An insight into 'Untamed Truths' with Sophie Marsh
December 2, 2017
Bristol-based Sophie Marsh's attention to detail in her work is a quality many creatives can only envy. This devotion to perfecting the minutia inevitably benefits the finished product, elevating it to a step above. This is evident in her short animation 'Untamed Truths', which is a hilarious run-through of the most interesting/shocking animal facts. Every frame oozes a deep, thoughtful understanding of her craft - utilising her techniques to both beautiful and hilarious ends.
'Untamed Truths', released in 2017, was one of the tiny majority selected to be screened on the actual Random Acts Television program on Channel 4 - and it's not hard to see why. We caught up with her on her return from FIN: Atlantic Film Festival in Nova Scotia, to chat about her film and what she's been up to since it's release:
So Sophie, tell us a little about yourself!
I am a Bristol Based freelance animator/editor/bookmaker and have a mild obsession with animal facts.
How would you define your style and where do you take influence from?
My favourite animation style is paper-cut out stop motion. I usually do this by using layers of glass, tiny paper puppets, patience and a slice of madness.
My influences come mainly from books; my favourite nonsense rhymers like Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl. I also love the short stop motion animations by Johnny Kelly, Emma Lazenby and Mikey Please.
Your film, ‘Untamed Truths’ was an incredibly intricate process, can you give us a little insight into the production?
Each of the puppets would be maximum of about 15 cm tall and were all sewn together with string. I had a team of wonderful people helping me make them and they took about 2 weeks to create.
In the studio I would use a multi-plane, which is a big box that holds glass layers, for my stage. The puppets would be animated on the top layer and any backgrounds would be on the subsequent layers. Using either toothpicks or my scalpel I would animate the puppets frame by frame (and there are 25 frames in a second) and make roughly about 3 seconds per day. A surprise sneeze could set me back a few hours.
The animation process took over 6 weeks and part of it was animated in my producer’s cupboard. I felt just like Harry Potter, which was great.
How’s the film been received so far?
I’ve been very overwhelmed by the response to my film. It was shown on Channel 4 in November as part of the Random Acts series and it has been screened at various festivals across the UK, Europe and Canada. I recently went to see it at FIN: Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia and it was a truly fantastic experience.
It is some of my favourite work to mentor other filmmakers. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Lois and Ella and their delightful paper puppets. It was great to see how their story came together so well and it was wonderful to show them some tricks and tools which made their ideas possible. Hopefully we will work together again.
Are you working on any projects currently and what are your upcoming plans?
I have two big projects coming up which I am very excited about:
I'm currently writing more animal fact films for a TV or YouTube series, this time kid friendly!
I have also recently acquired funding to go out to the Amazon rainforest in 2018 to make some films with the indigenous people that live there. It will be looking at their day-to-day lives, struggles and myths and legends. I’ll hopefully be doing little animation workshops with the youth there too but there’s a lot to think about as there is no electricity! I’ll be working directly with Anthropologist Camilla Morelli.
Finally, do you have any wisdom to pass on to young creatives out there?
If you keep doing what you like then people will start to recognise you for making that kind of thing. Then that’s what you’ll be asked/paid to do and you can make more of it and get better at it. Keep your eyes on what you want to make and where you want to go with it.
I started taking work that didn’t interest or inspire me and I kept getting offered more of the same. It’s difficult to turn down work and it’s easy to get stuck doing something that’s not your passion. Get stuck into a positive cycle of work that you enjoy doing.
If in doubt make something weird.
Thanks a bunch Sophie!