“Love Me, Fear Me,” is a visually simple piece eliciting complex inner questions. “What would you be willing to do for them to love you?” the film’s synopsis asks. We might add: How do our emotions shape us and take shape within us? In addition to the beauty in the changing clay forms on stage here, these essential human questions contribute to the qualities which led this Berliner student project to so many awards and festival mentions.

Animator, Veronica Solomon, describes “Love Me, Fear Me,” as a reflection on the roles we play and the shapes we take, the stages we chose, the audience we try to impress and the price of acceptance. The film is part of her graduate work from the Film University Babelsberg, with music by Dascha Dauenhauer and choreography by Martha Hincapie Charry.

“My idea was to illustrate a quite simple and basic psychological phenomenon,” Solomon told us, “namely the need to be loved and accepted in the society and the willingness to change and adapt in order to achieve that, but also the dangers of losing one’s core identity while trying too hard.

“Talking to audiences at festivals I found out I managed to address many more issues without consciously considering them: like race and gender identity or the artist’s condition…” In discussing the emotive, modern style of dance and music, Solomon said, “The choice of dance as a storytelling language was tightly connected with the subject and I still couldn’t imagine any other form.”

Solomon arrived at the idea of Claymation shortly after considering body-painting or 3D and realizing that, “The first would imply finding a person who would consent to torture and the second would require skills and a budget I was too far away from.

“I had the immense luck to find two brilliant dancers who understood my idea and the nature of the characters,” she continued. “We spent one month, 4h two times a week, trying out moves and phrases and different approaches. There wasn’t enough time to boil down a precise choreography, but I got a pretty consistent range of movements for each character, which I proceeded to weave together while making the animatic. So what I basically did was to handpick different moves from different recordings and bind them together to form fluent phrases, sometimes using unreferenced animation.”

For the set, Solomon built a basic rotating stage out of a steel plate and a light wooden structure. “The steel plate was needed so that I could fix the puppets from underneath with magnets. The turning stage top was for mocking camera movements. So instead of moving the camera, since I didn’t have a motion control system, I was rotating the stage.”

As for the clay puppets: “For a long time I was sure a ball-and-socket armature is absolutely required for a half-way serious production, so I bought one and even tested the animation on it, but then it turned out it’s unfitted for clay, at least for clay, the way I intended to animate it. So wire armatures it was! As basic as it gets.”

In terms of challenges, shooting in 3D was the main hurdle on the project. “The school had bought years before this IOTA slider and everybody, including myself thought it was a very good idea to try it on my project. Of course, nobody had used it before, nobody knew how to use it and I had to painstakingly gather my knowledge about stereography for stop-motion from the internet. I found the best tip about how to set the interocular distance according to the size of the puppet in the comments section on some Youtube video.

“The stereo complicated the postproduction also, and of course I had to do it myself and now I cannot believe how I was able to learn Nuke on the spot in order to do that.” You may be wondering how Solomon managed to work through all of these obstacles—so were we! That is, until we heard this: “I guess being pregnant and knowing there’s no working on the film once the baby is there would give one the right motivation.” Aha, that explains a lot!

Currently working on a 2D film for children right now, this talented animator hopes to get back to clay next. “I have an idea that just asks for the same technique and also dance maybe. But I’m also aware of the budget requirements, something that I didn’t have to worry about in the university. And I swear, no more stereo!”