Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021
& Somer Stampley
A whimsical recollection of one child’s memory growing up in foster care. Using paper cutout stop motion animation, animator Somer Stampley carefully crafts an immersive world where the exploration of a child’s perspective is put at the forefront.
Hi Sardé & Somer, thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been keeping during these very strange Covid times?
Somer: It's been a ride that's for sure!
Sardé: I’ve been fortunate enough to be working full time from home so that has kept me busy but it’s been interesting to have to slow down my pace outside of work. There's been a lot of cabin fever.
Has this time offered you any new creative opportunities?
Sardé: Definitely, we actually started this project just as the pandemic was beginning. I wrote the script for it at the beginning of March just before the first lockdown here. In general this time has afforded a lot of self reflection and given me time to write, start projects and ideate but at a pace that is my own.
Somer: Wild Flower was definitely the highlight of creative opportunities for myself during quarantine. For me, it was sort of the best timing just to focus solely on animating and immersing myself completely in that work zone. It was certainly hard to stay motivated, especially creatively, but it is one of the things that kept me sane during this past year.
Congratulations on having Wild Flower as part of this year's Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your film at the film festival?
Sardé: While not an official selection of the film festival is still a great experience to have other individuals and industry peers from around the world see your film that maybe would never have otherwise.
Somer: I’ve made 2 animations before this, both were for music videos, so I’ve presented my animations in a less formal way, in a punk venue or straight to online viewing. It is really exciting for our short film to be shown in a more formal and international environment.
Can you tell me a little bit about Wild Flower, what was the inspiration behind your animation?
Somer: It all started with Sardé writing the script that is based on her childhood experience, so that is the core inspiration for me. I wanted the animation to immerse you in this spooky, dreamy alien world that tells the viewer a story of a child from a child's perspective. My intention was to show the viewer these types of imagery to drive home the fact that it was a surreal and scary experience for her. I'm so grateful that she asked me to do this. She's the inspiration!
Sardé: Wild Flower is a snippet of my personal experience growing up as a child in foster care. Somer’s whimsical animation allows some separation from the reality of my experience and the fantastical elements enable the childlike perspective to flourish without being too heavy.
"Being very new to animating and self teaching myself everything, there’s always going to be room to grow and get better."
You co-directed Wild Flower, how did this collaboration come about?
Sardé: I had been a fan of Somer’s work for so long, we met through DIY punk shows and became friends over the years. Maybe three or so years ago I had asked her if I could produce a narrative short for her. (at this point she had only really done music videos and art projects). She was super receptive to the idea. We needed a story but it took us a long time to figure out what that would be. Initially I just thought I would produce and not really be involved creatively. Then one day on a flight home, it clicked that maybe I should tell one of my stories which felt and still feels insanely scary but I thought it might be cathartic to take on the challenge. Somer was very supportive of this idea and I knew it’d be in good hands and that’s when I started to be involved more creatively.
What was this experience for you directing this short animation?
Sardé: Somer and I had a lot of conversations about what the visual tone should be of the film and luckily we are inspired by a lot of the same art, music and films so that makes it easy to collaborate. But really this world Somer built comes from her incredible mind! I gave her input of how certain scenes could look or transition and she ran with it and every time she had something to show me it was almost exactly how I envisioned it but even more mind blowing. It was great working with an artist (and friend) who was so open to feedback and willing to push themselves.There was a lot of trust involved but she definitely bore the weight of the blood sweat and tears.
Somer: I officially started cutting out everything and animating at the beginning of September 2020. It was very hard to maintain focus and be creative to be completely honest during this pandemic. Everything felt so crazy and unpredictable in the world. Trying to come up with ideas amongst that was quite the experience but it felt good to put so much energy into this project.
I work out of my shared bedroom and have to take up so much space for stop motion. I had to alter my space within my quarantine zone to animate so I would have paper everywhere and lighting set up in particular places which couldn't be moved for the 6 months I was animating. I was constantly trying to clean and prepare for the next scene every other day because of the lack of space. I lost my barista job because of the pandemic so I put all of my time into this project. The only way that it worked really well for me is setting myself a schedule in which I worked most of the week but forced myself to take long breaks in between. Especially when I was feeling stumped or overworked.
What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?
Sardé: There were a few challenging aspects. Firstly we live in different cities and in different countries so we had to do our planning and brainstorming over video calls and texting and while it wasn’t so bad I think there is more fluidity when you can collaborate in person. Another challenging aspect was communicating the vibe we wanted for the score but our friend Henry Wood really understood the assignment and created something beautiful. I would assume for Somer the most challenging aspect is the time consuming act of paper stop motion, cutting out every single piece and shooting so many frames.
Somer: Obviously the whole stop motion animating process is the hardest part for me. I have to control and be very consistent about so many aspects of the environment which is hard to do in my studio/bedroom which I share with my boyfriend. One of the most challenging aspects of stop motion for me is the lighting. Since I work in such a cramped shared space, I have to set up black out curtains that can be easily moved every time I'm not animating.
Stop motion is a time consuming process, every second of the animation is hours of work. Everything is cut out on paper by my hands and all shot by me. I am constantly learning new things about stop motion.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
Somer: I think anything I make and put out into the world has to be critiqued by myself during and afterwards so regrets come and go. It’s hard to love something completely after it's finished. I love how the animation turned out but there’s always going to scenes that I'll rewatch and nitpick every single mistake. I’ve come to terms with this sort of self critical art process but honestly that's how I get better. Being very new to animating and self teaching myself everything, there’s always going to be room to grow and get better. So yes, there will always be something that I wish I did differently but there’s only so much you can do with skill and knowledge at a given moment. Growth is essential.
Sardé: When it’s a personal story, one is always going to be hyper critical of the product. We set a timeline for ourselves. We knew we wanted it done at the start of 2021, I think had we not been doing this during a pandemic and had more time and resources, I might have hired someone else to do the narration as opposed to doing it myself. I think that yes it adds an authenticity to the story but I can’t help but be critical of my own voice.
Where did your passion for animation come from?
Somer: I was always watching animations since I was a kid. There’s something so fun and beautiful about the intense attraction to cartoons that kids have. I think for me personally, I love how you can make your own imagery come to life and really think hard about how things move. It's so gratifying to make something move around even though the process can be frustrating and painful.
Now you can be reflective, what advice or tips would you offer a fellow filmmaker?
Sardé: Don’t be afraid of collaboration! The process of filmmaking is inherently collaborative but so often people feel the need to bear the weight of the process themselves. Working with others will make your views more expansive
Somer: Even if something you make feels daunting and frustrating, there is an end. But seriously, it's worth seeing projects through and it's so satisfying to see end results.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Wild Flower?
Sardé: I guess for me just that maybe it opens some people’s understanding to the foster care system. I don’t think most people consider how these systems and experiences affect children. As a child going through it, I don’t even know that I fully understood what was happening. Only much later in life was I able to reflect on how this time truly shaped me. but also there is beauty beneath all human experience and we can find ways to harness any darkness in our lives into creativity.