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Brown Bag’s An Ode to Love by Matthew Darragh

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An Ode to Love is a short film directed by New Zealander Matthew Darragh. This is the hilariously well acted tale of one isolated man on a desert island who manages to recreate the passionate highs and lows of romance with nothing more than a stick and the ample amount of time that being marooned on an island affords. During its production the film has travelled all over the world, with the idea being initially sparked in Barcelona, the pre production commencing on the Greek isles and the film finally being completed at Brown Bag Films in Ireland. This intrepid journey of the production captivated the audience at Melbourne International Animation Festival this year and we caught up with Matthew Darragh in Australia as his travels continue!

Darragh admits that he doesn’t allow financial restrictions to get in the way of him starting the creative process.

I really, really love short film making, it’s such an adventure and usually you don’t have very much money. You take a leap of faith as you don’t know how you will get from A to B – you just trust that you will.

ODE_still_02It is that trust in the process that lead him to journeying around the world to bring his idea to life.

So I wrote the story for An Ode to Love when I was living in Barcelona, I’d taken a year off commercial work for some creative work. Barcelona is visually a beautiful city and very inspiring. But what struck me more than the beauty of the city was the amount of drama everybody was having, it’s funny. I lived next door to a couple that argued a lot and even in the city, old couples would still manage to shout at each other and get heated about things. I found this really interesting coming from New Zealand, we are quite unexpressive. A lot of this drama in Barcelona was based on nothing at all. I thought this would make an interesting story, so I wrote one about a man on a desert island, completely by himself but he still managed to create relationship drama. I read the story back a few days later and realised that there’s quite a bit of truth in this, we like drama, we create it and attract it. It makes us feel a little bit more important, our lives become a bit more interesting and it stops us from being bored. I really like the story and I think that is something really important about short films, you really need to feel inspired by your story. With a short film the budget is usually really low so you have to be in love with story so the project can be sustained.

The importance of having a day job really fights the need of a personal creative outlet in this tale of the production and in this case the day job, working on Henry Hugglemonsters, led him to find funding, and the short film developed from there.

Whilst working on commercial work in Dublin the story was always there and I tried to find funding for the project, and I finally did with Film Base. They gave me ten thousand euro’s, and the first series of Henry Hugglemonster was coming to the end, so I had a lot of time free. I was delighted, this was my opportunity to make the film. I thought I’m just going to take up travelling with my laptop and I’m going to make it as I go. Ten thousand euro’s isn’t really enough to pay anyone to do anything, I just thought I’d do it all myself. So I applied for various artist’s residencies around the place and I got one on a Greek Island, called Rhodes. I went off there and spent two months in the most beautiful building, looking out over the sea, with ten writers and artists. For two months I worked on the storyboard and the animatic for the film. So when that residency came to an end, I thought well it’s working so I’ll keep travelling through the islands with my laptop and keep animating. I found myself on this beautiful island called Patmos. This island was a holy island, Saint John was banished by the Romans and exiled for being Christian. He was sitting in a cave meditating and heard the voice of God, transcribed what he was saying and this became the book of revelations. So I thought, this is my island. I found a little place to make the film, and started in 2D. But I had a few revelations of my own, whilst making the film, turns out the Greek Islands in summer aren’t a very good place to work, because everybody is just partying. My revelation was that being the only one working I was quite isolated, I really missed having a team behind me. I felt that it was the kind of film that needed a team. The other revelation I had was that I was doing it in 2D but it felt like it should be a 3D film. So I felt like I wasn’t making the film I wanted to make.

ODE_still_03

Taking the production solo led Darragh back to the team and the job in Ireland, to make the film the best it could possibly be.

Then out of the blue I got an email from Brown Bag Films, stating that production on the second series of Henry Hugglemonsters had started up quite early, and would I like to direct on that. So I said, I’d love to come but how do you feel about me bringing this short into the studio, and we could make this short together. They um’d and ah’d a little bit, but eventually decided it would be a good idea because they didn’t have much on and they liked the animatic, they thought it was funny. Within a week I was back in Dublin, working on both.

This lack of strategy with production and approach that went with the flow meant the film got the best out of all aspects of the journey, even though the team had other work on, the twists and turns are almost of this production journey are as captivating and unexpected as the film itself.

The interesting thing about making short films is that they never really go how you expect them to, and they never conform to a plan. So you have to be quite fluid with your approach to them. We had this really ideal situation, where we could use all of the animators to work on the short film at Brown Bag, as long as it didn’t interfere with any of the studio work. But that posed it’s own problems, you are never quite sure when anybody is going to be free and therefore couldn’t predict anybody working on it. Sometimes we had to do things out of order, and as the year passed the studio got really busy so we got less artists to help us, and it all came to a head when the line producer called me into his office and said you can’t use anymore lighters for the film. We didn’t have very much money and after six or seven months people were tired, I thought what are we going to do without being able to use these lighters? I thought the film was dead. Then out of the blue again came this email from a Malaysian studio that said they were up and coming and loved Brown Bag’s work, and they’d love to work with Brown Bag. Would there be a project Brown Bag could give them, where they could show what they could do, in term’s of lighting? So I volunteered the film. So we sent it to the studio and they lit the second half of the film for us. They did an amazing job! So we had another three months until the film was finished and it took about a year all together.

OdeTeamatFoyle

The team who worked on production.

An Ode to Love is currently screening at animation festivals worldwide. Head over to Twitter and follow Brown Bag Films and director Matthew Darragh.

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