Secondly, I used cel animation to give the audience the impression the film was to be comic in nature. In Warner Brother’s cartoons, eel painted characters such as Daffy Duck are shot, blown up and cut into pieces but never die. The audience accept this and do not question the immortality of such cartoon characters. Once I realised this I coloured my film characters using eel paints. I wanted the audience to assume Rene was a traditional cartoon character and therefore immortal. As at the film’s conclusion, when she does die the audiences assumptions are destroyed and hopefully they are shocked.
A Load Of Balls took me two years to make. I spent one year on research and story board development, the second year was used for production.
One problem I encountered whilst in production was the use of mixed media. It was difficult to match the live action supermarket sequence against the film’s animated scenes. Originally the supermarket scene was shot in black and white. This caused problems within the film, there were three senses of reality for the audience to digest: the animated sequences, the photo montage cemetery sequence and the black and white supermarket sequence.
I felt that when the black and white supermarket scene was cut against the colour animation it was too much for the audience to cope with. To solve this problem the labs made a colour negative from the black and white print. Once this had been completed the supermarket scene was tinted the same shade of sepia as the photo-montage cemetery scene. In my opinion this works because two senses of reality exist in the film, rather than three. The sepia/live action scenes always illustrate the harsh truth of Rene’s sickness while the colour animation sequences reflect Rene’s character and humour. This was the effect I wanted to achieve by the use of mixed media.
Jane Thomas spoke on the voice track. I used Jane because she is an excellent mimic. Despite coming from Liverpool she does not have a strong scouse accent so she produced an exaggerated accent for the role. Jane was perfect for the role of Dot, but I had one problem, I had nobody to play Rene. I searched for a long time to find somebody for the role, but most people were too wooden.
After failing to find a suitable actress I decided to have Jane play both roles. To make her voice sound different from Dot’s while playing Rene, I recorded her on a portable 4-track and speeded up her voice. In comparison to Dot’s voice, Rene’s was rapid and high pitched, this made her sound coarse and earthy. Upon reflection I feel Jane’s dialogue is the backbone of A Load Of Balls.
Steven Owen, a Liverpool musician composed the music especially for the film. He used a Quebase music computer and a Proteus sound bank, which gave him access to over six-hundred sampled sounds. The introduction music is made up from many sampled sounds including violins and even a tuba. Steve had originally intended to emulate Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, but this influence disappeared after he used a wide range of sampled instruments in the piece.
The intro music was composed first, this determined the title sequence’s structure. The other pieces, Cliff Pikin’s big band music and the cemetery music were written after the animation was completed. I gave Steve a cassette of Glen Miller songs and told him to use it as reference. The music needed to have a 1940s flavour. After listening to the tape he produced something quite different. The only parallel I can find to it is Hammond Organ music as played at Blackpool Tower. I had attempted to make the ballroom look tacky by colouring it purple, so the Blackpool Tower music was what the scene needed.
Steve’s cemetery music was determined in isolation of my opinions. He instinctively wrote the piece after watching line tests of the scene. He wanted to make the music sound big and haunting while sad in nature.
As with most other WSCAD films A Load Of Balls was financed by myself I had attempted to obtain sponsorship from North Western companies and trade unions, but due to the recession I received little interest. I think most companies found my work to be too personal and therefore not viable.
My film became my bank manager’s nightmare, as I continued to spend more and more money to ensure its completion. The film cost approximately three thousand pounds to produce. Compared to a television or film production the cost seems small, but I like to think it’s not the money you spend, it’s the content which makes a watchable film.
This year’s third year students at WSCAD help each other continuously. While I was producing A Load Of Balls other members of the course coloured cels for me. Also, I sought the opinions of other students regarding my storyline, using their suggestions to make a film which might appeal to a range of viewers. At the moment I have been helping other students in mans’ ways including editing, acting, colouring and camera work.
I am currently attempting to get A Load Of Balls screened on both television and the festival circuit. Depending upon the outcome of my efforts I hope some opportunities arise from my film’s exposure. In terms of film-making, I am about to research for a new film project. Like A Load Of Balls it will be drawn animation, exploring Liverpool’s cultural heritage using comedy as a base. Once the script is developed I will attempt to gain funding from North Western Art Councils or any other body willing to help me.
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Printed in Animator Issue 30 (Spring 1993)