Documentary Edge Festival 2016: Critters in short films
The Documentary Edge Festival kicks-off tonight, and for the first time, short films screening as part of it will qualify for Academy Award consideration.
Two of the Kiwi-made shorts focus on small, clay animals, but both tell very different stories.
The festival hosts the world premiere of An Animated Guy, a 15-minute film focusing on Guy Capper, directed by John Spry.
Together with Jemaine Clement, Capper co-created and voiced the claymation series Robert & Sheepy, in which two amusing sheep share their unique perspective on life.
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The short clips, which screen on abc.net.au and the Robert & Sheepy YouTube channel, cover topics on the farm from how to "baa", to impersonating their farmer.
When director Spry, 40, was made redundant in 2014 after working with a bank for eight years, he took it as an opportunity to enroll at South Seas Film and TV School in Auckland.
He met Capper, who was at the school to talk about stop motion.
"I remember him saying, 'I just want to leave behind giggles'," Spry says.
"He could have gone to Wellington and done something like work at Weta, but he decided to do his own thing instead, and that's what interested me."
Intrigued by the "animated animator", Spry ditched his 15 hours of cat-show footage he intended for his final film project and asked Capper if he could make a short doco about him.
Shot in seven days, An Animated Guy uses clips from Robert & Sheepy, with footage showing Capper at work in his West Auckland home, and interviews with Jemaine Clement, Capper's mother, and his brother, special effects designer Tim Capper.
Spry is thrilled that his first documentary was picked for the festival, and is looking forward to starting the next stage of his career.
Based in Whangaparaoa, his next project will be an insight into the Wellington comedy scene of the 1990s, which helped shape comedy exports like Clement, Taika Waititi and Bret McKenzie.
Spry is currently blogging about creating An Animated Guy on the film's' Facebook page.
The second critter-inspired Kiwi short film in the festival is The Lonely Animal Friendship Society, directed by fellow first-timer and South Seas pupil, Zoe-Rose Herbert.
Currently in her final year of marine biology and film degrees, Herbert took a year off studying academically to reconnect with the practical side of film.
She attended an Auckland craft market to find inspiration, and found Edward, who was selling little clay animals.
"He was there with his son, Milo, like a fish out of water in this really 'designery' craft fair and he'd handmade these little creatures and each told an awesome story.
"He interested me because he is an ordinary person who has a nine-to-five desk job, but has found a passion. The other craft people knew there was a market for their products, but Edward was making them for himself. He just thought it was interesting, and a good way to express his creativity."
Among his hundreds of creations is a bird named Lynda, "She has made a plan for her financial security. It relies on being given a bag of rubies by a kindly stranger".
Then there is Ralston – "Good at job interviews. Bad at jobs".
"I saw someone who was finding fun in the little things and not really worrying about what other people think," Herbert says, who took an interest in filmmaking after a particular marine biology class.
"The lecturer said only about one person in the class would ever be able to study the 'big things' like sharks, whales or seals, and that everyone else would be studying sponges or limpets. I figured that my passion was exploring these more exciting things, and so being able to travel and film it, rather than having to figure out how to get published in science, was a better avenue."
Through her studies, Herbert has also become interested in telling the stories of people who dedicate their lives to such extreme studies.
"What I really like is just quirky characters that could be sitting next to you on a bus that you would never meet. That's what I was going for with Lonely Animal Friendship Society.
An Animated Guy and The Lonely Animal Friendship Society screen as part of Doc Edge's "Shorts 5" session in Wellington at The Roxy on May 7 and 11 and Auckland's Q Theatre on May 22 and 25. A Q&A with will follow each session, with John Spry in both Wellington and Auckland, and Herbert in Wellington.
To book, or for more information, see docedge.nz