Having directed commercial films and animations for the likes of MTV, Nike and The Discovery Channel, London-based director Abbie Stephens has turned her attention towards directing shorts films. Her latest, Observations On Relationships is a four-and-a-half-minute darkly comedic insight into the many faces of love and companionship and is Abbie’s second film to be commissioned by Channel 4’s Random Acts series.
The short debuted last month on Channel 4 and marks Abbie’s first collaboration with the comedy writer Ryan O’Connor who delivered the dialogue for the film. “I had been wanting to write a film with dialogue for a while," Abbie tells It’s Nice That, and the investigation into modern relationships with their “idiosyncratic quirks” provided an apt opportunity to incorporate dialogue into her stylised visual aesthetic.
Produced by Blink productions, the short is formed of sketch-like segments revealing the director’s keen observations into relationship dynamics. “There are no underlying messages that I want people to take from the film," explains Abbie. Though the film aims to provide enjoyment to its viewers, the real ingenuity of the short lies in the viewer’s ability to relate to the characters and the awkward situations they encounter.
It is no news that relationships, for everyone, are very, very different cases. Whether it’s one that seems like a relentless and undying obsession with one another, one that consists of increasingly infuriating declarations of love or one that ends with an unexpected dumping that you would rather pretend you didn’t hear, Abbie’s short remarks on each and every kind. “I wrote at least ten different relationship types before I started thinking about the characters and scenes”, says Abbie on this creative process. Also using her own relationship experiences, she then devised these relationship types into individual sketches that act as a window into their own reality whether that be “suffocating or bittersweet”. After bringing Ryan on board to help with the film’s dialogue, Abbie and art director Zoe mutually agreed that the film’s ultimate intention lay in dark comedy. Altogether, the creatives worked tirelessly on the film’s production to ensure that “all the visual metaphors were pulled off within the micro-budget.”
Aiming at a timeless aesthetic, Abbie wanted the styling to feel accordingly classic. She goes on to say, “I had been watching a lot of Mad Men, so perhaps my timeless barometer had been skewed a bit”, as seen through the 1970s vintage-looking locations and art nouveau-inspired type. But with a dose of the surreal and well-timed humour, Observations On Relationships showcases Abbie’s persistence to push herself creatively with every film she makes.
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