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Look for Me

The lead character in animator Laura Heit's new short film is invisible By Frank Moldstad

What if you could be invisible for a day? Animator Laura Heit explores that premise in her new short film Look for Me, which will be broadcast across the United Kingdom in November on Channel 4.

The three-and-a-half minute film was commissioned by Channel 4 for its A.I.R. (Animator in Residence) program at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford, England. This program offers new animators a chance to develop their short films into proposals for Channel 4 television's animation department, which will then consider full production commissions. Look for Me was produced by Maria Manton at London-based Slinky Pictures, where Heit is an animator and director.

The film's striking look was achieved through the use of scanned paper cut-outs and hand-drawn animation, with compositing and assembly in Adobe After Effects. In the following interview, we talk with Laura Heit about the production of Look for Me and her creative process.

Look for Me was commissioned by Channel 4 for its the A.I.R. (Animators in Residence) program and produced by Slinky Pictures. How was the workflow set up?

I worked with producer Maria Manton, who had produced several A.I.R. films previously. She and I sat down and made a schedule and worked out when I would need help and from whom. I hired a sound designer with whom I worked very closely for the first couple of months, Barnaby Templer-Fonic. He has a small studio in Hackney City Farm, so it was fun to go over there and say hi to all the turkeys!

I knew there were going to be moments where cut-outs werent going to give me enough fluidity or emotion in the film, so these parts were hand-drawn. For three weeks, I worked with an animator, Martin Oliver, who did some traditional drawn animation for details, such as the boys face. In one particular scene, the boy wakes up because he's felt some kind of presence in the room. His head moves from side to side, which is impossible to animate in cut-outs, and as I wanted the movements to be subtle, I felt it was a good idea to combine different techniques in order to achieve the desired effect.

Then, at the very end of the project, I had After Effects whiz John Taylor come in and fine-tune all of my camera moves. He was incredibly meticulous and spent a lot of time perfecting turns and swoops. Apart from that, I spent the better part of five months working on my own. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to work full time on my own film for such a long space of time.

The film starts with a great premise: What if you could be invisible for a day? But the theme is really the need for companionship and love -- Look for Me, as the title says. How did the story come about?

I think Ive always been skeptical about super powers. There are so many films out these days about these everyday guys who get bit by spiders, or get dropped into a vat of acid, or see their parents killed, and end up having an unrealistic strength allowing them to save the world. But what is it really like ?? Thats what Im interested in. I had a friend who had a dream about the Incredible Hulk that has always stuck in my head. The Hulk was praying, he said, ?Dear God, I am so strong, yet I am so lonely...

When I applied for the A.I.R. scheme, I knew I needed a short and simple story, so I started with this idea. I wanted to show the arc of a day in the life of someone who wakes up and is something unexplainable, and then how that changes throughout the day. You begin all excited there are so many new possibilities, then you become self-conscious, [develop] shame and a desire to do good, and then loneliness ultimately. I chose invisibility because it seemed interesting beyond physical change, it affects so much more. Also, its not really a super power as she [the main character] points out; the only real difference is in the fact that you can spy a lot better when you're invisible.

Initially, I watched a lot of the old Invisible Man films which were mostly about fear. People are scared of things they cant see. So the films really become about dramatic searches for the unseen terror, with police walking around with nets and spray paint and flour. So there are lots of aspects I was interested in -- the hard part was narrowing down the ideas in order to tell the story as simply as possible.  

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Related Keywords:Look for Me, Laura Heit, Animator, Slinky Pictures, Adobe After Effects, short film, Animator in Residence, A.I.R., Channel 4,


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