Short Films in Focus: Shots in the Dark with David Godlis | Features

Without getting too far into the weeds, what is the process like to take a photograph and convert it, or render it, into a three dimensional shot (or tableau)?

David blessed us with his digital archive so from there, we put together a slideshow of his images that matched the stories he told. That was an exhilarating puzzle. So many decisions were made that, looking back, I can’t imagine repeating. After we decided on all the images, it was time to photoshop. All the subjects of every photo had to be digitally erased. Then we printed out the backgrounds and the subjects separately, then it was razor-blade time. So many blades. I don’t know how many we went through, maybe 50? Every subject had to be cut out by hand. Then the subjects and backgrounds had to be mounted to cardboard so a vice grips could hold them in place on a table. After that we could finally glide a camera through the scene! We would also smoke cigarettes while shooting most of the scenes to give it another dimension with some smoke in the air.

What draws you to this particular pre-digital technique of animation?

Apologies if this sounds grandiose, but the artistic discovery for us isn’t about what’s cutting edge. In fact, if we ever find ourselves with a race-like mentality, like “we need to learn this new software in order to be the first in the world to make a film like this,” we completely re-evaluate. Instead of racing to make art that looks different, we try to make art that’ll have our audience think, “finally, someone finally made something like this. I’ve always wanted to see something like this.” People have told us our work has a nostalgic feeling and I suppose this might be one of the reasons why. And also, everyone grows up with these materials. There’s nothing foreign about our work. Everyone who sees our work can probably wrap their mind around how we made it.

How are the tasks or roles divided up when it comes to co-directing?

Noah is the artistic genius and I’m the techie. He makes the drawings, paintings, sculptures and then I’m the one who animates them. I use a computer 90% of the days, and Noah uses his hands 90% of his days. It’s been a really even split of workload. When it comes to more abstract decision-making directors usually have to make, we enter into this pure honesty state with each other. We spit out every single one of our ideas and have no reservations when it comes to agreeing on the best idea. And we rarely have to debate. Once the best idea is out there, floating in the air, we’re really good at reeling it in together.

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