Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays

Animator Caitlin McCarthy on her dark and gross “version of a teen romcom”, Coldsore

Self-taught creatives were on a roll at March’s Nicer Tuesdays – our second speaker, animator Caitlin McCarthy, only turned her hand to motion work just two years ago, after graduating from illustration at Camberwell College of Arts.

Caitlin explained how she made the switch from creating “very pretentious video art” (some of which she generously shared with the Nicer Tuesdays audience) to animation after she finished her studies. Fortuitously she met animator Parallel Teeth, AKA Rob Wallace, who took her under his wing and enlisted her to help him on a music video for the Merk track I’m Easy. Rob taught her how to animate from scratch and Caitlin chipped in with some extra character designs. “It was a formative job for me,” she said.

Coldsore is Caitlin’s equivalent of a grad film and took her a whole year to make. It’s a two-minute short about a popular girl with cold sores who our protagonist – a distinctly less popular girl – tries to emulate by locking lips with an infected chap she finds on the internet.

Caitlin explained how the plot line of Coldsore was inspired by the teen movies she soaked up as a young adult. “They are kind of bittersweet for me because I was a very awkward teenager and I knew that they were really unrealistic storylines but I embraced the false hope that they gave me and also expected to become randomly hot and popular out of nowhere,” she said. “For Coldsore I wanted to make something like a teen movie but a bit more accurate to my experience."

A lot of the film occurs in the online space, as our protagonist tries to source a kisser with cold sores. Caitlin told the audience how this experience reflected her own teenhood where she spent a lot of time in “horrible weird forums talking to freaks” having “simulations of formative experiences that you were too afraid to have in real life”. Even now the internet is often a fruitful place for inspiration. "I particularly like observing the behaviour of men online, it’s often disgusting.”

Caitlin took the audience through her process where she draws every frame by hand to achieve an “unpolished, a bit wobbly, flickery" style and the “girly and childish” colour palette of pastels that prevent her work feeling depressing or earnest. “It feels a bit more human than if it was slick and digital, you can tell that someone was really sitting there and doing it for a year.” Crucially it was vital that the piece didn’t have a happy ending as, “Being a teenager is really shit.” 

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