“The final result was as much a surprise to us as anyone,” says New Zealand-born Frances Haszard of her latest animation, One Unique Creature. As a collaborative project in partnership with animator Louis Olsen, the outcome is a highly cinematic, highly complex, digitally animated music video for Lawrence Arabia – a local band based in Auckland.
Having deciphered which direction to take with the musicians, the aim was to blend both digital and analogue techniques – all the while enhancing the traditional frame-by-frame approach. “The idea is that animation can retain the craftsmanship of the traditional style and the accessibility of digital processes,” Frances tells It’s Nice That. “I think reassessing the role of these ways of animating and how they can work together is really interesting.” Thus, the convergence of the two leaves the viewer in a somewhat surrealist world, following the protagonist as she navigates through the dimensions of her world.
This dreamlike manner comes from a desire to project the cinematic. “The goal was to speak the language of cinema, mimicking classic camera techniques with cheap animation tricks, sometimes as simple as changing the scale of something,” explains Frances. “Adding to that sense of eery tranquillity and mystery informed everything – the setting, character, colour palette, everything. We worked in this way, brick-by-brick.” Tranquil is indeed the word to describe the pice, as the soft pastel hues comb through the screen. The camera steers you on an illusory journey through doors and windows, where repeated scenes, plenty of panning and tactful zooming come at you in an instant. Moments go by and, although intensely pleasing, you’re not quite sure what’s going on. Who is this character and what is she doing? Why is she falling and is she happy about removing her gloves?
Lawrence Arabia – the musical guise of New Zealand artist and composer James Milne – creates a soundtrack that’s equally as eery as its artwork. As a fan of his music, Frances explains how James recently completed an interesting project called Singles Club, producing a single a month for a whole year. “Each of the singles have such a different personality and the videos do too,” says Frances. “This particular track felt like a whole movie; it’s really cinematic. I think he was just looking for a new way of exploring that visually, so he arrived at an animation.” But taking on a project of this size wasn’t all that simple – due to its length, theme and combination of techniques involved. “Having an inherent logic to the world is what helps me get my head around a project of this size,” Frances says. “For this, the starting point was tone. The song is really cinematic and suspenseful.”
Two years ago, Frances worked on Hours – a music video themed on an incoherent mind during a post-breakup. Since then, the animator has been working hard at this next endeavour. On the outset, it seems she has a firm grasp on what it takes to create a successful music video, but really, the process of it all is something that she still finds a little daunting. “Inserting my work into the digital space between music and the audience always feels like a lot of pressure,” she says. “People might come across it with a totally different relationship to the music.” It’s never an easy task to decide what people should visually see while listening to music. Yet Frances champions this, opting for the less literal interpretation of the lyrics. “There are always a million ways to skin a cat,” she concludes. “This video is just an invitation to experience one of those and my hope is that it’s entertaining.”