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Amelie Magdalena Loy’s beautiful stop motion animation screens at the Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 27!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 01/25/2024

Amelie Magdalena Loy’s beautiful stop motion animation screens at the Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 27!

Austrian Filmmaker Amelie Magdalena Loy was kind enough to respond to my queries via email. Here is our conversation about her animated film Irina:

Nigrin: Your touching stop-motion animation film Irina focuses on a woman’s struggle with loneliness. What made you want to make this film?

Loy: There are so many different reasons why people suffer from loneliness, and they can be discussed in so many words. But in the end what's left is this terrible sensation, this cold heavy feeling that no words can suffice to describe. And not being able of articulating it makes you even lonelier. Yet I needed to talk about it and the inner resilience that flairs up in resistance. In stop motion animation, you can have so many different things that use their own language (character design, light, music, …) that together they can talk of things, makes others feel rather than rationally understand what you want to say.

Nigrin: Tell us about the animation process that you used in your film.

Loy: It's all very old school stop motion animation. 24 frames per second, shot by camera, animated by a nerd with stamina (me). We tried to have as little VFX as possible. Only the reflection on the spoon in the kitchen scene and the display lights were added later, also in some shots a rig (a long arm that holds the puppet in place) needed to be retouched out of the frame. The reflection of the glass, the lights of the truck and all the rest are analogue and handcrafted.



 
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Nigrin: Did you make the puppets used in the film? 

Loy: Yes! All the character design and puppeteering were done by me. I used airdrying clay for the hands and body because this cold, yet fragile material really complimented the whole atmosphere of the film. The eyes of the characters are also very special. Since there is no change in facial expression, they needed to tell a lot and reflect the little light there was. Most eyes you get, especially for animation, are made of acrylic but that wouldn't have had the same effect. So, after some research I found an 80 year-old couple in Germany that produces mouth blown crystal eyes in their small workshop. This precious craftsmanship really does make a difference in the whole appeal of Irina.

Amelie Magdalena Loy’s beautiful stop motion animation screens at the Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 27!

Nigrin: How did you make the waves move in the beach scene?

Loy: The sea is cellophane on an Aquarelle Ground. It was really challenging to animate it. It took us 2 days to figure out the right timing & spacing, so the waves had that natural feeling. The set was rather long, and the focus length did produce an optical shortening of the background, so that the spacing you saw as an animator, was not the spacing that happened on screen. Speaking of animators, it needed 3 people at once to animate the sea. At the end we really got into the vibe of waving (ha-ha guess that’s not an English word, but you know what I mean) and I am super pleased with the effect.

Nigrin: Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you would like to relay to us? 

Loy: The pre-production was very intense and long. My colleague, Cat Beyer, produced hundreds of trees and there was quite a lot to figure out. I loved all the planning and decision making. Working with the different departures was a great pleasure. I love how the creativity and knowledge of my team made not only my vision come true, but really added so much beauty and depth.  There were a few important things we couldn't really test before building the set, like if the reflection on the big window would work like we wanted it to. I'm glad to say it did! The big glass pane also gave us quite a challenge while animating. It had to be pushed open and shut for every shot.  All the easy-to-open rail systems would have been too broad and would have created a shadow inside the room or distract too much light and make the room too dark. So, we installed small wooden rails. After struggling to push open a heavy glass pane about 300 times a day for weeks and weeks, my fingertips still hurt, and I now have a certain urge to ceremoniously burn said rails. That said, I am very glad that the important things did work in the end. We invested so much work and love to make this film come true and as a director the greatest gift would be if people can relate to Irina's story.

Irina will be playing at the Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival as part of the Shorts #1 Program on Saturday, January 27, 2024 – Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 7PM! in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. For more info and tickets go here.



 
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Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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