Sunday, June 20, 2010...8:06 pm

Student stop-motion talent: Chloe Rodham – UCA Farnham

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Stop.Frame is reporting on some of the student animation shows around the country over the next few weeks. First up is UCA Farnham graduate Chloe Rodham.

Chloe is responsible for the standout film of the UCA animation show this year – Smile – a story of frustrated love set in a travelling circus in the 1920s. It wears its influences on its sleeve a bit (basically it’s Madame Tutli-Putli goes to the circus), but it’s a beautiful piece of work.

The film isn’t available to watch in its entirety, but there are some clips in her showreel shown here. Watch out for Smile in animation festivals around the country over the next year – I bet it’ll be in the running for some prizes.

Why is this film so good?

Lovely puppet design – quirky, evocative and expressive. Like Madame Tutli-Putli, there’s no lip synch, and very little mouth movement, but the puppets are so expressive you don’t notice. All the work is in the eyes, and the result is characters that seem real.

Beautiful character animation – this isn’t an all-action film, but nor has Chloe skimped on the animation. There’s a heap of beautiful character animation on show, with lots of emotion and it’s all well-paced and fluid. I really believed in the life of the characters.

Great set design – it took me until the second viewing, and some inside information, to realise that the sets and backgrounds were all computer generated. Normally this is something you have to grit your teeth through – students use a ropey CG background to save time set-building, and it shows. But this is brilliantly done. The sets seem lovingly created and, though they do have a slightly different quality when you really pay attention, this actually enhances the slightly unreal, dreamlike quality of the film. And the compositing is seamless. Great work.

Story – well, possibly the story is the weak part of the film, in that it doesn’t really make sense on first viewing. But then, no one knows what on earth was Madame Tutli-Putli about, and that had an Oscar nomination. But what it lacks in plot it makes up for in atmosphere. And this is a mood piece first and foremost, so it absolutely works.

So many student films have good puppet making, or good sets and props, or good photography and lighting, or good animation. Smile has them all – a superb effort for a student project. I hope we’ll see much more of Chloe’s work in the months and years to come.

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