air in a misty orange hue – a sprawling metropolis materialised with vivacious characters and stories between them, feeling so close but far away. It was a thoroughly enjoyable prompt to flex those digital painting muscles again.
When viewing Howard Sooley’s Prospect Cottage for the most recent Kick About I was instantly drawn to the opening images of the lighthouse and the water, the way those clips moved – like old pixelation animation. I wanted to create a moving story revolving around the landscape of Dungeness and all its quirky unique characteristics, I also just really wanted to make something with my hands. I have fashioned a shadow puppet theatre out of old cardboard, a large picture less frame and some grease proof paper so that I can bring to life cuttings of the characters and all the little things that make Dungeness so intriguing. While I don’t have the film to show just yet, I do have the storyboard.