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What are all those paint men digging? - 'Model Starship'

Every Monday or so, Chris Robinson asks an animator how they made a particular film. This week: Max Hattler discusses his short, Model Starship.

'Model Starship' by Max Hattler

So, how’d you make this?

Model Starship was created through stop-motion replacement animation on a mirror, a technique I used years earlier in AANAATT. It was fun to return to.

'Model Starship' by Max Hattler

Why this technique?

By reconfiguring objects through mirroring, arrangement and animation, they are abstracted from their original function. This can serve as a way of questioning, undermining and commenting back on reality. In this case, high-end beauty products take on a more sinister role as they are recontextualised as shape-shifting intergalactic battleships. The science fiction theme itself presents a further utopian/dystopian distancing from the everyday, which enhances the distancing effect produced through abstraction.

How long did it take?

It was shot in one weekend, with a couple more days spent on sound and postproduction. What with animation being such a slow and laborious process, I sometimes feel the urge to do something quick and dirty. I followed it up with Unclear Proof which was shot in an Italian winery and applies the same approach to wine-related objects. Linking intoxication with hallucination, it hints at the possible connections of levels of proof in alcohol and the existence of aliens. I later combined the two short works into 7-minute installation loop Model Starship: Unclear Proof.

'Model Starship: Unclear Proof' (2014), The Way Objects Go, Gallery Podroom, Belgrade, Serbia, 6-27 July 2017

What was the most challenging part of the process?

The biggest challenge was to select the right kinds of objects for the sequencing to work and the visual aesthetic to hold. I had a whole bag of makeup products at my disposal but decided to only include the ones with a strong minimalist/modernist design.

items used for 'Model Starship'

Was it worth it?


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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.