I think I’ve come to a point in the story where I have to come forward and accept I’ve made a mistake. After pitching and explaining the story to a number of people both within the course and people within the industry and seeking criticism and feedback I’ve decided it’s time to address my works biggest problem. I haven’t been able to explain adequately what the film is and what my intention is with it. I think as creators we like to hold things back from the audience, with the idea that once it is realised on screen then all the pieces will fall into place. The story becomes fully realised and there is a wonderful moment from the audience in which they now see it for what it was always meant to be. My mistake has been to withold my intention with pitches and with people providing feedback. So let’s address this and have a look at the secret influence that is captivating my idea.
The illusionist is a film about misdirection. The very nature of an illusionist is to misdirect and the film captures this within the narrative of the film. One scene in particular has been in the back of my mind throughout the production of my film. This scene-
Although my film has been pitched about the movements of one character in particular, since the camera follows the girl and focuses on her. But the story is in reality about the male character and his relationship with her. The film begins with the guy begining to play an instrument, and it is upon his first prelude that she is given form and conjured from the air. I want to give the sense that she is his music, she embodies it, at the same time she is one of his memories being replayed. A ghost of his past recalled through music. I wanted this to be left hidden, to be found by members if the audience it resonates with, for them to connect with this aspect. I wanted to see if that could become clear without me explaining it. Part of my mistake was holding this information back from pitches and feedback, I wanted them to take it as is and crit what they saw. When the final film was made I wanted to flip the tables and show them something they hadn’t expected. As stupid as this seems now, at the time it seemed like a good idea. However, the people I am seeking advice from are not my audience, that reveal will happen for audience members for the first time with the finished product. Perhaps it’s a mentality I hold from not having films viewed publicly yet, where my audience is only those that see it from development within the studio. It’s only after a number of crits from producers within the industry that have seen the story I am trying to tell within what I give them that I’ve realised I’ve wasted many opportunities to progress the film further by being honest with what I’m trying to do. Rather than seeing if they could figure it out and letting my film stand for itself, they advised me to be upfront about this aspect.
In order to give the ghostly feel to the movement and make the female character in my film feel other worldly, I am taking some influence from multiple exposure photography. The two main influences in this regard I will be relying on are Gjon Mili and Norman McLaren.
Gjon Mili was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic instruments to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. His photography tells the story of motion within a single still image. He was trained as an engineer primarily and was self taught with photography. He developed the multiple exposure technique to capture the graceful flow of movement to which was primarily used scientifically.
I think any animator has a natural affinity to this form of work since it displays our manner of working and thinking in a single image. The onion skin layering affect is a process used in animation during production but is never seen by the public, despite it being one of the most beautiful and mesmerising aspects of our work.
Norman McLaren continued this effect in his short film Pas de Deux amongst others. A similar technique but this time used over live footage to create multiple instances of the dancers splitting from one another and joining back again.
I would like to take this idea in a slightly different direction. To animate the effects of the dancer and include the rough workings of an animation in progress as the main attraction. By drawing out the roughs, arcs and smears over the animation and removing the character that creates them. Thus animating the effects and inertia of motion without the source that creates them. I’d like to associate this effect with the music, having a dancer materialise to the music in flow and dematerialise as it stops. My aim with this is to produce a ghostly effect similar to the film influence above in ‘The Illusionist’ in which the characters has some form of presence whilst visible and not visible.