In producing this ground breaking music video, the band Modest Mouse got the royal treatment from Bent Image Lab and director Nando Costa. A dark and expressive piece of filmmaking, this 6-minute video includes intense moments of live-action, stop motion, visual effects, and motion graphics techniques, all brought to life within the studio’s walls.
Concept: After entering his personal sanctuary, an artist is presented with a hand-crafted drawing tool that assists him in materializing his mental impressions. The machine discharges his thoughts as an endless web of yarn that guides him through his physical thoughts. The story progresses to reveal that he is divided between two worlds, one of dull reality and the second of warped memories. In the process of finding a way out of his consciousness, he is trapped between the two competing spaces, which eventually inflict lethal damage, acting as metaphors to self-destruction.
This lyrical and moving piece was conceived by Nando Costa working closely with lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock to polish some of the film's intricacies. Featuring a seamless combination of live-action and stop motion that alternates between stage shots of Modest Mouse and a spiraling dream-like world of ever-shifting landscapes, Whale Song is a stunning representation of the combined capabilities of Nando and Bent. The variety and execution of the VFX portions of the video – from yarn reeling into complex patterns to a guitar that plays with no musician attached – strongly evoke the confused and surreal patterns of one's warped memories. Additional creative touches such as animated and intricate photographic collages and giant CG snails sliding across the band's stage – add variety and depth to the surreal world.
One of the challenges in Whale Song was to recreate the contours of an ever changing, disorienting and intriguing series of landscapes. Costa shot the majority of the piece with Bent’s RED cameras. In order to create the feeling that lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brock was being split up between two competing scenarios of pure reality and his imagination, for example, Costa mounted two of the RED cameras side by side on a custom plate, each with identical lenses set at an angle to simulate a stereoscopic effect.
In another instance, band members that appeared to be standing on the ground were actually hoisted aloft and secured to a fake ground plane, which meant that the stage floor was perpendicular to the ground. This situation intentionally restrained their flexibility and shifted the gravity, adding oddness to their movements.
Costa used a variety of frame rates, ranging from time-lapses at 6 frames per second, to 1000 fps shots from a Phantom camera to give the feeling of variety of speed in the character's memories. Blue screen stages were used extensively to place Isaac against the varying landscapes of mountains, dense forest valleys, and deserts. Bent's CG department was also responsible for creating significant portions of the video's landscapes and scenic elements.
During production, Nando and his team relied solely on a very detailed script containing technical and creative notes, live-action and animation guidelines, with specifications for composting and stop motion, which were all previously defined and polished by the director.
Music: Modest Mouse
Animation Studio: Bent Image Lab
Director: Nando Costa
Executive Producer: Ray Di Carlo
Senior Producer: Tsui Ling Toomer
Producer: Kara Place
Production Coordinator: Ryan Shanholtzer
Director of Photography: Bryce Fortner
Motion Control Operator: Jim Birkett
Gaffer: Adam Burr, Jim Birkett
Phantom HD Technician: Benji Brucker
Kinetic Sculptor: Ben Hopson
Set Designers: Nando Costa, Solomon Burbridge
Set & Prop Fabricators: Daniel Miller, Eric Urban, Greg Fosmire, Jamie Hanson, Jen Prokopowicz, Justin Warner, Kimi Kaplowitz, Marty Easterday, Sarah Hoopes, Solomon Burbridge,
Art Department Coordinator: Evan Stewart
Carpenter: Drew Lytle
Graphic Designer: Nando Costa
3D Artists: Eric Durante, Shirak Agresta
2D Animation & Compositing: Brian Kinkley, Brian Merrel, Jay Twenge, McKay Marshall, Nando Costa, Orland Nutt, Randy Wakerlin
Stop-Motion Animation: Jen Prokopowicz, Marty Easterday
Still Photography: Jared Tarbell, Nando Costa
Special Thanks to: Isaac Brock, Darrin Wiener, Linn Olofsdotter
This is the tale of Left-brained Larry & Right-brained Rachel, a Siamese twin couple, stuck
together by the head and thus resulting in them sharing only one brain. Using exactly fifty percent
each, their separate personalities are kept intact and following the theory, being either left- or rightbrained, Larry and Rachel are complete opposites. They have a hard time being stuck together with their counterpart, but not only do they hate each other, their abnormality also makes them dislikable to the people around them, leaving them with a melancholy life of bullying and parental neglect.
