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8th January 2015
It’s the surreal deal
Title of film: Hello Play
Director: Greg Barth
Production Company: Blink
We talk with Blinkink director Greg Barth about his distinctive style of animated film-making. Roll through Related Content to see showcase

When talking about your work we could mention a few labels: meticulously crafted, funny, original, animation but how would you define your particular style of film-making?

Aesthetic surrealism, a mix of contemporary/installation art and narrative film-making.

When and how did you discover your love for stop-frame? And how did your own distinctive visual voice emerge?

I was mainly working on the computer all the time, directing CGI based adverts and got a bit tired of the repetitiveness of the process and that CG look and feel you would end up with.

I had the opportunity to co-direct and animate a stop-frame piece for Ubisoft, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, which I loved because 3D softwares always have solutions and plugins to help you out. Here we were left with our bare-hands, a lot of troubleshooting and a tight delivery date (we were only two working on this). I have always enjoyed challenges and finding solutions to problems, and so I instantly fell in love with manual effects and in-camera gimmickry as they look great on screen and most importantly they are so much fun to create.

What are the most challenging aspects of the production process and which parts of film making do you enjoy the most?

Getting the idea right, designing the layout in 3D to make sure it looks nice and graphic become very obsessive for me, so although they are not necessarily challenging they become so with the amount of time I spend working and re-working something before production starts. Then figuring out how to build the contraptions and effects manually is the best part.

My whole body of work is based on experimentation. When I was in Montreal we didn’t have big teams that spent weeks developing the effects, we mostly had one-shot opportunities to make something work, and that is where the thrill of it comes in.

Is it mainly CGI or in-camera work?

Always in-camera, although putting a touch of CG can always add that extra dazzle that makes people wonder how it was made, I have used it rarely since switching to physical setups.

How do you make the decision on which materials to use? What comes first, the materials or the story?

The story is always first, but the technique is never far behind so I try to work my pieces as a collaboration between the former and the latter. Materials mostly come in play when the idea is locked, although when it came to melting that 6kg Greek statue in the Hello Play promo I had a pretty good feeling that white chocolate would have a particularly nice effect.

Do you storyboard your films meticulously or do they evolve as you work?

I tend to actually design layouts in 3D that are replicas to the final result. That way I can play with the design and get it right, and see if the story works by putting the animatic together. Everything is locked before shooting in terms of look, story and design, but I keep some improvisation with how people or objects evolve in those frames.

Do you write your own narratives, such as your award winning film Fortunes, or do you collaborate with writers?

I write my own narratives, but would love to collaborate more with writers and develop a more cinematographic approach to my work. This is my new challenge for 2015.

How detailed are the commercial briefs given to you? For instance how did your treatment evolve for the Hello Play NYE promo?

I’ve been lucky enough to either be able to work organically with agencies on briefs, or have complete creative control. I love teaming up with the creatives to make the initial brief evolve quite a lot, as it’s usually a fun and productive process. For Hello Play I was given complete creative control.

When you’re writing a narrative do you often base the idea around a technique that you’d like to try out?

I always write the idea first, and shape the technique to fit the initial idea. After I try to get both to flow together logically.

The sound effects are very effective in your work. Do you collaborate with an audio recordist or do you also make your own sounds?

I work a lot with a Montreal based studio called Nookaad, we have all been good friends for a long time and since I can get quite meticulous about sound, it’s great to have a sound studio I can actually experiment with.

Which project has been, for you, the most interesting to work on?

The Passion Pit music video, as it was the first time I was dealing with an actor-driven narrative, as well as mixing in a large and surreal environment, all that in 4 1/2 minutes which is the longest time frame I’ve had to work on in just three weeks. I would definitely love to do more narrative work and music videos.

See Making of Hello Play in Related Content