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Work / Animation

Jamie Wolfe’s animation channels the hysteria and “sweaty tension” of a hot day

Los Angeles-based animator Jamie Wolfe’s new film, Roommates, tells the story of four roommates pushed to breaking point. “On an absurdly hot summer’s day, havoc breaks loose when one of the inhabitants returns home with a bag full of orange twinsicles and is unable to put them in the freezer. The tension and temperature rises, sanity, time and space fold into one another, all are driven psychotic by the heat,” explains Jamie.

“The film initially came from reflecting on my time living in a cramped railroad apartment in New York during a particularly brutal summer. I couldn’t think about anything but how sticky I was,” Jamie continues. “The heat tapped into this primal, animalistic side of my brain. I felt wild. Everybody in the city was just one hysterical ball of sweaty tension and I wanted to build a film around that hysteria.”

This uncomfortable and stifling heat is captured perfectly by Jamie’s wobbling and melting characters that shudder across the screen. “All the linework for this film was done with sumi ink on animation bond. I opted for wet ink because it allowed for me to draw my melty characters with lines that were actually dripping,” explains Jamie. “I made a point to embrace and encourage smears, dribbles and anything to play up the gross factor. I then brought those drawings into the computer and coloured in Photoshop. These days I’ve been really into the energy that comes from layering raw analogue lines with extreme digital colour.”

With balmy shades of red, orange and pink, the film has the same energy as the music video she created last October for Sneaks. But here, Jamie demonstrates her pacing and composition further by creating visuals to fit with a loose narrative. “For the Sneaks video, I was focused on playing off of rhythms and patterns in the music. For Roommates, it was all about the arc. I wanted there to be a certain amount of anxiety and tension in the act of watching the film, where everything is so crazy on screen that by the climax, you’re almost literally put in the same frantic brain state as the characters,” says the animator. “I tried to push grotesque exaggeration, abrasive sound design, fast cuts, and cartoon abstraction.”

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Jamie Wolfe: Roommates (still)

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Jamie Wolfe: Roommates (still)

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Jamie Wolfe: Roommates (still)

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Jamie Wolfe: Roommates (still)