“I’m Josh Haddow, and this is my story about setting up a shoot with 30 venomous snakes,” states a disembodied voice at the beginning of animator Joseph Melhuish’s most recent work. The project, titled From the Brink, sees creatives sharing small anecdotes regarding the filmmaking process, particularly those which are somewhat strange.
From the Brink is a collaboration with Lumix and is published on Vice’s platform, Vice Film School. Josh Haddow, a journalist and film-maker, is the star of the first episode in which he recounts the time he produced a film about a man named Steve, who has been injecting himself with snake venom for over 20 years. From the Brink: Venom Superman was created with additional animation by Harry Butt, produced by Polly Williams and with sound design by Matt Cheney.
Joseph was approached by Vice at the end of 2017 to make the films: “Before this, I had never worked on anything longer than about one minute so the idea of producing nearly nine minutes of animation in only a few months was definitely a scary idea.” As a result, the style of From the Brink: Venom Superman differs from Joseph’s usual work. “I knew I’d have to reduce the amount of character animation and make something more graphic and minimal than my usual style which is often quite detailed,” he recalls.
The short features a series of scenarios – usually an object or several presented floating against a coloured backdrop – which effortlessly transition and morph in a smooth and satisfying manner. This fluid animation is down to Joseph’s storyboarding and planning. Having never created something of this length, he limited himself to visuals which could be completed within the timeframe. “Whenever I would design something that I knew would be a nightmare to animate, I would just eliminate it or try to reduce it down into something more manageable – which actually helped give the film its style in the end,” Joseph explains.
With its bold colour palette and slick textures, the “style” Joseph is referring to perfectly encapsulates the “wild fever dream” he set out to create. “I tried to give a feeling of collage by combining dense textures, different sets of colours and a mix of 2D and 3D animation; I felt like this would add to the feeling that it was almost a visual scrapbook of memories stacking up on top of each other,” he remarks.
In terms of what we can expect from the rest of the series; “I’m not sure I’m allowed to say,” Joseph responds. “I will say, however, that the next one is a lot more character focused and creatively ambitious. It has a more serious and dramatic tone than the first but I can never resist squeezing some humour in there,” he adds.
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