Random Acts North Film – the making of ‘Euphorbia’

STC was partnered with Artist Jessica Wheeler to animate an abstract short film of Jess' vision and concept. Using the multiplane and filming rostrum style, Jess created individual cut out collage assets for Kim to bring Jess' vision to life.

In Jess' words

My only attempt at stop motion animation was a short that followed a worm (constructed of blue tac) journeying through a rotten apple, filmed on my bedroom floor when I was 15. So stepping into OA studios in October and greeting the multiplane was an exciting moment.

Vision

Euphorbia uses paper collage and other materials to map out the internal landscape of a young girl. The film sees a ‘skin plant’ form. The plant appears vibrant and shy, made up of fleshy skin segments with hidden details in its fabric. I was interested in how this strange tactile plant could inhabit the character of young sexual desire within the film, by tracing its natural growth and its vulnerability within its environment. From the skin plant I wanted to pick, and then unpick, the questions – what is the ‘natural’ growth of sexuality, what is ‘natural’ desire and what does female desire look like?

Production

Having pinned the questions and etched out the imagery, my collaboration with Kim made it possible to put things into motion. In the run up to filming, I was lucky to have the studio space as a den to develop the artwork. Once the cutting and sticking was done, I was able to use the multiplane and trusty Dragonframe to test the shape of the film; experimenting with movement whilst feeling my way through the basics of analogue animation.
In the middle section, inside the skin plant, we were using seven shelves of collage pieces to create the depth of shot. Each layer, tested separately, had to move as one and give the feel of journeying through the plant. I had an idea for a random plum (or peach, we weren’t sure) to fall through the plant towards the front of the frame. Having calculated the sizes of 82 plums, carved them out and backed them in black wrap, its journey had to be meticulously traced and spun into the fabric of the collage.
As the experiments turned to tests, and the tests started to form an animatic, I relied on Kim to indicate what was possible and what would be more difficult to make happen. However, as I described hands wrapped in wire and flowing inky rivers soaking the pieces of sliced skin plant to form the final landscape, Kim hardly flinched and found ways to animate. This organic approach to animation was unexpected and made the production a liberating creative process.

Handmade

The handmade feel of this stop motion animation film was always important. It didn’t seem fitting to create a shiny polished design that had been digitally glued together on aftereffects. I was interested in how this craft, made with human hands, could provide a sensory experience for the viewer, encouraging their eye to act as an instrument of touch.
Since finishing my Random Acts film I have another experimental project surfacing. I maintain a drive to represent the female voice, animating new and interesting materials in order to approach this representation from a queer angle.
by Jessica Wheeler
‘Euphorbia’ will be part of Playback Festival at the ICA

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