Tell us the story behind the project.
James is a story about a crippled man who's left alone in his house, which presents many mysteries along his journey to the other side. This was a personal project. I've always loved stop motion and was determined to teach myself the process. James was originally intended to be a collaboration with my sister. We wrote the story together, but I was left to do all the production when she went to college.
I spent many hours making sets and characters, which involved a lot of trial and error. The entire shooting of the film was done in my sister's room while she was away. Many hours were spent in a dark room while I faced the tribulations that a stop-motion animator deals with. After three months of production, I'm very proud to present my first attempt at clay animation. Hopefully, it's a starting-off point to even bigger productions.
What equipment did you use?
Most of the images were shot with a Canon EOS-1DS Mark II and a 35-70mm lens. Certain close-up shots were done with a macro lens. I used a tripod and a softbox for lighting, making sure to block off any natural light so that my animation looked as fluid as possible. I used a program called iStopMotion to turn my still images into animation. It was great because I could connect a cord from the camera directly to the computer, so I could immediately tell what the series of images looked like.
What do you think made this project stand out to the judges?
I tried to create a whole world that the audience would get sucked into. I focused on giving the main character James a powerful presence, even though he's only made of wire and clay. My animation is a complete narrative, but still has room for interpretation. It was my first attempt at stop motion, but not the last. Hopefully, the judges saw enough determination in my movie to make me a finalist.