Saturday, 6 November 2010

Jenny Ringo Needs you...

Well it needed me actually. Here's my account of workignonf Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw.

So there I was minding my own business when Brother Chris suddenly announced it, “I’m making a short film and I need you to do some animation.”

With nothing better to do I jumped at the chance...

...Ok so it didn’t really go exactly like this. Well actually, pretty much. This was before the exact details had all been worked out. You see it started as me filming 20 seconds of Animation, tops. Then it stretched to me becoming half of the art department. This naturally led me onto the Prop handler/wrangler and finally settling on general dogsbody, including a bit of Fake Shempery.

But I still jumped at the chance. If Chris could pull it off, this film would be mental, and prove that all short films didn’t need to be about two people arguing in the director’s living room.
Here be my experience on Jenny Ringo and the Monkey’s Paw.

I’ll split this into 3 separate sections due to the different jobs I worked on.


So my initial task was to use my animation skills to animate (obviously). There were two short sections. Now I don’t want to give too much away with any of this so I’ll be brief. I needed to animate a Monkey, which I can say, as monkeys clearly play a large part in the story. This was just a ten second clip to visualise a monkey doing stuff. (I’m good at hiding the spoilers).

For this I used my tried and tested technique:-storyboard the clip, film it to get timing right, start drawing on paper, frame by frame. I then scanned the pictures and composited the whole thing together on the PC. This sounds simple, and relatively is, but takes time. I think the drawing, scanning and compositing only took about three days max. After an evening of tweaking, the first scene was complete.

The next scene once again needed to visualise some stuff. I had a chance to elaborate a little with this though and managed to come up with a cool little scenario for a famed Russian playwright/Star ship navigator. Somehow this one didn’t take as long. Well, I say that, but when I finished this one it was the early hours of the morning. This scene ended up being about 15 seconds long.

There’s nothing too complicated with these scenes. But hopefully they help to take the film that extra level to show what can be done with low budget independent shorts.

Art Department/Props

None of this is chronological by the way. I didn’t animate until after principal photography had finished. Before that I was given the task of Art Department along with Charlotte my girlfriend, and we dived straight in. There were 4 major areas. The living room, kitchen, hallway and one bedroom.

We basically had to make Brother Chris’ flat not look like his flat but like someone else’s flat. With the living room we needed to make it look as though we hadn’t just added a load of cool looking things on the shelves but that someone actually lived there. This was fun to go round and collect what we already owned and buy a few odd looking objects to fill the spaces. Here are some of my favourites:

The Creepy Doll – Strangely I felt safer with this after I bloodied it up.

The Brain – You always need a brain.

With the Kitchen, we were tasked to mess it up. Not just mess it up, it needed to look like it had never been cleaned. As if no one had ever even thought of cleaning it. As if no one would dare clean it. The trick for this is canned goods. Beans, macaroni and cheese and the slightly worrying meal in a can. I think we chose the all day breakfast as we couldn’t find the one with the omelette in.

Messing up a kitchen is easy. Lay a few unwashed dishes around, leftovers from lunch, add more dishes for effect and cover with beans and so on. Please note this will create an unpleasant smell and a sight you hope never to witness in the real world.

Once the scene was complete we got to tidy the Kitchen up. Lucky Us.

The hallway and bedroom was simply a case of dressing doors or walls with stuff that the characters might have decorated with, whilst subtly revealing a bit of their character in the decoration. Jenny was always going to be spooky, gothy and halloweeny. Gavin was never really explored deeply. Just a slacker type so we opted for an assortment of posters torn from music magazines.

Fake Shemp and Everything Else

I also appear in the film in a couple of Fake Shemp roles. 1 looking terribly like the ghost from Carnival of Souls and another, well let’s just say I got the role because apparently I look smarter in a suit.

Further to all the above, I was generally there for most of the filming. Helping out where I could. Whether this was as a drinks wrangler, monkey wrangler, sound wrangler or safety pin wrangler; I was always happy to help out.

Yes the days were long, and there were a couple of occasions where I had to sit in a room on my own until snacks/drinks were needed; but this is all part of the fun; because at the end of the day, I was part of something truly original.

I just hope the curse never catches up with me when I cut of the monkey’s paw in the first place.


You can see more of Pete's awesome animations on his YouTube channel here and keep up to date with what he's working on next at his blog here (which you should follow to encourage him to update it more often!).