Emily Weeks

Eclectic Folk Music and Paper Puppet Animation Converge in "Reverend Elisha Mitchell"

create, explore
August 15, 2020

I am an artist and yoga teacher from the Pacific Northwest, USA. My awareness grew out of this green, mysterious, misty, mountainous land, and it has deeply affected my psyche and the person I have become. I work in several media including drawing and painting, photography, filmmaking, and animation.

My aim is to seek beauty, connection, and authenticity. An art practice to me is a practice that, like Yoga, draws us closer to our true self. In some ways art is for me a compassionate exposition of the lonely interior of a human soul. Yoga and art for me are physical as well as spiritual practices. I often work with movement, the human body, shape, color, form, sound. I love working with dancers.

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Eclectic Folk Music and Paper Puppet Animation Converge in "Reverend Elisha Mitchell"

This week I'd like to share an animated film I made a few years ago for Alex Wand and his band Three Thirds. Alex Wand was a friend from CalArts, a musician and composer who made the score for my first-year film there. I was a fan of his work, and was delighted to get the chance to work with him on some of his own music. "Reverend Elisha Mitchell" has a particularly late summer or autumnal vibe, so I felt it appropriate to share now. The song and film tell the story of the eponymous character, who, in the mid 1800s, identified the highest peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains East of the Mississippi River. In 1857, during geological expeditions to measure the peak, he fell to his death. I encourage you to watch the film below before continuing to read the "Making of"!

Making of "Reverend Elisha Mitchell"

I filmed the stop-frame animation on a multiplane table which I built with the help of my dad.

One of the only images I could find of the multiplane table has me posing with it in the background.

We placed heavy panes of glass on a four-tiered system with an arm with a camera mount, on which I attached my digital SLR to down-shoot through the several layers of glass to create atmospheric effects. It was not a perfect system, and in future projects I would have made several improvements, but it worked.

I designed and painted the puppets on watercolor paper, cut out the pieces, and assembled them with thread so they had articulated joints and I could place them into various poses. The creation of the characters, props, and locations included historical costume research, and research into 1800s Appalachia.

Almost all effects and lighting were created in-camera on the multiplane table - clouds made of fluff, water made of plastic wrap, mist made of layers of tissue paper. I blacked-out the windows of my bedroom, which had become my animation studio, and I had several regular and colored lights which I used to create various lighting conditions and moods. One of my favorite parts about creating this piece was working with the colored lights and the tissue paper to diffuse light and create various effects. A few examples of compositing done in post-production occur mostly at the end of the film, and this was done to create some magical floating effects.

Let me know what you thought of the film, or ask any questions, in the comments below, and feel free to share it! If you like this kind of content, subscribe to Filmabee's newsletter to stay in the loop, and if you are willing and able, make a donation to support artists!

Much love,

Emily

Golden autumnal hues paint the screen in this paper cutout animation made my Emily Weeks. "Reverend Elisha Mitchell" is a music video animated for Alex Wand and his band Three Thirds. The watercolor-painted puppets created for this music video dance to the eclectic folk sounds through the backdrop of 1800s Appalachia. Click To Tweet

Reverend Elisha Mitchell

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