I always find the last day of filming bitter sweet. For the past 260 days animating has been my driving focus so it’s always a bit of a shock when that’s no longer the case. The next few months will be spent working on the music and sound effects with an eye toward finishing the film by July 1. Beyond that… there’s always a blank computer screen waiting for a fresh idea, a lump of clay in need of shaping and a tabletop in search of a new world.


On a purely technical level, the way I shoot films has dramatically evolved over the past 10 years ago. On BROKEN (2014), what you saw through the lens was what you got. Today, every shot has some kind of digital enhancement. This image sequence is a typical example of how I arrive at a final composition. What’s most surprising is how organically the process evolved over time. It hasn’t made life any easier, quite the opposite actually but I can’t deny the results are worth the effort.


I started work on this set 3 weeks ago and while it’s not particularly large, it did require a healthy amount of detail work. The lighting was also a challenge seeing as I needed to have a visible ceiling . I ended up incorporating practical sources as part of the set. Those lights create lovely shadows and patterns throughout the room but it also meant coming up with a way to have floating walls while also keeping the ceiling intact. It took some time to set up but the whole thing has come together quite nicely and I am back animating.


I tend to go radio silent once I start animating. When you’re building things there’s always something new to show but once you start animating the days are pretty much all the same. There may be some interesting moments along the way but they are quickly forgotten as each new set up is readied. Over the past 5 months I’ve watched my pristine kitchen set slowly deteriorate as my characters waged war. I confess, staging an action scene in such a confined space has been a challenge. I finally completed the last of 152 shots this week and am ready to move on to the basement set where all this chaos will come to an end. It’s quite remarkable, watching the hundreds of disparate pieces come together into a finished film.


Nothing looks more like water than … water … but it’s a pain to animate. I needed a shot of water running from a tap into the basin of a sink and while I was able to create the wider shots using a number of different techniques, the close up was another matter. Never a fan of cling wrap I came up with this set up. I poured water through a custom funnel into my oversized miniature basin and set Dragonframe to time-lapse; 1 frame every 5 seconds. Then for 10 minutes I kept the water level in my funnel consistent until I had the 4 seconds I needed. On play back it still has that stop motion feel which was absolutely necessary. I then brought the shot into AfterEffects and double exposed it; that is to say I put one clip on top of the other, slide the top layer out of sync by 1 frame and set it at 50% opacity. This helped smooth out the jitter. And that’s how I got my shot.


I’ve hit the 3 minute mark on DRAIN after two and a half months of animating. As can be seen from the pictures I’ve completed the main kitchen set and have been plugging away at the 130+ shots that take place there in. I usually leave the close up inserts for just before I strike a set but because the lighting changes several times I’ve been dropping those shots in as I go to maintain continuity. It’s led to some stops and starts but things have been progressing quite nicely.


I only just realized that I built, shot and struck the bedroom set without taking a single production still.  The first couple of minutes of DRAIN (which are now complete) take place in 5 different locations. The scenes are very short but they set up the 2 major set pieces which is where I find myself. It’ll likely take me a week or two to finish building the main kitchen. By contrast the animation that follows will take months.


After 14 months of prep I’m finally animating. I was all set to talk about the significance of the first day and blah blah blah … until I saw this picture. Animating is a slow process but it’s always been a blur to me. I often can’t account for the hours between the first and last frames of a shot. Over the course of animating a film I might have a dozen clear memories, usually of those killer shots but also those amazing moments when every frame is just right and you wonder why they can’t all be like that. After just 3 shots, I have a good feeling about this film.


After just 5 foam runs all the puppets for DRAIN have their final skins. It’ll take a week or so to clean them up and ready them for paint but the heavy lifting is out of the way. You may have noticed the dark spot below the nose and lower lip on the one puppet. I used brass in the skeleton in those areas. Ammonia and brass don’t play well together and even though I covered the skeleton, clearly the two substances made contact causing the brass to oxidize. A coat of prosaide will help seal it and keep the stain from bleeding through the paint but it’s one of those little things that can make you crazy.