Saturday, June 18, 2011

MIAF Feature: Aww Jeez - Michael Greaney

Well we have finally reached the end of our MIAF features and are finishing up with Michael Greaney's film Aww Jeez. Michael's interview is an added bonus as he is currently overseas at Annecy for this very film (which is why we don't have any process shots or sketches!). He was kind enough to send us through a bit of info to share with you and some stills from the film.

Aww Jeez will be screening at the Melbourne International Animation Festival on Wednesday 22nd June at 8pm as part of the International Panorama Programs - Panorama #4: Australian.

Can you tell us a little about the story of Aww Jeez and some of the concepts and theme's within the film?

Aww Jeez is a short clay-animated film that takes religious dieties and puts them in a cheesy 50s sitcom environment. Essentially the story is; God is going away on business, but he doesn't trust his slacker son Jesus not to throw a party while he's gone, so he hires Satan, a former alcoholic, to babysit.

(image source)
The humor of the film is based around making light of religious mythology, while simultaneously exploring the way sit-coms utilise familiar characters and plotlines to create stories and explore ideas. The film really is my personal love letter to the situational comedy genre, so by using characters that almost everybody recognises, it allowed me alot of freedom to run wild, making a mixture of jokes at goofy sitcom cliches (like the flashy main character entrance) and more in depth religion themed humour. Fortunately for me I teamed up with an amazing sound designer and composer on the film named Ryan Granger who did an awesome job realising the kinds of theme music and audio cues which make sitcoms so fun and energetic.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired the look of the film? What made you decide to use stop motion animation instead of other animation techniques?

When I set out creating the look of the film I really wanted to pick a medium which I felt would properly capture the look and feel of a three camera sitcom. Clay-mation was the perfect choice for this, as it allowed me the opportunity to construct sets and control all the elements within, such as lighting and visual compostion, while still maintaining a stylised real world look.

Could you talk a little on the process of developing the main characters and how they came to the final result on screen. Did you have many different prototypes? How did you make them?

The characters are all constructed on several different layers. To begin with I built an armature, which is a basic wire skeleton, for the puppets. The next step involved sculpting the puppets heads out of an amazing little product called super sculpy, which is as malleable as plasticine until it is baked, which makes it completely solid. The final step was to sculpt the rest of the puppets body out of coloured plasticine.

Funnily enough developing the main characters for the film was actually one of the things that took the most amount of time within the build stage of production. I really wanted to build stylised puppets that where still immediately recognizable as the deities they where based on, so this stage was a loop of sculpting, revising and reworking until finally reaching a functional puppet I was happy with.

Another important part of the final realisation of the characters was the voice actors involved. Darcy Prendergast, who played Satan, and Josh Thomas, who voiced God, gave some fantastic performances that really helped to bring those clay puppets to life. In both cases I had both of the guys screaming like maniacs into a microphone trying to get the right kind of insanity I was looking for.

Are there any future projects you can tell us about - stop motion or otherwise?

I'm currently working with the amazing crew at Oh Yeah Wow which is a Melbourne based studio, on a wide variety of projects including stop-motion and live action music videos and commercials. As well as being in the process of writing my next short which will be a rather politically incorrect clay-animated musical comedy.

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