Phoebe McCaughley animates the volatile and often unpredictable nature of human emotions
For Jordan Stephens recent single Feel Joy, Phoebe McCaughley has animated a music video that sees the singer go on a wondrous journey with a kind-hearted, long-armed brain.
- 22 June 2022
- Olivia Hingley
If there’s one thing animator Phoebe McCaughley can do well, it’s make the most out of a universal experience or feeling. Sourcing her inspiration from the “everyday”, Phoebe often riffs off seemingly insignificant happenings in her life. “One of my university films came from me noticing I was embarrassed that I’d pressed the button on the tube door,” she says “everyone knows they don’t work!”.
It was this sense of recognising and resonating with a situation or story that came to Phoebe when Jordan Stephens, a London-based singer and actor – formerly of the duo Rizzle Kicks – sent her demo’s from his recent album Let Me Die Inside You. The lyrics from the single, Feel Joy, for which Phoebe would be creating an animated music video, instantly moved her and the opening scene came to her almost at once. Focussing on the feeling of “waking up with a heavy anxious chest but not being sure why”, the video begins with a brain character spinning a wheel of fortune to determine whether it will be a good day or a bad day. “That’s how I’ve felt sometimes,” Phoebe adds, “like my mind has control of the day, but I’ve also noticed how random it can be.” Following the opening scene, the Jordan puppet (who has an expert resemblance to the singer) goes on a wondrous journey with the brain character; through colourful flower-lined mountains, to the starry night sky, intermittently divided by charming dance scenes. Full of moments of humour and striking artistry, the video is both joyful and awe-inspiring.
As many are likely aware, stop motion is a laborious and time consuming medium, and it was no easy feat to create such a detailed and energetic video. The brain, for example, had to have a number of different arm lengths so that he could interact with the set and Phoebe had to make 20 tiny 3D paper mache mouth shapes for the lip sync. But luckily for Phoebe these technical elements are often the most enjoyable parts of the whole process and she attests to getting a “thrill out of problem solving”. Stop motion can often be quite isolating and aside from Jordan’s costumes – which were skilfully crafted by Charlotte Dunpont – the whole project was entirely made by Phoebe. “I ironically had many of those ‘bad days’ whilst making the film,” Phoebe shares, “It was hard having to be in a room with blacked out windows on a sunny day, but I’m proud that I pushed through and finally saw the film come together.”
Studying for a degree in illustration animation at Kingston School of Art, and it was in Phoebe’s second year that she “stumbled across” stop motion – “it instantly clicked that it was my ‘thing’!” Encouraged by her tutor, Stephen Brown, to go back to the studios and practice over summer, her love for the medium progressed quickly. “Looking back through, it seems obvious that I would love making stop motion,” Phoebe says, “I spent my childhood cutting and sticking and making 3D models and sets out of anything I could find.”
Reflecting on the Feel Joy project, Phoebe has only positive things to say. Sharing that Jordan was a “dream client” to work with, she’s particularly proud to have been involved in such an important discussion – alongside his music career Jordan has done a lot of work raising awareness mental health issues through his project I Am Whole. And, whats more, Phoebe also perceives the project as a particularly important time for her creative growth. “It’s so lovely to look back at all my old messy storyboards from months ago and to see all the scenes that I actually managed to bring into reality. That’s what makes me most proud.” Whether you’re having a good day, a bad day or something in between, Feel Joy is sure to put a smile on your face.
GalleryPhoebe McCaughley and Jordan Stephens: Feel Joy (Copyright © Phoebe McCaughley 29th May 2022)
Phoebe McCaughley and Jordan Stephens: Feel Joy (Copyright © Phoebe McCaughley 29th May 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.