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bjørnsen & mantzaris / but milk is important

Delightfully disturbing, this is a studly student piece indeed. The trailer for this short from joint directors Anna Mantzaris and Eirik Bjørnsen, hailing from Volda University College in Norway, proves to be as much a mystery as it is a masterpiece. What is this film about? Is it a warmer and fuzzier Donnie Darko? Is it a crazy cute Kafka story? Is it a psychological mind bender or an ominous nutritional service announcement? The only thing that is certain is that it is beautifully lit, shot and art directed and is a piece of engagingly suspenseful storytelling. We can’t wait until this endearingly dark dust bunny comes fully out of the closet. Read on for some great production details from co-director Anna Mantzaris.


    We both wanted to explore Stop Motion for our graduation project. Both had thought of stories about a Man with a Creature that does not belong in this world, and to create an interesting relationship between them. 
The film should have a dark mystical, but yet tragicomic, mood and have a good warm feeling at the same time. We were inspired by the same style of animation, and like the handmade look. After some discussion we decided to work together and started brainstorming for what would become “But Milk Is Important”

Working with Stop Motion is fun because it is closer to working with actual film. You have the set, lights and the actors on set. The animator has to help them do their act of the film. We appreciate the authenticity and presence that Stop Motion gives by using real models, something that you can feel and touch. Knowing that most of what you see is real, and the animator have physically moved the characters and objects to give them life is great.
    In Stop Motion you give life to a lifeless object. For us this is magic.

In bigger productions which do really impressive work we think it is a bit sad that the studios often try to perfect the film so much that in the end it looks like it could be a CG production.

It was then really important to us to keep the handmade feel, but still keep the quality as high as we could. It is easy to just start doing things as “realistically” as possible, especially in stop motion. But we tried to not fall into that The texture of different materials that can be captured in stop motion is very valuable to us. And we didn’t want to hide the fact that it is handmade. 
Some of our inspiration came from Chris Sickels, Red Nose Studio. He creates beautiful puppet illustrations/installations while keeping the rough and handmade style.

    The story in Milk has very little dialogue and relies mostly on body language, atmosphere and feelings, so we created a small library of face replacements for the main character. The man barely talks so having replaceable expressions was key to show his mood and feelings as the creature affects his daily life. From the beginning we were planning to remove the seam lines from the replacements in post production, but we liked the look it gave to the puppet. We also liked having it exposed how it was made.

Doing reference video is key for catching details someone does when they are acting and doing movements. We referenced almost every shot and noticed details in the movement and the acting. Applying these details on the animation to made it more personal. When looking at the reference we could also call on certain timings and apply that in the animation. Considering we were both animating the man, doing reference helped out a lot with defining how his personality is.
    


For equipment we used Dragonframe and the school’s Canon DSLR cameras with a variety of both Nikon and Canon lenses. 
Since the atmosphere had a highly important role throughout the film we tried to use the camera as an active part of the storytelling. When the man wakes up on the floor and sees the creature upside down, it is a metaphor for his world turning upside down. When he is about to go out in the corridor, the very low angle is to strengthen the feel of frightening territory and a possible danger lurking. 
To emphasize this we needed good lighting. Much time went into this. We set all the lights ourselves, experimenting, testing and using whatever we could find. We also soldered small LED lights and flashlight bulbs for additional light sources for objects.


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