SILK AND VENOM
Falmouth’s Animation course, being intensely practical and industry-focused, allows students to pitch their ideas and potentially produce a short film. In February 2021 I had previously pitched an idea, ’The House My Family Built’, but faced rejection due to a rushed and underdeveloped presentation. Determined to not make the same mistakes and knowing another pitching opportunity was upcoming in early October, I began prepping a new idea in June called ‘Silk and Venom’.
The idea developed when my mother recounted a dream she had in which fat white spiders overran the house, consuming all but her and forcing her to barricade herself in the bathroom. I’ve always been a fan of horror and thought the mortal peril of parasitic spiders squeezing under the door jam and cascading up the windows was greatly entertaining. With her permission, I began development.
I’m uncertain whether it was the omnipresent Covid-19 situation or a reflection of my cluttered headspace at the time, but the story developed a metaphorical dimension in which the spiders were a vehicle to explore obsession and denial. Perran, a kind but slightly neurotic man representative of obsession, and Elle, his optimistic girlfriend in denial of the situation. Overall, it had a message to appeal to understanding and compassion in tough times.
On the technical side of things, I knew I didn’t like background painting and decided instead to model an apartment in which I could move about a camera with the idea that it would be textured later. I also created a rough screenplay and storyboard in order to know which rooms/sets/props/outfits would be needed and attempt to figure out issues and roadblocks before entering pre-production. To monitor my progress on this I also made a schedule, task tracker, and asset tracker. I then set about making these assets to present as proof-of-concept in the pitch, since I knew my idea was ambitious (probably overly so for a 3-minute idea) and I’m a big believer in buying trust with hard work rather than asking for it.
Approaching October, I began practicing my pitch to family and friends, who advised me on how to better present my idea with pace and appeal. Then, in late September, the university set up a rehearsal in which colleagues and experts could feedback, and most vitally, I could attempt to get better at public speaking. I left feeling confident, since I went close to the beginning and received good feedback, mostly focussing on including some test animation and clarifying some confusing areas of my spoken presentation. Below are the final slides for my pitch (muted), which was among the 10 greenlit in 26 pitches.
Unfortunately, our year group was small, with a far higher demand for film producers than supply, even with them often taking on two or more productions. Due to my previous experience producing a client film all of second year, I was deemed to be the least in need of one and instead took on the dual role as both a director and producer (and animator, and character artist, and 3d artist…). Despite the stress and pressure of this, preproduction was a success.
A small team and I put together an animatic with sound and vertical slice, improved character, environment, and story beats as well as creating vital design sheets over a period of 12 weeks. I learned a lot and took great pride in presenting the team’s progress, however most of the 12 weeks I was on crunch mode, working almost all evenings and weekends to keep the production on track and meeting milestones. We stayed greenlit through to Christmas, and despite my efforts to increase the size and better the structure of the team through advertising drives to lower years and other courses nothing worked out. Below you can see our progress
In the New Year it became apparent I would have to continue to crunch another term to maintain pace with other films. I refused to ask my team to crunch also, since I think its an unethical workplace culture, and I knew that under so much pressure to just produce adequate progress the film would drop in quality. Feedback from lecturers and visiting professionals was valuable and helpful and yet I could not act upon it due to my time already being overburdened.
Regretfully, there was no other logical decision than to postpone the film for a later time, when either expectations allow for more time and consideration or more people and resources are available. I also wanted to try and use my last term to learn from my peers, given I had not taken a non-leadership role since first year and was therefore often prioritising the needs and responsibilities of a team over my own development as an animator and artist.
I plan to release a selection of the film’s best bits in the form of a concept trailer in the coming year.