Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Final piece

It took a whole day to take the photos that I used for this, I'm happy with the way it looks but if I had more time I would edit the speech to look more realistic. I tried my best to get the mouth to appear lifelike, but I actually like the way the speech is off.
It makes the whole thing more unsettling, I hope.


My initial thoughts on my own everyday routine and the often overlooked daily application of makeup got me thinking about make up in more bizarre and dramatic contexts: theatre make up; prosthetics; drag queens; child beauty queens.

I settled on the latter as a main focus after being captivated (and repulsed) by documentaries on the subject. I was intrigued, not only by the pageant industry itself, but the public's fascination in it, reflected on the sheer number of related reality TV shows. The controversy sparked by these strange events suggests my piece would provide a discussion point for audiences.

The personal element I brought to the animation (as well as my first ideas) was the strongly negative opinion of child pageants that I hope to communicate through my work, and the questions I asked myself along the way: Should young children be wearing make up? How old should we be before we do so? Are there any positive aspects to child pageants? Do these little girls really enjoy what they're being forced to do? I also used my own daily make up routine as a reference for the marks I made on my doll and the order that I did this in.

In terms of representing the 21st century, I may be depicting a minority, but it seems as though these pageants have never been so popular and such a strong focus in the media. It's getting more and more extreme and I want to reveal this, shocking the audience as much as possible so that they continue to think about what it means.

There is no doubt I have vastly improved my (previously non-existant) animation skills. I had no idea there was so much technical thinking to be done before filming even started; I found things like timing very hard to get my head round, but I have a clearer idea of this now. My conceptual skills were also tested, as I had to think deeply about why I was using certain materials and ideas, and what they meant. Though I am not the subject of the animation, I feel as though my own voice is present in the form of my ideas and the decisions I have made. Hopefully this is evident in my preceding notes and visual experiments.

                                   Taylor Momsen?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Statement of Intent

From the beginning I wanted to highlight the idea that 'the everyday' need not be average or mundane; many people's daily life is normal to them but would seem absurd to outsiders. Initial ideas led me to examine my own daily routine. As a teenage girl in 20th Century Western cultural, vanity and self image is a huge focus. make up is an essential part of my day, along with almost all of my peers. Rituals like applying makeup are often overlooked, simply because they are so commonplace.

I want to show make up in a more drastic and unusual context, reflecting how unsettled I felt watching TV documentaries about child beauty pageants, which fuelled my final idea. With this film I am aiming to capture this feeling, along with ideas of inappropriateness and excess of make up, emphasised by a fairly abstract setting as oppose to the shows I researched. After looking at the work of artists along with my own wider research, it seems obvious to use a doll. This was cemented when I chose to use clips of real little girls talking about the make up they wear, and one was saying "I look like a dolly". She sounded thrilled by this, but what did it really mean? These girls are literally being turned into inanimate, artificial dolls by their crazed, shallow, prize-hungry mothers.

I want to use these carefully-selected sound bites with interludes of classical music (the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy - what else) to add drama and a tiny bit of humour to my animation, which could end up being very dark and creepy an amusing edge. I will achieve this by picking phrases that are almost too ridiculous to be true, and using strong lighting so it's not too dingy. I want to use real speech as it grounds my piece in reality, a reality which would be impossible to believe without this proof, to shock the audience. Though my approach is fairly lighthearted, I am also intent on negatively portraying the adornment and exhibition of children as objects. Dolls like the one I'm using are already grotesque fetishizations of real babies/todders; they are made to look unnatural for appeal. Let's see how much worse I can make it, using images of baby beauty queens to gradually pile makeup on to its face until it looks ridiculous.

Scans from folder

These are from the folder I've been keeping as a record of all my research and ideas:

Firstly, here are the 9 different mouths I made, according to my animated speech research. I thought about using plasticine to mould different mouth shapes to the doll's face in a claymation style, but settled on paper as it worked well in my experiment (showed up well on camera) and, though fiddly, was not too difficult to change from frame to frame. I have to think carefully about which one to choose each time and for how long (the shape of a talking mouth relies on sounds rather than letters of the alphabet) but I was happy with the result. The timing will never be perfect, but I like the artificiality of the paper mouth and it will allow me to change the colour gradually to emulate the application of lipstick.

