Last month I created a short film for the 48 Hour Puppet Film Project. It was a fun and frantic experience to create a film in a weekend, as I’ve only made a few puppet films before. The final result, called Waiting For Spring, is about a little mouse who anxiously waits for spring, and is happy when it finally arrives. Here is the film, and below I’ll talk about how I made it.
The rules of the 48 Hour Puppet Film Project are that you can’t start until Friday evening, when you receive a list of three elements that the film must include. This year, the films had to include a specific theme – hope, a specific object – cardboard, and a specific action – jump. Upon receiving these at 9 PM on a Friday, I started thinking of ideas.
The inspiration came from the weather forecast for that weekend. We were getting a snowstorm on Saturday morning, and then a warm sunny day on Sunday when everything would melt. I came up with the idea for a mouse who is sadly watching the snow fall, and then later is happy when spring arrives. And I could take advantage of my backyard, which had many spring flowers already blooming.
I built the puppet Friday night, using materials I had on hand. I didn’t even have time to sew, it was held together with pins and tape. I also rigged up a flower pot with an opening in the back, to manipulate the puppet.
Saturday morning, I went out into the wet snow with my video camera and puppet, and experimented with different locations and camera angles to finally get my opening shots. I had to hurry because the snow was already starting to melt by 11:00.
That evening I edited the footage, and worked on the puppet to make it more sturdy. Usually when creating a new puppet, the puppeteer needs time to experiment with the movement, to figure out what the puppet can do, and how to manipulate it. I had almost no time for this, I had to experiment while actually filming. So many of the shots turned out poorly and couldn’t be used.
Most of the filming was done with me holding the video camera in one hand and holding the puppet in the other. I had intended the mouse to be a finger puppet, but I found it was nearly impossible to work the puppet this way without my hand being visible too. So I ended up using a stiff metal wire attached to the back of the puppet (which you can see in a few shots.) In a few instances, I put the camera down to move the puppet, or I put the puppet down to move the camera.
The filming on Sunday, after the snow melted, was a mad rush to get as many sunny shots as I could. Looking back, I wish I had more time to experiment with different locations, camera angles, and movements. I finished filming around 4:00, and rushed to edit the second half of the film, and also finish the music and sound.
The music was created with GarageBand, using the instruments that come with the program. I used the computer keyboard (“Musical Typing”) to type in the notes, and then adjusted them manually, since I made a lot of mistakes. After adding the music, I adjusted the shots again, to better fit the pacing of the score.
As the deadline of 9 PM on Sunday approached, I kept noticing small things that needed to be fixed, and each render took more time. So I missed the actual deadline, but I kept working all evening and finished very late that night.
This project was a great experience for me, because I’m usually a slow and methodical worker, and often start projects that I never finish. So this really got me to focus and get something done.
Hopefully it will inspire more film projects in the future!