"LUCKILY I HAD SOME OF MY OWN EQUIPMENT AT HOME, BUT I DID MISS OUT ON USING SOME PRETTY COOL LENSES FOR THE END SCENE THAT ARTS UNIVERSITY BOURNEMOUTH HAD TO RENT OUT."
Screening Session: BLOCK 2
3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival Online
22-28 Feb 2021 | Tickets £5 / £10 Full 7-Day Pass: bit.ly/PRFF-Tickets
A doll faces her fears when a spider invades her dollhouse. However, something far more terrifying lies beneath the surface.
Hi Emma thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?
I’m holding up all right, thanks for asking! I’ve been with my family and pets during lockdown so it’s been pretty good.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
Yes, I was able to animate on an independent documentary alongside 16 other animators called ‘Romantic Chorus’. It was really fun and I was able to experiment with some different stop-motion styles I’ve been meaning to explore more, like animating with paint and claymation. It was also really interesting working from home at such a quick pace with people from all over the world. It took us all less than 6 months to animate the 85-minute documentary, and it’ll be released in January.
Congratulations on having your film selected for the 3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
It’s very validating to be part of such a great lineup, and it makes me really proud of the work the team and I put in to make Arachnarche a reality. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the other amazing films that have been selected for this festival!
Can you tell me a little bit about Arachnarche, how did this film come about?
I wrote it with my friend Jack Egleton. I approached him with the initial idea of a doll being swarmed by her insecurities and anxieties, but at the end of the story she overcomes these fears—not by suddenly becoming perfect, but by accepting who she is. Jack is a sort of genius when it comes to all things stop-motion and horror, so I knew he’d be a great partner to flesh out the story. We wanted to relate the imagery back to something personal, so we started to take inspiration from the fears of growing up and puberty and twisting them into something more sinister. Body hair became the prickly vines that burst from the teddy bear and wrap around the doll, while growing pains and the fear of judgment became the biting flesh wall seen at the climax.
What where the biggest challenges you faced bringing your film to life?
We were in the middle of animating the film when we had to quarantine for COVID-19. Working as a team always comes with its own challenges, but having to figure out how to finish the film while being away from the university studio was definitely difficult. I also had to fly back to the United States before borders closed on very short notice (I had less than a week to pack everything I could while also finishing the scene I was animating). Luckily I brainstormed with my team before I left, and we figured the best solution would be for me to take the puppets from the UK to my home in the US and finish it in my garage. Luckily I had some of my own equipment at home, but I did miss out on using some pretty cool lenses for the end scene that Arts University Bournemouth had to rent out.
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
It took some time for me to be comfortable really directing a team, as well as setting boundaries and communicating my ideas clearly. So I think I would have tried to really understand what I wanted and communicate that better earlier in pre-production.
Describe your film in three words?
Eerie cathartic nightmare.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I’ve always enjoyed storytelling and the thought that there might be more to life than what meets the eye. The ability to create new worlds and characters is very liberating for me. With stop-motion especially, I feel that I’m able to live through the characters and really experience the settings they’re animated in. Taking ordinary objects in my life and turning them into something else forces me to try and see life from the view of a stop-motion puppet, which can definitely make the day-to-day more intriguing.
What has been some of the best advice you’ve been given?
It’s sort of a culmination of various pieces of advice from tutors and friends—so the first piece of advice is that if you’re going to direct, you can’t be afraid of being a leader—which sounds obvious, but hearing that pushed me to be more reliable and confident with making decisions since I knew I wanted to direct. The second piece of advice is essentially knowing my workload and what I can and cannot control on a set. I think it’s easy on films to just keep overworking yourself, so knowing your own boundaries and when you have to rest is very important.
"The more love and effort you put into a film, the better it’ll be, but first you have to put that care into yourself if it’s going to pay off."
Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Of course, I think the best films I’ve seen lately are ones that are more unconventional and tell stories that aren’t often told. In animation they taught us to keep pushing and exaggerating movements until they look wrong, and then pull it back from there. The same can be applied for films—push a story to its extreme until it’s just wrong, and then pull it back a bit. If a film feels safe or the story is too comfortable then it likely has been told before.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Make sure to take care of yourself first before entering the film set. Creating art can kind of feel like parenting at times, and if you’re not prioritising your own health first then it’s going to be very difficult to be selfless and take care of someone else. The same goes for making a film. If you’re showing up without having properly taken care of yourself, doing anything on set is going to be that much harder. The more love and effort you put into a film, the better it’ll be, but first you have to put that care into yourself if it’s going to pay off.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Arachnarche?
I hope that they can take away a feeling of relief. The tone of the film was inspired by a night I had my first year at university, where I had this epiphany about what made me who I was after I had been feeling quite isolated. I wanted to end university with this film as a way to communicate those feelings I had when I was first living on my own and figuring myself out. So I hope the film can, in some abstract way, help people understand that fear and hardship can be overcome, and through those struggles you’ll know yourself much better.