This is a very complicated and boring diagram showing how I planned the timing visually (in terms of speech/musical interludes) and how many seconds each spoken phrase takes, word  by word. This will be useful when thinking about speech, as I will have to dissect each syllable. I have started to do this below.

I have not formulated a traditional storyboard as, despite having a clear idea in my mind of the final outcome, I am a fan of accidental changes as these can often be original and interesting. I am open to alterations that may happen, so I'm trying not to plan carefully. All I really need is the rough one below, which makes sense to me (and probably no one else) combined with the notes above.

I'm almost ready to begin the final animation...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Concept drawing

I drew a picture of the doll i have been using to get my ideas going.

I have decided to use a different doll as this one has got quite dirty and I want one that has hair and a body. I'm hoping this will look more like the 'living dolls' I have researched below:

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Artists who use dolls

Before I start filming, I want to consolidate my ideas by exploring artists who have used dolls in their work,
here are a few of my favourites:

Hans Bellmer

According to good old Wikipedia, Bellmer 'was a German artist, best known for the life-sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s'. He recreated the doll girl in a variety of contorted forms, all of which I find extremely scary. The fear they provoke is owed to their resemblance to a real body, combined with their Surrealist abstraction from it; they are both human and not-human. Like the dolls I have been using to depict the horrors of the pageant world, Bellmers 'poupees' give a sense of something not quite right. This is not surprising when we consider his inspiration was unrequited lust for a young girl. Like me, Bellmer manipulated his 3D object to create photographs, but he built it himself rather than using found objects.
' In acknowledging his objectification of the nubile form Bellmer seems to have stumbled across something much deeper, the tragedy of being that nubile form. Young women, though beautiful, often seek validation in a variety of ways. Society pushes such an archetype to be complacent and accepting of any affection given to them, even forcing them to play the role of the victim.'
- Interesting words from an extensive article found at http://volatilestructure.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-object-of-desire-la-poupee/

Jake and Dinos Chapman
From Six Feet Under (1997)

It would be hard not to choose these brothers, as I used to see them in the pub opposite my work! Long before this, I had found images of their strange mutant doll sculptures in books and been shocked by them from a young age. They manipulate life-sized plastic dolls to shock audiences, like I hope to. Though I'm not using life-size mannequins or mutating the body shape, I want a similar sense of obvious artificiality (hard, shiny plastic) which is unsettling in its imitation of human characteristics. I can see a lot of Bellmer's influence in their work with dolls.

Tracey Moffat
Doll Birth 1972

I had not come across this photographer before researching this project. I was taken aback by this image of two boys playing, from her 'Scarred for Life' series. Though it looks like a simple snapshot, this image uses the doll as a prop to show the tragic and the comic; in Moffat's words 'there is a thin line between both.'

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Last animation lesson!

Today I had planned to make (and edit) a lot more experiments, but I ran out of time as we had peer reviews.

I decided, instead of experimenting with a range of different camera angles, zooming and repetition, to try and do them all at once, kind of blindly as I didn't have time to try out a lot.

Here's what I came up with:

I wanted to see if I could make the mouth movements a little more realistic in time to words, but this still needs a lot of work (though I don't need it to be perfect as evident artificiality is integral to my film). I can polish this by studying human speech and drawing how each sound shapes the mouth, along with looking at existing examples for reference.

I have done very minimal editing here (only spent about 5 minutes doing it) because of time restrictions, but hopefully the main ideas I was trying to animate are evident.

The effect of dispensing with the mirror and vast expanse of background is that the viewer is confronted fully by the doll (particularly when it is facing forwards and zoomed in) and this is unsettling. It is as though the face on the screen is trying to communicate with the audience, which is fairly sinister, but I was aiming for this.

The idea of spinning the head round was fairly spontaneous as I had originally hoped to shoot some frames from different angles (high up, low, far away, from the side...) but was unable to do this. I like the effect but I don't really know what it's saying, apart from perhaps trying to turn away/ escape the viewers gaze.

The wink at the end was just for fun, I was trying to see if I could get it to look creepy and it did. I only shot 4 frames of the eye closing at different stages, then copied these in reverse order to get the eye open again at a consistent speed. I think this was a good trick and saved some time, I could do the same when I've made more mouth shapes - I could have about 10 of them and use them in different orders to create the effect of words; shooting each word separately in sequence would be tedious.