Independent animator Signe Baumane has an exciting new film, My Love Affair with Marriage, for which she is asking for support on Kickstarter. She has previously made a variety of animated shorts and the feature film, Rocks in My Pockets. To read our Roto-review on Rocks in My Pockets click here.
Baumane has been kind enough to answer a few questions about My Love Affair with Marriage, Rocks in My Pockets, and her process as an independent animator.
Q: Give a brief introduction to yourself, My Love Affair with Marriage, and the Kickstarter?
I am an independent animator; [I’ve] made over 15 animated shorts on variety of subject such as love, sex, pregnancy, veterinarians, women, and one feature film (Rocks In My Pockets) about depression. In my new animated feature film project, My Love Affair With Marriage, I want to combine my two main themes – sex and depression – so I am making a film about marriage.
The concept of Marriage is interesting to me because it is a social construct that uses existing human biology of intimate bond to organize messy human relationships in a socially manageable form. Fairy tales and lots of pop songs help to sustain the romantic fantasy that marriage can outlast diamonds and other rocks.
Marriage is in the very intersection of Neuroscience and Anthropology but I decided to explore it on a level of a personal story based on my own many marriages.
I did science research for one year and wrote the script. We have started the production – building sets, shooting stop motion and animating – but we have to record actors first. So we are raising money through Kickstarter for SAG-AFTRA actors fees (we have a couple of name actors lined up and they are union actors).
The other reason we are going with crowd funding – we want to prove that there is an interest in this film. Even the smallest pledge adds to the list of people who want to see this film. We need your support!
Q: What was working on Rocks in My Pockets like and what did it teach you?
It took 4 years to make Rocks In My Pockets. Very long time. Before that I only made short films and had no mental stamina to stick to one project for such a long time. Now I am more prepared, mentally and emotionally, to dive into a big project like this.
By making Rocks, I also learned the importance of financing and marketing. If no one knows about your project, not one will see it when it is done. With a tiny budget that we had for Rocks, we could not afford to hire a professional team of marketers; we had to do it ourselves. Some of our efforts were, and still are, naive and amateurish. But I believe in doing, even if I make embarrassing mistakes.
I also became aware that the feature film format (90 minutes) is a perfect medium for the stories I want to tell.
Q: You said My Love Affair With Marriage will be a combination of thoughts on sex and depression. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?
Well, the line about combining themes of sex and depression into one film about marriage is my elevator pitch. People get that this is a funny film about serious subject. I like to entertain people but I also like to shake up my audiences, provoke a little bit to make them think outside the box.
My Love Affair With Marriage is based on my personal experiences of being married. Sometimes my marriages were imaginary, because I read too many fairy tales. The story-line follows Zelma, a fiery young girl, as she grows up and develops an understanding of her place in society as a woman. She mimics popular girls in her desire to become a perfect woman, but the very thing she learns later destroys her two marriages.
The film is funny, entertaining, and thought provoking.
Q: Is it difficult to be so personal in your films? Rocks in My Pockets was very personal for your entire family. Was that hard for them?
When I write a story/script, I write it as if I were telling it to a trusted friend. I feel vulnerable, but am not afraid to open the dark corners of my life and psyche. I believe people will not kill or mock me for being honest and opening up.
But telling secrets of my family is a different thing. I feel I betrayed my family. They didn’t ask their lives and deepest secrets to be thrust onto a film. It was definitely not easy for them to accept the film. I admire them for coming to terms with it and accepting the film and forgiving me for making it.
Q: In My Love Affair with Marriage you are incorporating songs. How will that work into the story?
The main singers are the chimerical chorus of The Mythology Sirens, who represent the societal pressures expressed via pop songs.
The songs are the integral part of the film, they seamlessly propel the story forward. Another singing character is the popular girl, Elita ,who teaches Zelma in one song how to be a girl boys like.
It is a lot of fun. Our composer, Kristian Sensini, who composed score for Rocks In My Pockets is so gifted: he can do anything and it will be great.
He is writing the 23 songs and the score for My Love Affair With Marriage.
Q: You use different mediums (stop motion, paper-mache and hand drawn). How do you decide what medium to use where and what will be most effective?
I like using stop motion because it adds dimensionality to the film’s look. It is also cinematographic, not just graphic : )
Creating the 3-dimensional paper-mache sets feels like creating a whole world and the specific spaces that the characters inhabit. While shooting the stop motion footage, I can see the characters walking [through] the classroom or park; I just have to draw them in later.
So I don’t have to decide the technique – the technique has decided it for me. : )
Q: You said My Love Affair With Marriage has an unapologetic female point of view. Do you feel like that is something missing from animation and film?
I have never felt limited as a woman filmmaker until I made my first feature film and it was released theatrically. Only then I realized that there are unseen undercurrents against women-centric films. It is not a conscious sexism, in our age (2017) people are trying hard to be supportive of women stories. But if you casually ask passers-by on a street what stories they associate with entertainment and movies, it will mostly be a man’s quest, a man’s adventure, or a man’s comedy. People expect certain things from a movie, and we have to work together to make changes of those expectations.
Successful women directors often direct films that focus on men. It is a strategy towards recognition and acceptance by the film industry.
Some people say that women’s stories sell better as books.
I am a visual person and I want to make stories that use words and moving images. Themes that interest me are a reflection of my experiences and, like it or not, they are marked by my gender. I chose not to separate my gender and my life from my stories. Personal truth is elusive but I aspire to reach it and share it with other people. I love film as a medium, and I will continue to push the boundaries of what it can do.
With the recent events, I feel that to be a woman filmmaker focused on women’s stories is more radical and important as ever.
Q: How is it working with people like Bill Plympton and other artists?
Bill is amazing. I worked at his studio 1996 – 2003 and learned a lot from him. We are now good friends and talk on almost daily basis. He is humble, generous, and supportive of young animators.
Q: If you get funding what do you anticipate the timeline will be for the film?
We will record the actors and singers by June 2017, and continue the production of the film (animating, coloring, compositing etc) until end of 2018 when we start post production. We aim to release the film by 2019, or 2020 at the latest.
Q: You managed to work humor into very dark material in Rocks in My Pockets. Will you do the same for My Love Affair with Marriage?
My Love Affair With Marriage will be much lighter and even more fun than Rocks In My Pockets. Add to the mix songs and dance and this will be pure fun. I truly cannot wait to see this film on a big screen with an audience!
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden