Spite Your Face Productions, the company behind Yvette Horizon have been cranking out genre fantasy in one form or another since 1999, but this is our first independent, self funded film in more than a decade. The last was a film called ONE: A Space Odyssey in late 2000, a one minute reductio ad absurdum of the Kubrick classic, depicted in animated lego.
People always ask of animators “that must take a lot of patience?” but the choice of animation for us was one of impatience, a burning need to start making the sort of genre films that inspired us, right out the door, without all of that tedious pitching. Animation was a means to an end, to dealing in spaceships and astronauts, while the LEGO aspect a form of aesthetic shorthand. Nobody was really uploading video content at all in those days and it felt for the longest time that, besides trailers and advertising, it was just Kevin Rubio (Troops) Sandy Collora (Batman: Dead End) John Kricfalusi (Weekend Pussy Hunt) and us. So when LEGO swiftly commissioned a further five such films, we found ourselves the unwitting inspiration for a whole burgeoning movement of young lego filmmakers. It wasn’t until youtube came to kick all our asses in 2005, that all the thousands of little Spider-babies we had birthed swallowed us and ate us, completing the circle of life.
So the Yvette Horizon project is really about repeating that experiment – creating a sci-fi epic out of nothing, seeing how far a microbudget can go in the digital economy of 2013, pushing the limits of camera democracy into new territory and, if we’re successful, maybe birthing a few new spider-babies and moving things forward. Pirate babies, if you prefer.
Yvette Horizon, which has finished principal photography, is shot on ye olde Canon 5D MkII. A controversial decision perhaps for those who care about such things, but a deliberate and a political one. The 5D was still the camera du jour when the project started in late 2010 (and is still the go-to camera for stop-motion). With a superior video option wedged unwittingly into a digital stills camera at a prosumer price, and compatible with a century of lenses, Canon had accidentally released the Asahi Pentax of our times. But even when we started it was two years old, which in digital years is the same thing as broken, and to some minds there was something crushingly inevitable about choosing it. Other, bigger cameras were available to us including RED’s and Alexa’s, and all at mates-rates, but we knew hiring those would make us subject to other (better paying) peoples schedule changes. We needed a camera that on a moments notice we could find three, maybe six such identical devices and a crew trained to use them. We knew that we could pool lenses and equipment and broaden our options, that we could travel abroad and shoot second unit pick-ups. That we could shoot video and stills for every shot and have them align, creating 6k images for use in compositing. And have on-set promo photography match the look of the film. That we could shoot miniatures and model effects with the same camera at a later date and have picture properties match. There was something raw and political and pirate about shooting that way.
In addition, the native aesthetic of the Canon 5D suited the very particular visual language we wanted for Yvette. Our film is a saga of intergalactic ne’er do wells, but what its not is a film built of stifling matte shots and green screens. There is a language to low budget sci-fi which we shredded and burnt, in favor adopting an unpolished intimacy, a naturalism of camera to ground in reality the bubblegum world. A constant flow of motion suggested in part by Blomkamp but owing more to early Wong Kar Wai. In our own little way we are aiming for the opposite of films like District 9 and Monsters where a mix of vérité and CG are used to bring impossible things into the real world, but instead reversing those same elements to embellish our strange locations and make people ask “where did they film this exactly?”
I believe we are in a silver age of (narrative) short film, the most prolific, creative, combative era since the short film was cinema 100 years ago. There are incredible resources for the impatient filmmaker today, tech forums and tutorials and effects scripts all offering you ways to be better, to match the tantalising volume of competition.
This has all emerged because for the first time perhaps since the theatrical cartoons of the 1930s there is a meaningful audience for shorts, they are a part of peoples day (though perhaps they call them memes) and there is nothing more evolving than the demands of a global audience. The future is no longer cinemas domain, it may not even be the domain of the feature, so if you are impatient to do something foolishly ambitious, you should probably just get on with it.
To this end, today sees the launch of our Indiegogo campaign for completion funding, which will run until January 1st. Please come and join us.