Skeleton Girl, a short 3D stop motion animated film in the vein of Grimm’s fairy tales. It tells the story of Millicent, a small orphan girl who lives in a land of make-believe and her overactive imagination. One day as she goes for a walk in the woods, Millicent comes upon an abandoned cemetery where she takes a valuable gem from one of the gravestones. That night, during a spectacular thunderstorm, she hears the tapping of bony fingers, and soon a cacophony of noises and images play out on the walls of her room. As a skeleton pays a visit to retrieve what is rightfully hers, Millicent soon discovers why it isn’t a good idea to steal from the dead.
In this interview 3D Content Hub speaks to Becky Scott, executive producer Skeleton Girl and co-founder of Bleeding Art Industries, on the making of the film, the challenges of shooting in 3D and the future.
Background and the Making of Skeleton Girl
Company founder and CEO Leo Wieser and co-owner Becky Scott always wanted to create their own work, bringing together the expertise and resources of the company with the talent of others in the community. Strongly supportive of – and wanting to contribute to – an indigenous creative industry, they hired many new and up and coming students, technicians, and make-up artists, giving them work, training them in the area of special effects, prosthetics, creature effects, and now 3D and stop motion. They also wanted to create darker, visually compelling, good stories that would resonate with people.
Scott, who executive produced Skeleton Girl notes that times have changed for everyone working in the film industry, and they are no exception. “When I joined Leo in 2003 to run the business affairs for Bleeding Art, we worked on about thirteen films, eight of them simultaneously. Now there’s maybe a film or two a year here. We never would have survived had we only worked as a service provider in the film industry, so we moved into props, exhibits for themed attractions, making our own bloods and other special effects products, all while putting together the pieces for making our first film.”
“Probably as in other parts of the world, we could no longer be reliant on service productions – acting as work for hire and implementing someone else’s vision. We knew that with our skills and experience we could make our own film. It’s been far from easy, in fact it’s been extremely difficult, but creating our own work, and breaking new ground as we did with Skeleton Girl, is the only way to sustain things long term. If we pay attention to, and nurture, the grassroots, then hopefully more people will stay here and work together, creating new and exciting work that will spark an exciting and innovative course rather than being at the beck and call of whatever film might be coming through. Premiering Skeleton Girl in New York with so many other fantastic, top notch films from around the world affirmed that we were on the right track and we could compete with the world’s best.”
The challenges of shooting in 3D
“Shooting in stereoscopic 3D was a huge challenge” says Wieser, “and we had limited stop motion experience. Skeleton Girl was born out of a love of the medium and of the darker films that didn’t always have a happy ending. A friend of ours was doing some experimental work with 3D so that’s initially what got me thinking about doing it in 3D. Of course, anyone who works in it knows that it requires a completely different way of thinking about a film – from the storyboarding to how the sets are constructed to the heavy use of math to figure out distances and convergence issues, it just goes on and on, which is probably why many people, especially those who have traditionally worked in 2D are unable or simply not interested in moving into 3D. But you know, it’s not going away. There is so much that can be done in 3D that is innovative and that becomes a better experience for the user or viewer. Unfortunately, some bad 2D to 3D transfers or just bad 3D has given it a bit of a bad name.”
“Of course we had lots of obstacles with the 3D” says Wieser. “We ended up practically wearing out our digital SLR camera with broken and missing pixels. We used studio halogens and LED light panels, the latter of which contributed to a few flicker issues, as light flicker – which is often imperceptible to the eye – tends to increase whenever a dimmer is used. Therefore we ran all of our lights at their highest settings and used flags and diffusion to bring them down to a usable level. There were some issues at the post level as well with the left and right eye being reversed. Obviously we learned lots that we’ll take into the next 3D film we do; I don’t think you put that much effort and learning in to something to not take it to the next project.”
Future 3D Projects
Scott continues, stating that “We’re collaborating with others in the community who have some 3D camera equipment and are really trying to get it out there and used. Knowing how to shoot in 3D and to have the means to experiment with it – both for stop motion and live action work – can only be a good thing. I can see Calgary breaking new ground as a creative capital that is leading the way in innovative 3D. After all, if we were the first Canadian company to shoot in stereo 3D and stop motion animation, why not?”
Work has started on the company’s next 3D stop motion animated film – called Through the Looking Glass; the second after Skeleton Girl in what is planned to be a full anthology of ten films that, although with different characters, will have a common thread joining them all.
Accolades and Awards
Skeleton Girl is Canada’s first combined native stereoscopic 3D and stop motion animated film. It picked up “Best First 3D Film” at its world premiere in New York at Be Film The Underground Film Festival, where program director and 3D specialist Dimitris Athos called it “a technical and creative accomplishment on multiple levels”. Contributing to this is the fact that it is the company’s first film, fully created and produced under the auspices of Bleeding Art Industries, a notable company that has been providing mechanical special effects and custom fabrication for the film and entertainment industries for over ten years. The company’s work can be seen in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, the short film The Hunt, two of the cult favourite Ginger Snaps movies, a couple of Jackie Chan movies, Emmy award-winning Robert Duvall’s Broken Trail, and numerous others.
Skeleton Girl is still on the film festival circuit, with its next screening at San Diego Comic Con on Thursday July 18 and it will be screening in 3D at HollyShorts in L.A. sometime between Aug 15-23 .
To view the 3D trailer, go to: http://vimeo.com/49797710