The Maker’s Hand

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by Rachel Baron | January 7th, 2021

Travis Wood, filmmaker and member of Meerkat Media, wants you to know that animation doesn’t have to be that sophisticated. “When you see the maker’s hand in the work, it adds a special quality that you can’t really get in a fancy approach.” It’s a creative, adaptable style, useful for, say, those at home with time to spare, with but a few ready-at-hand materials.

We chatted with Travis about his musings on animation as he gears up to lead our live online DIY Stop Motion Animation workshop starting Tue 1/19.

Rachel Baron: Which came first for you, animation or filmmaking?
Travis Wood: Filmmaking came first. I just started making skateboarding videos when I was growing up,so I was just always filming and editing stuff. Later, I started getting into more documentary stuff.

RB: What was your favorite or most influential animated show/movie growing up?
TW: Coco is by far my favorite animated movie ever. The story has a lot of twists in it and symbolism. The animation is amazing too.

RB: Tell us about your latest animated films, and why you chose the form to tell those stories.
TW: Half of the animations I’ve done started with audio-based pieces, and then just putting animation to them. It’s Your Mother Calling happened in early quarantine. I’m not doing anything and then I got that voicemail. I wanted the audio to shine more and the frames to feel like, if you stopped it, it could be a painting in a way. My process isn’t very digital. I’m not using a software that’s super hard to learn. It’s a more arcane way of drawing and making it move or finding objects and making them move.

RB: What would you say to someone who is interested in stop motion but feels intimidated by it?
TW: Once you know a couple tricks and ideas it’s pretty easy to get started. The softwares and the rigs and the lighting and like all these bigger things you have to set up can feel like a barrier to entry. For my own process and this class, you don’t have to set that much up. You can sit at a desk with a pen and paper, you can be on Photoshop. Anything you can make an image from is how I work. I’m teaching the concepts of how we can make each frame and understand the more general ideas. I like things that are a little rough around the edges and you can see the tricks, not shying away from something looking “unprofessional.”

RB: What has been motivating you in these times?
TW: Being at home so much, I’ve been trying to use that time to make stuff, which i know can be hard to find motivation for. Seeing what people put out every day. There’s a directing duo called LAMAR+NIK. They’ve directed some bigger-name projects, but a portion of their work is animated and you can see the maker’s hand. I just watched a music video they did yesterday where it’s not necessarily animated, but they used a hand-crafted set. And they filmed the rapper rapping, but then placed the iPhone into the set. It’s creative, but something we all could do.

Interested in taking DIY Stop Motion Animation with Travis or another DCTV filmmaking workshop this winter? Check out our roster of offerings this Jan–Mar at dctvny.org/workshops/all.