Kickin’ it with Emma McCann – Settling

by Antonio Garcia

We here at 4cr love stop-motion films, so we got in touch with Emma McCann to talk about her latest project: Settling.

4cr: Welcome to Kickin’ it with. To get things started, could you give us a little background information about yourself?

I’m from Scotland, not too far from Glasgow. I got into animation quite late. I was working as a Flash developer in Glasgow when I did a test to design character colour on a 2d animated feature film ‘The Illusionist’ in Edinburgh.

Working on that film introduced me to professional animation. There were so many brilliant artists working on it and they were all a big inspiration to me. The film was being animated on paper, the old-fashioned way. When I finished in 2009, I wanted to learn more about animating and so I signed up to do a stop motion summer course in Bristol, which covered puppet-making and animation.

After the course, I found it difficult to find animation work in the UK. I spend a frustrating few months emailing studios and sending out DVDs. I didn’t hear back from most of them and this difficulty in finding work gave me another reason to make a short film: I thought it would help me find a job.

4cr: Your Kickstarter goal is to secure funds to hire someone to work on the sound effects, ambient sounds and final mix for your short film for Settling. What can you tell us about Settling?

Settling started in 2010 when, after I did my little animation course, I wanted to try to make a film. I tried out some little animation tests in my house (they were mostly rubbish) and tried to think of ideas. I remember that that winter, at the start of 2010, was particularly bad in Glasgow. You couldn’t walk outside without slipping, trains and traffic were stopped and there were accidents. It was horrible, but it gave me an idea that the snow could be an evil presence in a story.

In the summer I got a job designing character colour on a 2D French film project, ‘Zarafa’. Before I started working, I finished the basic storyline for ‘Settling’ and made the puppet. I continued to adapt the story during the following year, making props and sets at the weekends. I started animating in 2011 and continued around other work until I finished (the picture) last year.

I faced various problems during the animation. I didn’t have a lot of space and my room was full of sets and materials. I animated on green screen a few times, replacing the background with a painting afterwards in compositing. My puppet’s arms broke a few times, so I had to stop animating and fix him. He couldn’t raise his hands above his head, which made animating the scenes where he removes his hat a bit difficult. His hands and head fell off a lot, sometimes in the middle of scenes. I had to redo a lot!

Settling 1

4cr: Is the film almost finished or is there some final editing/re-mastering still pending?

The film is basically finished, but recently I’ve been grading the colours of some of the scenes, where they are too light or desaturated. Every time I watch the film I see parts that could be better. If I think it’s worth the time to add an effect here and there, I’ll do it.

Settling 4

4cr: One of the rewards for backers is the finished film on DVD. Will this DVD be signed?

I didn’t specify on my Kickstarter page, but yes, they could be signed. It’s not a lot of extra work for me and if it helps me reach my target then it’s a good idea!

Settling 5

4cr: How many props have been created for this film?

There are around 40 small props that appear in the film. Some of them are quite detailed and others are very basic. I tried to make them well enough that they appear authentic in the film. I didn’t spend time on details that would not be noticeable on screen. I had to repair the props that are used a lot, as they became damaged or broken.

Settling Props

There are six big sets for the film – the inside of the house, the back garden, two outside walls of the house, the whole of the house (on a smaller scale) and the road the truck drives down. I found a set of metallic grilles at a junk yard and I used these as the base for each set that the puppet would be animated on. There are two magnates under his feet that allow him to walk and stand. Most of
the snow is made of plaster and expanding insulation foam (which is great stuff and can be carved once it’s set). I was living in my boyfriend’s house in France and he was renovating some rooms, so I had access to lots of bits of wood and debris that I recycled into the sets.

4cr: Have you considered creating a digital PDF to highlight the creation process? I’m sure that would be a great extra for the £35.00 and higher backers, and something that could bring you closer to reaching your goal.

That’s a good idea! I took quite a few photos of the sets as I was in the process of building them. I haven’t arranged them into a coherent map of the creative process yet, but that’s something I could do.

Settling 2

4cr: Thank you for your time. Care to add anything else?

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my project! I think Kickstarter is a great idea for film makers. It gives people the power to realise their projects without negotiating the maze of arts funding. I’m very grateful to everyone who has backed my project. It is my first attempt at making an animated film and know it’s not perfect. I really appreciate all the nice comments and positivity I’ve received. I hope I’m able to reach my target and that people will be happy with the finished product!

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