Editors’ Choice: Director talks about a brilliant new film that nearly didn’t see the light of day
A common side effect of journeying from childhood into adulthood is the loss of our creativity. The stresses of everyday life mean that it becomes harder and harder to lose ourselves in our imagination. In his latest promo for M83, music video-maestro David Wilson is celebrating the creativity of childrens’ minds - and in typically brilliant fashion. In it, a small boy on a trip to a burger joint sees his drawings come to life and throw down – until his little sister joins in and adds to the animated mayhem.
LBB’s resident burger nerd Addison Capper caught up with David to get the scoop.
NB: David has kindly shared LOADS of behind the scenes and making of images with us. So be sure to check them all out below the interview.
LBB> I love the hand drawn style of animation - which I believe is to mimic the boy’s drawings. Who did you work with on this and what kind of brief did you give them?
DW> TREAT studios created the child-drawn animation. Finding that sweet spot when the characters move and flow but have a child-like scribble took a while to get right. What TREAT was able to do incredibly well was give the characters a solidity and connection to the space via pre-visualising the characters in 3D and compositing these 3D versions in the space before rotoscoping them into the child-drawn version.
The design of the girl’s creations came from studying the vast amount of drawings that my friend’s four-year-old was churning out at the time. There’s no substitute for what comes from an actual child’s brain.
LBB> I read the film as though the boy’s individuality isolates him from those around him and his creativity is scuppered by his more ‘normal’ family. Is that the case? If so, why are these themes that you wanted to explore in this promo?
DW> That’s an interesting read of the parent/child relationship, but not my intention. I feel it’s worth being reminded that children drawing and escaping into their imaginations through play is default. It is their existence. I wanted to reflect on the beauty of creativity and imagination at that stage before a child’s inner critic develops. The kid’s parents are so wrapped up in the ‘small stuff’ - arguing over a burger - that they are blind to the beauty of what their children can teach them.
LBB> What are the issues that come with working in both live action and animation in the same film - especially when directing kids?
DW> There were actually very few issues with directing the kids and adults in this piece in regard to their connection to the animated characters. Their responses are all reactions to things happening off camera. It would have been more troublesome if there was a physical interaction between the actors and the drawings in the same frame, but the trick was to never do that.
When working with the rest of the patrons we did simple choreography and counting cues so that when a certain number was called they would all know where each animated character was in the room.
It certainly helped that we would throw food and props in those particular areas of the restaurant on those cues as well!
LBB> And the animation that kicks in at the end – there were some trippy vibes there! What’s going on?
DW> The concept came directly from Anthony (M83) wanting to pay a homage to his favourite animations of the ‘80s. We decided to use the blue dog as the viewer’s guide: freeing the other drawings from the trash and they could express themselves to a psychedelic level. We enlisted a new set of animators to finish our film; The Rauch Bros and Anthony Francisco Schepperd made this new ending incredible. They took the brief and made magic.
LBB> The location is totally typical of small-town America - something that I’m eager to explore more myself in the future. How did you find it?
DW> We shot the film in Toronto. It’s called T-Bones Steak House. We had actually hit a really hard patch in our location scouting. We’d been driving around Toronto for days and no location would work for what we needed. It was only when we were driving home, defeated, that we passed T-Bones by chance. It was perfect. We were able to book it, and hardly changed a thing.
LBB> The hamburger cardboard cut-out reminds me so much of the work by Rob Flowers - did you work with him on that?
DW> Yes! That’s Rob. He’s amazing. When it came to needing someone to do design for a burger joint, reaching out to Rob was a no-brainer. He was so generous with what he did for this project. A true angel of a human.
LBB> The boy is ace - why was he right for the role?
DW> I’m so happy people are responding to the boy well. We only had the morning with the kids on the shoot day, so I really needed to cast a kid that could turn his performance ‘on’.
Quinn (the boy) was one of the only boys that could follow the instructions clearly and on the mark. Dan Sherwin really should have credit as well for finding and crafting the nuances in Quinn’s performance in the edit. He did an amazing job.
LBB> I recognise the parents - are they well known?
DW> Haha! I feel like people say that about quite a few of my films: a lot of people were convinced that Michael Instone from my Tame Impala ‘Let It Happen’ promo was a famous actor and he wasn’t. So, no, neither of the parents are well known… yet!
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
DW> This job has been some of the hardest I’ve ever encountered; from the scripting, to applying this big idea to the restrictions of the budget, to the 15-month post-delivery process of working and re-working the animations, no one took any creative decisions lightly. In a way, you could say the biggest challenge was psychological, confronting and conquering my own self-doubt throughout the arduous post process. There was a long time where we thought this piece would never be finished or released. The very fact that the people close to it never let it go is one of the greatest achievements of this project.
Check out behind the scenes and making of pictures below.
Rob Flowers' Artwork