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2014 // Drama, Tragedy, Music Video, Stop Motion


Dir: Paul Flannery

What is the film about?

Stop-motion music video for The Slow Show song ‘Testing’. The themes of loneliness, depression and agoraphobic behaviour are visited through both the song and character of Jan, a man cocooned in the four walls of his flat, struggling with his demons and the thoughts of getting out into the world again.

What influenced it?

The biggest influence was the song itself, the haunting theme of loneliness and hard times are something everybody can relate to, and sometimes having to deal with demons alone is a position everyone finds themselves in at one time or another. The fact is, Jan, the main character lives in the middle of a city, where hundreds of people surround him, yet he is alone with his struggles and cocoons himself away from the world, while his life ebbs away. It’s certainly a position I’ve felt myself in from one time or another. Various influences played a part in the making of Testing. The setting of the lonely-but-cosy flat was influenced by my own life, when I was in my 20s and lived in an high-rise in Salford. The exterior is Manchester, its landscape of Warehouses and railway arches are where I live and are deep-rooted in the ‘Northern’ sound of the band. Animations such as Going Equipped by Aardman animations and Next by Barry Purves were inspirations, simply because of their well observed, single-character performances. Terry Gilliam’s cut-out sequences from Monty Python certainly inspired the film’s opening.

A little background information...

I’ve been animating professionally on children’s shows for the past decade and wanted to start making my own films, in particular I wanted to tackle a music video. When I heard The Slow Show, I was immediately drawn in to their style of music, the deep vocals combined with rich instrumentals really stood out to me. After becoming friends with the band, I cheekily asked them if they would consider allowing me to have a shot at making a film for ‘Testing’, a song I loved from the moment I heard it. Happily, they agreed. We sat down and talked about various ideas, and decided that a simple idea of a person struggling with their own demons of being in “a dark-place” would complement the song. Stop-motion was the ideal medium; when people see the puppet of Jan, they feel warmth towards him, they think he’s cute. Then when they realise he is alone and fed-up, that feeling becomes one of sorrow and sympathy which is the emotion the music evokes. Jan the puppet is only 10 inches high and the viewer knows this. However, the loneliness and solitude of his life makes him seem even smaller, and therefore, more delicate.

How was the film made?

Filmed using traditional stop-motion animation. A puppet made from ball-socket armature filmed on hand-made sets. The character was held in place and grounded using magnets and tie-downs. The opening sequence was a mix of photographed models, built and photographed from kits and composited in a computer.

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