One thing the couple shares though is a common hatred and a longing for revenge.
The opportunity arrives when they find out that using the whole brain at once might give them
supernatural powers that can help rid them of their enemies. But the tragic lesson is learned: Being
so opposite their team work is doomed to go terribly wrong.
I've had the idea for this story for a couple of years before I came to the European Film College
(EFC). I've always been very interested in how the brain works and how intelligence can be
categorized between individuals and at the time I had recently read what is now my favourite book,
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and other stories by my number one idol Tim Burton.
Influenced by the style of this book, mixed with philosophies of left- and right-brained theories, the
characters of Larry and Rachel came to me out of thin air.
I drew my first sketch of the characters and played around with some rhymes but didn't get much
further at the time. I've always had a small dream of doing stop motion, so it wasn't until the
opportunity arose at the school that I decided to take up the idea once again. Eventually I submitted
it for the Final Projects and was extremely happy when it got chosen amongst the around seventy
Today the theories are quite outdated, but I decided that this wasn't supposed to be a story of realism afterall. The concept worked brilliantly though: From this very black and white way of looking at the world, the personalities of Larry and Rachel were strictly set from the beginning and it was easy to figure out how each of them would think in any given situation. The plot came from the idea of Larry and Rachel joining forces to get revenge on the people who had treated them badly whilst growing up. By mixing brainwaves Larry and Rachel could get supernatural powers. Knowing how opposite they are though, the ending was just as clear to me from the beginning.
I enjoyed writing this script and hope to write many more just like it. Stylistically it's very
influenced by the works of Tim Burton and even Edaward Gorey who inspired him. I regard this
project as the first step on my way to finding my own unique style; a mix of all the details I love so.
For four weeks we worked and lived in the common room of the Blue House at the EFC and hardly
saw the sunshine that was right outside the huge black curtain that was to be constantly closed for
light continuity reasons. A total of twenty sets of hands pitched in, all contributing with a great dose
of creativity. Some would merely join us for an afternoon of propmaking when they had free time
from other projects, others were full time members which gave us a core crew of seven people who
worked from 9 am to 11pm every day.
The film was made as one of the 16 Final Projects to culminate our school year at the EFC – being
the only animation film.
This film is definitely the result of an incredible effort and most importantly: Great management.
Because of a cool overview and control we managed to keep the deadline. There were many
challenges along the way, but they were always solved with creativity and hard work.
I feel extremely fortunate to have worked with such a hardworking bunch of people who not only
transferred my script and drawings to an exact replica of what I had envisioned in my mind, but
always added such a fine dose of humor and detail.
Written by Sally A. Ward, June 2009
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“A scaffold supporting different surfaces on which we can project our desires, a series of open possibilities where the rules are made up in the exchanges between two performers, and the audience.” Zoi Dimitriou
A woman and a man fall.
Is it their wish to do so?
Are they challenged by the gaze of the other?
Or by the witnessing spectators?
You May! is a dance theatre work that asks what it is to live in contemporary society, where the old paradigm of ‘you can, because you must’ has been inverted to ‘you must, because you can’. Using sound, set and lighting, this interdisciplinary piece offers the spectators propositions in the settings of imagination, desire and risk. Involving interactive stage elements for the performers to engage with and challenge each other within the realms of the environment that they have been implemented in.
Concept/Choreography: Zoi Dimitriou
Dance/Performance: Zoi Dimitriou, Andrew Graham
Original Sound Composition: Andy Pink
Lighting Design: Chahine Yavroyan
Dramaturgy: Michael Pinchbeck
Set Design: Ingrid Hu
Costume Design: Holly Waddington
Video Editing: David McCormick
Co-Produced by the Onassis Cultural Centre and Zoi Dimitriou, Commissioned by Laban Theatre, Arts Council of England and Supported by The Place, Arnolfini, Bristol Dance Consortium, British Council of Greece and Isadora and Raymond Duncan Research Dance Centre.