At ANIMARKT, story is still the most important thing
by Marta Bałaga
- During this year's edition of the Polish stop-motion forum, experts shared advice on how to make films, also stressing that while everyone thinks they don't need a producer, darling, you do
During the online discussion “Short or Feature – How to Produce?” at the ANIMARKT Stop-Motion Forum (6-10 October), Melanie Coomb, the award-winning producer behind the Oscar-winning Harvie Krumpet and Mary and Max, and currently the production supervisor on Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Pinocchio; Eva Kameníková, who produced the largest Czech stop-motion feature film, Even Mice Belong in Heaven (see the news); and Angela Poschet, production supervisor on Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs [+see also:
film profile], for example, gathered to talk about how to make a stop-motion animation. And survive.
While it's useful to start with short films before moving to features, also to get experience, as pointed out by Coomb, making a feature film, especially in stop motion, is “such a different beast”. “When I watch short films, I feel like they are a totally different genre. But in terms of making them, proper funding for shorts is almost non-existent. The whole world has changed because of the streamers and coronavirus, and I don't think it bodes well for independent voices,” she stressed. However, as noted by Kameníková, starting with a short may be the only way to garner some attention sometimes. “The situation in the Czech Republic is complicated: when you finish school, nobody believes in you. It's just easier to make something short first.”
The experts, also sharing their (very) personal stories and wearing 3D glasses sometimes, urged aspiring filmmakers to “embrace the limitations”, instead of starting their shorts with no limitations in mind. “The perfect short film is under seven minutes long,” said Coomb, as such titles are simply easier to programme at festivals. “If you want to get attention in the world, don't make it any longer. Make a short short film. Make it short, beautiful and not self-indulgent.” Sometimes it might also be useful to learn how to work “inside of the machine” during bigger productions. “It's a challenge, but it also tells you whether you are cut out for it.”
When asked if they always need to support the director's vision, regardless of what they think, the answer was clear: “You can't say to the director: ‘You can't make a change to your vision. And you should get rid of that puppet!’” joked Angela Poschet, also describing the many struggles surrounding every new production. “You always start from scratch, unless you are Aardman or Laika. We are shooting right now in Manchester because there was already a studio,” she said. You also need to have a producer attached in order to approach the streamers about a new project, especially in the United States. Or alternatively, some well-known names, with the series Love Death + Robots being an example, benefiting from counting David Fincher as one of the producers.
“Don't approach these people on your own, because you might say something wrong and they will remember you. Everyone thinks they don't need a producer, but trust me, darling, you do,” said Coomb. “The first ten years of my career, I fought for [director Adam Elliot's] vision with every fibre of my body. I pushed the camels through the eye of the needle at least four times, I cried, I fought, I got drunk. I willed these films into being.”
Voicing the desire to see a cheerful stop-motion feature for a change (“There is no good reason for stop-motion to be gloomy!” said Coomb), they also added that the story is still the most important thing, and should always be connected to the budget. But despite their many successes, they were honest with their online audience – there are no financial profits from shorts, unless they get an award or are sold to an important platform. “Of course we are optimistic,” summed up Coomb. “But it's important to know how difficult it is.”
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