In this third installment of our interviews with 4mations Digital Shorts directors, we caught up with dynamic duo Steve Boot and Phil Gray, whose film about extreme pigeon racing is currently in production with North West Vision and Media and production company Zimzam. We discussed undead pigeons, stop-motion trickery, and voodoo. So a typical Monday morning at 4mations, then.
You’re working on a film called “Slow Joe”. What’s it about?
It’s modern day fairy tale. It’s about a man pushed beyond his means whilst trying live up to his ancestral heritage. Its comedy and tragedy in equal parts. It’s the story that Shakespeare never wrote, but wished he had!!
Oh, and it’s got a zombie pigeon in it.
Zombie pigeons. Is this one of those ideas that started out on a napkin in a pub?
It came from Phil’s head, which is kind of a cosmic beer mat. We’ve had the idea since our first job working for a small studio in Bristol about 12 years ago, it was going to be our big break into show business, it’s great to finally get the chance to realise it.
Is this your first project together? Who does what?
We have worked together before; we’ve known each since school and found a shared interest in “B movies” and animation.
We have a special way of working together similar to an episode of “Ren and Stimpy” where Stimpy discovers he has a talent so he starts to make an animated film. Then Ren wants to join in, but he has no talent so they make him the producer and he starts to take away Stimpy’s pencils. Well I see myself as Ren to Phil’s Stimpy, Phil writes the scripts then I cross out a few words, then put them back a few weeks later and claim them as my own.
But then of course, we’re not drawing we’re using stopmotion and I’m the one who is going to lock myself in a dark airless room for several weeks and “waggle a doll”.
Any tips on making stop motion animals fly?
“Fix it in post”!! When stop motion characters leave the ground it looks great, it really adds another dimension to things but you have to know what you can do in the edit first. We’re lucky to be using a post production team who are used to cleaning up animation so we can use an armatured rig, but you have to be careful not cross it in front of anything that’s moving or use you have to “ghost” plate each frame (remove the rig and take another frame), otherwise we can just take 1 clean plate at the end of the shot (take out all moving objects and take a few frames).
And since Phil’s now a computer wizard we’ll also be using CG for some shots.
If you don’t have these luxuries, then I’m afraid it’s fishing hanging it from fishing wire and swearing at it while it spins round in circles and rocks from side to side.
I like the voodoo doll in the stills you’ve sent us. Are they good for dealing with tricky commissioning editors?
Unfortunately they seem to wield a more powerful magic and our voodoo has had little effect on them. However we have found that our own special brand of “bad grammar” and “experimenting with changing script structure and plot lines” we can cause them headaches and induce a slight nausea.