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14th December 2011
Through a glass darkly
Title of film: Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn
Director: Hoku Uchiyama
Production Company: Vanishing Angle
Just signed to Partizan, director Hoku Uchiyama shows us how he created his steamy animation

The fun tone of the animation totally suits the music. How did the concept for the video come about?

I love Jason Webley’s (one half of Evelyn Evelyn) music.  He and I talked about doing a video for years and it was never the right time or the right circumstances in our lives.  Then one day he told me about the Evelyn Evelyn project he was doing with Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) and asked me if I’d like to direct something for that.  As a fan of both of them, I was thrilled.

The idea just hit me when listening to the song.   I draw on foggy windows every day.  I think lots of people do which is part of what makes the video neat.  As the idea developed, Adam Bolt (co-producer and lead animator) and I zeroed in on those old rubber hose cartoons from the early days of animation.  They have that mix of sweet and  a-little-bit gruesome that’s in tune with Evelyn Evelyn.

 

Were there any different techniques that you considered before deciding on drawing on the steamed-up glass?

There was one other video idea I pitched for another song on the album that played with a different type of under-used animation (I’m being vague because it’s a technique I’d still like to use in the future!).  But for the track Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn the concept was always drawing on frosted glass.  It’s an idea that, while not simple to produce, is really simple in how it comes off and feels, and I love that about it – it’s simplicity.

Had you worked with the animator Adam Bolt before?

Adam Bolt and I met in college at the Art Center College of Design.  We were the two guys who were into cartoons and horror films so we naturally gravitated to each other.  He’s an amazing director in his own right.  We have pretty different styles, but our brains have a sync that’s unusual and because we’re so close as friends we’re each a good second set of eyes on each other’s work.  We’ve worked together before, but this was our closest collaboration.

We love the combination of live action and animation. How on earth did you achieve it? Can you talk us through the process please?

We carefully storyboarded the video, noting down to the second when a character would be drawn, when it would move from one window panel to another.  We filmed the video without condensation on the glass, just the twins behind the clear windows.  Then we practically fogged the window panels and filmed each panel separately without the twins.  We then motion tracked the condensation on to our live action plate we had shot with the twins.
The animation was essentially black drawings on a white background and it was used as a map to cut through the condensation to the other side, allowing us to see through the fog. The animation itself was done with a lot of rotoscoping.  Almost every part of the video was acted out to the music and then animated over to give the characters a special relationship to the song. The video was technically complicated and our producers at Vanishing Angle were amazing at shepherding it through.
Were the girls actually drawing too or was it done with layers or by magic?

The girls were actually drawing, we found a way to guide their hands so they hit those drawing marks on their cues.  No computers were involved in that.

Where are you currently based?

I live in Los Angeles, CA

Do you work independently or are you signed to a company?

I’m excited to say that I just signed with Partizan.

 

Credits

Director: Hoku Uchiyama

Producers: Erich Lochner, Matt Miller and Adam Bolt

Animator: Adam Bolt

Executive Producers: Jason Webley and Amanda Palmer

Director of Photography: Adam David Meltzer

Compositers: Travis Gorman & Michael Scott

Additional Composite work: Caleb Clark & Geronimo Moralez

Skeleton Dance Animator: Julian Birchman

Additional Animation by David Johnston

Character Design: Adam Bolt

Additional Character Design: Odessa Sawyer

Wardrobe Designer: Jessica Huang

Production Design:  David Novak

1ST Assistant Camera: Louis Normandin

Gaffer/Dolly Grip: Rex Kinney

Sound Design: Mike Weinstein

VFX Consultants: Dan Blank & Arvin Bautista

Make-Up/Hair: Stephanie Bravo

Skeleton Dance Performed and Choreographed by Shaheed Qaasim & Joanna Meinl

Production Manager: Sky Prendergast

Cast: Lexi Ibrahim & Nikki Ibrahim

Special Thanks to: Melissa Malandrakis, Steven Ritz-Barr, Daniela Meltzer, Kent & Ruth Uchiyama, Mahea Uchiyama & Kevin Farey