It wasn’t just any old screening either. It was a SPECIAL screening (held on the 29th of March), followed by a Q & A with Adam Elliot (writer, director, Academy Award winner), and Melanie Coombs (producer, cheerleader, cajoler, magician).
Mary and Max is about the growing and evolving pen-friendship between Mary, a lonely eight-year-old girl from the Melbourne suburbs, and Max, an obese, Jewish, New Yorker with Asperger’s Syndrome. The film is wickedly observant and lovingly peppered with bits of Australiana that will make you smile with recognition.
Shivering in anticip…ation.
Actually, it was rather warm so I was perspiring gently with anticipation, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Before the movie started, we were treated to a short claymation film made by three of my classmates from FTI’s animation course.
The … ah … opening credits for the introductory short.
The client brief stated that it was OK if the short ended up looking “really, really crappy”, but I still think it has a certain charm. It took two days of hard work to make, not to mention a lot of admirable restraint. (Do you know how hard it is for talented artists–trust me, I’ve seen their normal work–to make something that looks crappy?)
A still from the introductory claymation. I would have liked to insert the actual film here but my blog editor doesn’t like .wmv files, for some reason.
Hurrah for Daniel, Miles and Crystal! (That’s Daniel Kristjansson, Miles Hansen, and Crystal Bradley.) And special thanks to our training facilitator, Ebbie Williams, who came in on the second day to help (above and beyond the call of duty) and then spent hours putting it all together in post-production.
The idea and the voice (now with extra grunting!) were provided by Christian Horgan from the ABC. He is the man with the elegant head sitting on the right, in the picture below.
At last–Q & A time! (From the left: Mary and Max producer Melanie Coombs, director and writer Adam Elliot, and presenter Christian Horgan.)
This was my first film Q & A, and I made some quick notes so you can share in the goodness too:
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD
- On how he comes up with his stories. “I tend to start with the details and then work backwards.”
- Adam described himself as “a very impatient film maker”. “I try to create really dense films … so when [the audience] leave the cinema, I haven’t wasted an hour and a half of [their] lives.”
- “Even though there’s a lot of dark matter, I try to make the ending as hopeful as possible … If I really wanted to make it dark, Mary’s baby would have died and Max would have been eaten by his pets!”
- He strives to create characters that are “authentic and believable”, saying, “I want you to be moved by [Max],” and, “We make ‘clayographies’.”
Some interesting making-of information:
- Miles asked how smoke was created, and Adam replied that they used black velvet and coiled white wire, carefully rotated and shot frame by frame to add transparency.
- Making water and waves: most of the water, in glasses, fishbowls, toilets, was actually clear lubricant. To make ocean waves, about 50 tubes of lubricant (!) was emptied onto a sheet of Perspex, and then cellophane was laid over the top. The cellophane, plumped up with lubricant, was poked and prodded to look like waves. A frame would be shot, the cellophane would be manipulated again, they would shoot another frame, and so on.
Melanie and Adam specially thanked Perth animators and crew who had worked on the movie, mentioning Pierce Davison, who was in the audience.
I also learnt some Q & A etiquette for next time. These scientific observations have been derived from watching the audience, listening to the types of questions asked (and the responses to these questions: formulaic? Excited? Pithy?), and my rising or ebbing blood pressure.
- Do some research before attending the Q & A. Go to the film’s website, Google the film title, and read interviews. This will help you with the next bit.
- Come prepared with questions that have not already been answered by the website, or in interviews. There will be many people in the audience who will be bored (OK, maybe just me), and using their imagination to quietly stab you (again, maybe just me). You are talking to the film’s creators in REAL LIFE. They are your captives. Now is the time to ask them any questions that were not in the sanitised press release; hard, gritty, unusual, burning questions!
- Hmm, how to put this nicely … compliments are nice, but do keep them short, and for the love of [insert deity] please do not say things like, “This is such a wonderful film. I like how wonderful the characters were. My question is: how is it that you are so wonderful?” AAARGH.
- On the other hand, any question is better than an uncomfortable silence (it’s OK, there weren’t many).
But really, it was a fantastic experience, made even more enjoyable by the presence of good friends and colleagues. I’ll end with a rather nice quote from Melanie:
Friendships sustain all of us, all through our lives.
Update (April 9th, 2009): The ScreenWest News and Events page has a short interview with Perth animator Pierce Davison, who was invited by Melanie to work on Mary and Max. Read all about it here.
Source: ScreenWest News and Events page at http://www.screenwest.com.au/go/news-and-events/news-articles, posted April 8th, 2009.