The Making Of “Symptoms”: Part 1, Inspiration

The Symptoms of His Madness Were As Follows: is a short animated film by Sheryl Jenkins, based on a short story by me. The story itself is in my collection, The Bridge That Bunuel Built.

It came about through our contact on twitter. Somehow we followed each other. I checked out Sheryl’s work as an animator and wondered if she would be interested in doing something based on one of my stories. I didn’t want a conventional book trailer. But I did want something that could help me promote the collection and my writing. A kind of micro film, if you will.

Symptoms is quite short and intense so I thought that might be a good one to work with. I sent it to Sheryl and she agreed. Right from the start I gave her a pretty open brief – basically, I said take it and do whatever you want with it.

That said, Sheryl is a collaborative film maker, so we did talk through a number of the decisions. First of all we talked about the style of the animation.We both thought that because the film came from a short story, it would make sense to use text in some way. But we didn’t want the usual static subtitles of a book trailer. We wanted the words to seem like an integral part of the film, to come out of whatever else was happening.

I had seen this student trailer for Miranda July’s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, and liked the way the text was incorporated into the setting. Sheryl came back with some examples that she thought were interesting: Jonathan Hodgson’s Feeling My Way which uses a technique called rotoscoping. As Sheryl said, “I like the idea of the use of text and visuals and something a bit manic and rough.”

She was also looking at Prince Achmed by Lotte Reiniger, which uses animated silhouettes. It was another technique she was thinking about at the early stages.

This rotoscope music clip by someone called Kurt D. was also something we looked at.

So we decided on a rotoscope technique, combining live action elements with animated ones. In fact, in Sheryl’s film I would say that the live action background is itself animated. I find it pretty hypnotic watching it!

The Symptoms Of His Madness Were As Follows: from Sheryl Jenkins on Vimeo.

More to come!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *