Animation Production Diary – Short but nevertheless important

There are a few scenes dotted through the animatic that could be described as very short and scenes five and six would fall under that category, comprising a total of three seconds all together. Scene five is a simple step into the ‘ghost room’ and scene six follows it up with a short glance up from our protagonist as she spots the ghosts.

While short they are important, scene six bridges the story from the frantic run that preceded it to the more serene atmosphere of the ‘ghost room’. I felt it important to have her step even once, rather than just have a more easily completed hold, to represent the dissipation of energy from the mad dash.

One small step for the Melancholic Wife…

The glance upwards then has to communicate an emotional shift, I wanted to portray a graceful arc to her movement and emphasise the flow of her hair to preface the floating light tone of the dancing ghosts who are about to appear on screen. I learned the importance here of not underestimating any scene no matter the length and its potential to keep a story continuum on track.

This scene is also the first and only real close-up of the character so I really wanted to communicate her poise and character as much as possible.

Main Film Title

Trying to create a title for the film that represented its themes and complexity was a challenge. My initial thoughts were quite obvious with titles like The Dance, but this seemed quite on the nose. Brainstorming it resulted in some more nuanced ideas; Untethered Tread, playing with becoming lost in a memory through the sound of a footstep, and tread/thread; Tread and Temper, again referencing tread/thread, following a thread, unravelling with the alliteration of temper to evoke the emotional challenge; Soft Floor/Bare Boards, softness/toughness, flow between the two. The title that I hit on as seeming most evocative and descriptive was Sound Holds the Distance Travelled. Referring to the power of sound as the catalyst for the Melancholic Wife’s journey back into her memory and the temporal distance between her present and past self. The whole of this journey is held in the sound waves.

Opening Sequence Reference

Part of the inspiration for the new opening sequence which uses photographs of some of my previous work came from the opening titles of To Kill a Mockingbird. I felt that this opening sequence was very effective in giving a sense of the world in which the story would take place. It uses objects to represent each of the characters, their personalities, their age, their preoccupations in a meaningful way.

Closing Sequence

For the closing sequence we felt it would be potent to use visuals that illustrated the ‘unromantic walls of her real life’ These include representations of the Melancholic Wife’s furniture, bookshelves and many elements of her creative process.

Opening Sequence

For the opening sequence we have decided to try and use design imagery that already exists from the comic work.

Sadhbh had the idea of the camera following the line across a long pan which the character portraits emerge from and the titles sit above.

The Melancholic Wife Storyboards – Sixth Sequence

The Melancholic Wife re-emerges back into the real world, the ‘unromantic walls of her real life’. She moves through the room, giving us an opportunity to see the world she inhabits, the objects that make up her life. She turns on a lamp, she has gained illumination and she reaches for her journal to record it, ‘trying to hold on to the nuances of her transmutations’.

Sound Design – Music Soundtrack

Just as with voice over it feels imperative to be conscious of the power of music to shape the mood and reaction of an audience to the film. In practical terms, this being a student film and therefore on a limited budget, the opportunity to freely select music is limited by economics as well. We feel fortunate in some regards because we found that the tone and flow of the visuals married well with the Classical Music genre. But it feels important to note that this wouldn’t have been our first choice as in our minds the protagonist does inhabit a modern world with a modern taste in music, so compromise is necessary. The classical music genre has a longer history than most musical genres so there are more compositions that are license free with some performances coming under creative commons.

I used the website Musopen to explore options for the soundtrack. Musopen is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on increasing access to music by creating free resources and educational materials. They provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.

For the first drafts of the animatic, myself and Sadhbh chose Reverie by Debussy for the first act of the film before the Melancholic Wife chooses her own music. We felt this gave a good sense of the initial journey she embarks on. For the change moment we chose Wagner music, for the sense of drama and a journey, specifically from the opera Tannhauser. These two pieces acted as a starting point a placeholder to help visualise the film.

When it came time to consciously examine and choose the music, myself and Sadhbh decided to attempt to find female composers to try and rebalance the gender representation given the narrator is a male voice. Using Musopen again we discovered two compositions; for the main body of the film we selected a piece called Three Dramatic Etudes by Pandora Selfridge; for the change of tone we have picked a section from 4 Sketches, Op.15 by Amy Marcy Beach. We feel that the first composition is working well but that the second one may need further exploration as it may not represent enough of a positive tone shift.