'A Fantastic Fear of Everything': Interview with Co-director, Chris Hopewell

Posted at 10 pm on June 17, 2012 by

Posted in: 3D Illustration, Animation, News, Reviews

‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything’ is out now on general release in the UK.

‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything’ is a new film starring Simon Pegg as Jack, “a paranoid children’s author whose detailed research into the lives of Victorian serial killers has turned him into a paranoid wreck”. We were invited to have a look at the film by the co-director and production designer, Chris Hopewell of Collision Films.

We were particularly interested in seeing the film because of it’s use of animation, to which Chris had contributed his years of experience. As one half of Collision Films, along with Ben Foley, Chris has created some truly memorable, innovative music videos. Their work incorporates all kinds of animation techniques, from stop motion and claymation, to slick CGI.

The subtle animated touches add character to the film from the very beginning as drawn elements of a view through London are blended in with live action in the introduction.

The little cutaways into animated segments continue with various kinds of stop motion, some with a more drawn style to them and others with beautifully crafted models. We particularly like the parts where the characters would move seamlessly from the real set into animated scenes.

As well as having the wit and humour you might expect, its a wonderfully styled film. The dark, fairytale design of the animated characters is taken into the set and costume design to create a film with a look and feel that marries perfectly with its ideas. We speak with Chris to find out more about his style of animation and the specifics techniques he used, while also taking a look at some of his previous work.

Radiohead – ‘There There’. Directed by Chris Hopewell.

Please tell us a little about yourself and the background of Collision Films.

I’ve been making films for about 15 years—  I did an animation degree at newport uni then went to work at Bolex brothers in bristol where I met Ben Foley and we formed Collision films – collision have made around 100 music vids over the last 10 years – almost all have had some kind of animation element

How did you become involved with ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything’?

Crispian had made a video at the Collision Studios and liked the way we worked— so he came back a few years later with a rough script and asked if Id like to help him make it into a film— this was around 5 years ago— so its taken a while …

The Offspring – ‘You’re Gonna Go Far Kid’. Directed by Chris Hopewell.

How did you find working on a feature-length film as opposed to what you’ve done in the past?

I guess there are certain similarities— with our feature we were up against the same constraints you have in producing music videos— time and money. So, I’m used to working to harsh deadlines with limited resources.

Creatively, it was very similar too as I had a pretty much free reign to do my thing with the production design and the animation.

Graham Coxon – ‘Dead Bees’. Directed by Chris Hopewell.

Can you tell us about the kind of animation techniques that were used in the film?

The Crippen theatre was stop motion cut outs in a built model set— there were about 300 individually cut out and mounted figures, which were replaced each frame.

The hedge hog scene was all in camera old skool style stop motion— pretty much all of it was done on set in camera, except for the fog effect which is stop motion animated Vaseline on glass overlaid onto the scene — we shot digitally on a canon D6 straight onto an iMac.

Without giving too much away, the animated sections and their characters form an integral part of the storyline. Was it always part of the film to have those scenes animated or was that something that came up through development.

The script went through quite a few incarnations and the animation was always there but it changed over the years— the Crippen animation was there almost from the start, though. There were a bunch more animated sequences but as the script evolved they became irrelevant and others replaced them.

The Knife- ‘Marble House’. Directed by Chris Hopewell.

A lot of the work you do includes more traditional forms of animation like stop motion and claymation. Do you find yourself intentionally veering away from overly polished CGI or is this just an aesthetic that you prefer?

I much prefer the look of stop motion but have equally produced just as much CG based work over the years— the second video after Radiohead’s ‘There There ‘ was a full CGI shiny extravaganza for the Scissor Sisters, you have to choose the medium that fits the act or job. That said, I am very bored of CGI at the mo and really loving the many layered process of stop motion— it’s a labour of love.

Like in many of the music videos you’ve worked on, the film has live action interact with and seamlessly blend in with the animation segments. Does this have a lot of influence on the set design and general look of the film?

Yes very much— It’s just the kind of thing I love to do— I think I would get bored if it was just one or the other, to blend them together is a real challenge and creates a whole new world over which you have complete control.

The Bees- ‘Who Care What the Question Is?’ Directed by Chris Hopewell.

Do you think it’s fair to say there’s a dark fantasy element to your work? How would describe the recurring themes in your videos, if any?

Yeah— it seems to be the way people tend to describe my work and I don’t have a problem with it. I do love the simple narrative of folk tales, myths and legends— most of which come from a very dark place. My video work has a lot of recurring themes based around these tales usually a journey or quest, some kind of search for something unobtainable.

We really like the look of real, physical models and constructed sets. How do you think this style of craftsmanship will fare as technology continues to develop?

What we do will always be there simply because as technology has advanced it’s become easier to film old-style stop motion. It’s a reasonably simple process for anyone to build a small set on a table top, place a wired puppet in there and animate with their digital stills camera, it’s hands-on and has an immediacy that CGI doesn’t. Also its a group thing— if you like making films with people and coming up with crazy solutions to odd problems, then stop motion is it.

The Killers- ‘Smile Like You Mean It’. Directed by Chris Hopewell.

You started Collision Films with Ben Foley as a place that you could develop animation and film making ideas. What ideas are you playing with at the moment and what can we expect from you next?

Ben is currently working for a post production company on a BBC children’s TV series.  I’m developing my next feature — it’s a biopic about a very famous ( can’t say who at the mo) New York punk band from the mid 70s and how they get together. There’s a whole bunch of animated sequences planned for that.

‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything’ is out now on general release in the UK.