New Zealand to Budapest seems an unusual path. Please tell us the back story.
It’s literally on the other side of the earth! I was born in the Netherlands, so I have a Dutch passport. I felt like getting out of New Zealand for a bit, as I’d barely left in the 18 years I was there. It’s just so far away from everything. Budapest is a super cheap place to live, so seemed like a good place to base myself temporarily. 14 months later, and I’m looking at moving on.
I have a few things here I’m doing now, directing a commercial, in talks about doing a Hungarian TV movie. But once that’s all said and done, I’d like to move on. The dream is to set up my own stop motion animation studio, as well as direct live action stuff (commercials, music vids, and I have a feature in development).
Please tell us about creating Disappear, how the idea came about and especially about your creative process in making the film.
The film is a direct metaphor of my life at the time I wrote it. I was in a fairly dead end situation, and just wanted to disappear into my film career. I wanted to only do things I was passionate about. So the script sort of just came out all at once, and it stayed 99% the same as the first draft.
I decided I’d do it in stopmotion, for various reasons; I love the medium, but also that it allowed me to exchange my lack of money for an abundance of time. I could work at a very high production value, without spending much at all. Anything that was spent was stretched out over two years, so it really didn’t feel like much.
I did everything myself, apart from the sound and score, for which I brought in Lily Unsub right at the end. This meant having to figure out a lot of stuff. I think creatively it makes it even more of a personal film, because everything you see is 100% my work. I guess in a way it sort of feels like playing god, you really have to think about all the tiny details, right down to the stains on the countertops, or the Pollock-esque oil painting on the wall. If you don’t make it, it doesn’t exist. It quite literally has my blood, sweat and tears on screen.
What were the main challenges of the production? Anything you would have done differently with hindsight?
I think everything was a challenge in it’s own right, I really had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I tend to just figure things out as I go along. I taught myself some basic electrical engineering skills, and spent about two months making a custom motion control camera rig for automated camera movements while I was animating. Then the animation itself, I think I’d done maybe a few seconds of stop motion character animation before starting on DISAPPEAR. I shot the film chronologically, and the first shot was a 40 second mammoth that took a full week to shoot. I didn’t get it right the first time and redid the whole shot. That was a pretty solid crash course in animation.
I think in hindsight… well, I’m glad I did everything the way I did it. I learned so much. I know what I’d do differently on my next stopmo. I intend to use 3d printing, among other things for making small props. I think that’s an investment that quickly pays itself back. I’d likely work with a small team too. Stop motion is super labor intensive, so being able to spread that load means I can get a lot more done.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m going to do a stop motion feature film. I’m still in early stages for it, doing research and writing. This is going to be a 6-10 year project. This is alongside some live action projects I also have in various stages of development.
Created by Hendrikus De Vaan
Sound and score: Lily Unsub