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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rouge Waver Makes GREAT Short Film!


There are Rouge Wavers all over the world, from every walk of life. And the Wave-inatrix is lucky enough to correspond with many and learn that some of you are mad sick talented!

One such very talented Waver, Phil Dale, was kind enough to not only send me a link to his short film THE TREE, but to share that link here and tell us a little bit about the making of the movie.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is THE TREE 

username: tree
password: wave

(On some browsers you may have to enter the username and password in twice)

The Making of THE TREE - by Phil Dale, who has definitely scored a cupcake:

While out on a woodland walk one spring afternoon several years ago, I spotted some initials carved into the trunk of a large oak tree. It was not the first time I had seen such a thing, its a common place sight, but on this particular day it got me thinking: How could a landmark such as an old tree mean different things to different people? For instance, it could be a meeting place for lovers, a hiding place for thieves, a sign post for passing dogs, or just a familiar face on a woodland walk.

I began to wonder what would happen if two people with very different histories and backgrounds were to meet by a tree. A tree that had played very different roles in each of their pasts. How might their individual story's impact one another? And so the the story for a short film called Tree started to take root in my mind.

The core idea for the story came very quickly, but after the initial giddy rush of creativity had subsided, the struggling began. Obviously writing a short film script cannot be compared to the scale of writing a 90+ page screenplay entails, but the same discipline is needed to tell a good story as concisely as possible. After all, it can be argued that every scene in a feature film is a mini short film.

Anyway, after a long time wrestling with the story I realized I was over writing the idea, trying to be to clever. It wasn't until I decided to completely ditch all the talking and make the film a non dialog piece that the big breakthrough came. What had been the mid point in the story now slipped and became the films ending. This change in focus suddenly made the whole idea fall into place, it simplified the story, but at the same time made it stronger by concentrating on the more interesting visual narrative, and, without dialog, the characters became more mysterious, which in turn added a greater level intrigue to the story.

With the backing of producer Liz Chan we entered the script into one of funding schemes run annually by each of the local London Borough Councils. After some months of waiting our project was short-listed and then to our delight, awarded a very modest bursary. The funding was not in itself enough to get the film made, at least not to the standard we had in mind, but the mere support and involvement in the scheme was enough for Liz to attract additional funding to the project from Slinky Pictures, the production company we were making the film through, and in kind support from rental houses and post production facility's in London's media hub, Soho.

Another benefit the scheme offered, was access to a script mentor. This was great because she came up with suggestions and alternative ideas for us to think about, some of which we took on board, and a lot of which we didn't, but nonetheless, this questioning really helped us to focus on what the film was about. What became apparent was that Tree was in fact a sort of fairytale, in a warped modern kind of way. This one small insight then helped inform all the other decisions I made during production, from the choice of actors and costume, right through to the music and sound design.

On longer projects there is usually a ramp up period built into the schedule to allow cast and crew to get up to full production speed. On a short film you just don't have that luxury. You have to hit the ground running from the first hour of the first day! Add to that a crew that is new to each other, first day nerves, and a location out in the back of beyond, and you have all the making for a right little disaster. But, and this is one of the great things about film-making, as the crew arrived on the first day, the film stopped being my film, and instead it became our film, as everyone involved made a little piece of it their own. And when that happens its magical.

We had our fair share of problems making the film, which you can read about on the production blog I kept at www.tree.gb.com But it was a pleasure to make, and I think we succeeded in bringing to the screen everything we had set out to achieve, a simple, poetic, visually driven film, that seeks to explore how a place or object can unknowingly connect and bind us.

Phil Dale is an award winning animator/director who began his career back in 1992 animating on children's series for the BBC, ITV, and American Networks. He has worked on many high-end commercials, music videos, and features films, including Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Currently he is one of the Animation Leads on The Tale of Despereaux which is being produced and directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) Phil was also responsible for the animation on the Oscar nominated short, 'The Periwig-Maker' back in 2001. That same year Phil began a parallel journey as a live action film-maker and has since made 3 short live action films as writer-director, and has just directed his fourth. He is now developing several feature length projects.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great short...infused with sadness and beauty...a reminder of what is special about making short films -- if you're good, you can hit a perfect note and just hold it.

So much harder to do in feature length, I often find myself trying to reconcile tone shifts all the time. Anyone else encounter this?

Phil Dale said...

Dear anon,
Thanks so much for your kind words.
It is definitely easier to focus on developing and exploring one tone in a short film as they are usually about finite moments in time, and are not encumbered by sub plots and multiple characters.

The Other Pete said...

I've always thought that was the main difference between shorts and features – a short can be an exploration of a single note, whereas a feature is more like a symphony in three movements. Shifts in tone are a necessary and welcome part of the experience, as long as they follow well from what came before.

Just my 2¢.

DougJ said...

Well done. Beautiful images, great idea and execution.

I also perused the samples of your animation work and enjoy stop-motion animation very much. Would you consider posting tips for the amateur stop-motion animator? (I saw the link on digital stills animation but it didn't work for me).

Phil Dale said...

Doug, glad you liked the film.
If you email me, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about stop motion.
I'll try and get that link working too.