It’s not easy for a movie-star to age, especially when you’re a stop motion animated skeleton monster. “Rebooted” tells the story of Phil–a Harryhausen-esque stop-motion-Animated Skeleton, who is struggling to find work in modern Hollywood due to being an out of date special effect. “The idea came about as a way for me to celebrate (and play around with) the history of Hollywood Special/Visual effects creations and show them co-existing in the same live action frame,” writer and director, Michael Shanks told us.
“Throughout the course of the story I wanted to showcase characters representing different styles of classic creature creation (stop-motion, animatronic, puppet, etc…), and it was important to me that we re-create these methods as faithfully as possible. As such, whilst the plate photography is live action, our main character is 100% authentically stop-motion: a silicone sculpt on a steel armature, animated by our amazing animator Samuel Lewis using Dragonframe.”
The piece plays as a true homage to Hollywood magic and the team’s love of that history really comes across. For one thing, at over 12 minutes, there is a true story arc that is more than just a construct for the effects. When we asked Shanks about it he admitted that the script was a struggle at first. “I had the premise and the lead character, but finding a way to show as much of this premise as possible whilst confined to a 15 minute sort of runtime (for cost reasons) proved tricky– there were so many different possible directions it was hard to settle on which one was correct!
“I was always trying to push it from a creative point of view,” he said, “as just showcasing the premise in the film wasn’t enough. I wanted to establish a crazy world, a bunch of characters, and have lots of weird fun (including a couple of action scenes) whilst never straying from a character journey of someone that feels time and technology has rendered them obsolete.”
Doing this as successfully as they did with the resources they had was an even bigger feat. “Whilst we were incredibly fortunate to have some funding from Screen Australia and YouTube, we still had to find a way to shoot with a full Live-Action crew for a week, as well as pull together our diverse range of creature across their mediums,” he said. No easy task.
“Another challenge was figuring out how to shoot live action for eventual stop-motion compositing. We have VFX backgrounds so working with post is nothing new to us, but directorially, I had to adjust my usual style (lots of big, swoopy camera moves) into a more reserved, static camera language. This is mainly because matching the live action camera movements to movements on our stop-motion set was not feasible to do on more than one or two shots.”
Sounds like a lot was learned…and it shows! For more on the production check out the behind the scenes video below.