'Meat' is August 2020's Film of the Month

07 Sep 2020 in Film of the Month

9 mins
'Meat' is August 2020's Film of the Month

We are delighted to announce that the August 2020 winner of our Film of the Month competition is Meat, from filmmaker Ivan in London - see the winning film above!

Meat (engaging for 11+) is a tongue-in-cheek stop-motion film that chronicles the life of a piece of bacon in the style of a silent film, and ultimately asks: What defines a life?

As a vegetarian, I found the film utterly vile... and, I laughed out loud the whole way through! Great job on the stop motion animation positioning and camera shots for this highly creative story. Two thumbs up.

Film of the Month judge on 'Meat'

We got in touch with Ivan to find out more about his film.

Congratulations! How did you start making films?

I actually only started making proper films very recently, at the start of lock down, using an iPhone 5 and two bike lights. It was quite a trial during filming because the lights kept running out of battery and turning off, so in some scenes like "fighting" I had to try my best to disguise the random change in brightness.

I have made many attempts at stop motion films in the past and failed almost every time. I don't really know what I've done differently to bring about the improvement, but I think that its always worth failing as many times as possible until things start to work better. Over the course of lockdown I have made a number of other films which you can see on my YouTube channel.

What was your inspiration for Meat?

I was shown some Jan Švankmajer's shorts like Meat Love and was just interested to see what the meat might look like on camera at first. The nice thing about Švankmajer's films is that he doesn't use complicated equipment or editing, so I was able to imitate some of his techniques effectively. I looked through the fridge, found a packet of bacon, and started animating small sections experimenting with the movement. It worked a lot better than expected so I just kept going until I had finished a short film.

How was Meat created?

It all happened quite quickly. The meat itself is just animated like you would animate any normal figure. It's malleable, so I could easily bend it into the shape I needed, and normally its natural stickiness held it in position. Sometimes, if I wanted to do harder movements like unrolling, I would allow the meat to unroll naturally, without me touching it, and take photos every second.

The whole thing took about 4 hours, which normally surprises people, because animation is notorious for being a long, arduous processes, but it definitely doesn't feel long when you're doing it - you just get into a rhythm of 'move and take photo'. For the live action parts, I set the camera so that it took a photo every second and moved incredibly slowly giving a jagged look.

Do you often use ‘unusual' objects in your films?

I only use unusual objects in my films, like stones, various foods and sometimes cogs taken from old factory machines. I think that every film has to convey something human to the audience so that they can relate to it, however the magic of stop frame animation (unlike live action film) is that you can take an inanimate characterless object and give it its own life. With meat, this is especially interesting because it's part of a living creature but has been killed and processed beyond recognition, so giving it a second birth is quite unsettling.

What were you hoping the audience's reaction would be to your film?

I think a lot of people are squeamish around raw meat, because it is essentially a butchered animal, and it has that unpleasant texture of flesh. So the aim was really to make people disgusted by the meat and from that disgust bring out a comedy element in the film because it makes the events so much more ridiculous.

At the same time it would be good if they empathised with the meat and saw some hint of humanity within it, because all the stages in the film are the basic stages of any animal, and so in some respects the meat has become just like the animal it was originally made from.

How did you create the music for Meat and what was your inspiration?

Me and my sister play a lot of music together, mainly violin duets, but also some guitar music. We were looking for some dance music to add rhythm to the film and when we heard 'minor swing' it fitted well. We had to record it and re-record it about 30 times before it worked because it is surprisingly hard to get a good sound recording straight away. I always think that music is one of the most important parts of a film because it sets the tone for your whole movie.

What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Švankmajer's films like Lunacy and Food have been my biggest inspiration. He uses complicated techniques to execute these very simple but magic events on screen, like a floating paint brush. I think that the modern methods of CGI take away the emotional, human level you have from direct contact with your objects. The CGI may be more realistic, but I think of Švankmajer as a magician presenting to you these many tricks which bring about the seemingly impossible on screen, and through the animation, the communication with the audience feels very much more direct. Some of my other films were also inspired by Legers Le Ballet Mecanique and paintings by Francis Bacon.

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

I'm probably not a very good person to judge what a great film is because I watch a lot of terrible films. But in my experience the most effective films are the ones which create a strong emotional bond with the characters which you don't forget about the moment the credits roll. If they stick in your mind, and you can't help but think about them and allow the events of the film to replay in your head, then it's a good film.

What advice would you give other young/aspiring filmmakers who want to get started in animation?

You can use anything at your disposal for animation and in some ways the limitations of equipment can be used to your advantage. The nice thing about working outside the limits of clay is that you are free to experiment with different textures and how they work together to create something human.

For example I recently made an eye out of a grape, an olive, a paint brush, some bacon and a stone, and because they each had these strong colours and complicated textures, it adds a kind of hyper-realism, even though the materials are so unusual.

Also, in animation every action needs a sound to accompany it, otherwise you lose the 3D experience of it. Its always good to use over exaggerated sounds to give the object on screen its own identity and presence. The sound used for the squelching is actually just a watermelon being crushed, so experimentation with sound is also effective.

Ivan's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop their future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.

If you've been inspired by Meat then make sure to check out the following films:

  • Jan Švankmajer - The Complete Short Films (1964, 15, 330mins total) Engaging for ages 14+
    A selection of shorts that showcase some of the odd and wonderful creations of Czech stop-motion animation Jan Švankmajer
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928, U, 66 mins) Engaging for all ages
    Silent comedy starring Buster Keaton as the son of a steamboat captain who tries to teach him his trade, without much luck…
  • Childhood Memories (2018, Unclassified, 4 mins) Engaging for ages 7+
    Short stop-motion animation that sees a woman reflecting on her earliest memories when she visits her homeland of Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Isle of Dogs (2018, PG, 101 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Stop-motion animation in which a young boy tries to find his lost dog on an island entirely populated by canines.

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