The brilliance of David McShane’s short animation Come is in how it takes a common locale of queer cinema, the hookup, and shifts it into something potentially life-altering. McShane’s film follows the character of Finn who, after taking a regular route into a hookup, finds that his personal axis has been altered. Through the tactility of his painterly animation style, McShane is able to take us through Finn’s journey via a unique intimacy where every touch and motion begets a newfound meaning. Directors Notes is proud to present the premiere of Come today accompanied by a chat where McShane details the conversations with his flatmate that the film was born out of, the process of making his character models with acetate, and the joy he found in sharing his small, bedroom-made short with audiences around the world.
One of the aspects that stood out to me when watching Come was how intimate and tactile it is, was that the approach you set out with?
Come emerged from conversations with my flatmate about hookups and how they’ve informed our relationship with intimacy and sex. These conversations collided with my fascination with phones and maps. I initially had a much grander sci-fi fantasy metaphor planned out. But, after sharing an initial script with friends, I found that the stilted navigation of intimacy with a stranger was the most interesting bit so I focused in on those elements.
It’s been a real joy to see a film about bedrooms, made in lots of bedrooms, play out in the world.
Could you break down the process of bringing everything together for the project? What materials, for example, did you use for the practical stop motion components of the short?
I made Come in-between work projects over lockdown, using a rostrum camera set up in my bedroom. The characters are cut-out acetate, painted with gouache. It was a fun technique. While moving each piece, I would also animate the paint to create expressions and movement in the clothes. The backgrounds are paintings with some real textures overlaid.
Are there any particular animators, filmmakers or artists in general whose work you drew from when developing the short?
David Wojnarowicz was a big inspiration, in both his writing and image-making. I also drew a lot from live-action cinematographers I love, like Hélène Louvart, and the hazy photographs of Nan Goldin.
Aside from yourself, who else did you bring in to help and what influence did they have in how the film came together?
It was a super small team of five. I directed these lovely actors, Simon Mayonda and Arun Blair-Mangat, over Zoom. They recorded voices in their bedroom under towels. For music I worked with Will Turner and for sound Ines Adriana, also very much bedroom-based. We mixed it in a brief respite between two lockdowns.
Stop motion animation is notoriously lengthy in its production, how long were you working with the character models and their story for?
It took around six months to animate everything. Lockdown helped, as it felt like there was no rush to be done. It was quite lovely really. We finished the film and then everything opened again in time for festivals. It’s been a real joy to see a film about bedrooms, made in lots of bedrooms, play out in the world.
I read that Come premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, how exciting! How was that premiere? And how have you found the festival circuit experience with this short?
Come had a really lovely premiere, mainly because of the curation. It was programmed with some documentary shorts that explored ideas of community and place. I was really moved, as it drew out themes I hadn’t expected. Another favourite was Flare. It was so fun seeing it with a big, queer audience in a Southbank cinema that I’ve haunted for years.
How has your approach as an animator changed or evolved over your career? Do you feel the process of creating grows with each new story you choose to tell?
I do a bit of work in commercial/narrative as a stop motion animator, and I love those big sets and puppets. But, for my personal work, I’ve been searching for a way to have a more low-key animation process. A green screen rostrum set up has been ideal. I’m looking forward to combining this with live-action backgrounds on my next project.
Come emerged from conversations with my flatmate about hookups and how they’ve informed our relationship with intimacy and sex.
As I’ve become more technically competent, it’s also been fun to write with more ambition. I think evolving technically and narratively go hand in hand and unfold one another into something unexpected.
What is it about animation as a filmmaking form that keeps you coming back to tell more stories within it?
Whenever I think of a story, even if the majority of it is quite realistic, there’s always a moment that I want to explore with pure fantasy. I think fantasy is quite realistic because it feels honest to how we experience the world, and animation is a great way to explore these types of stories. On a day-to-day level, I just love the process of animating in stop motion. It merges art, performance and physics in a way that sends my brain into a happy flow state.
And finally, can you tease us with any further stop motion projects you’ll be sharing soon?
I’m working on a new short about a queer girl who has a crush go wrong, on a school art trip. It’s a bit more ambitious than my previous work and quite horror, sort of aiming for if Celine Sciamma directed Carrie. Also, I’ve been working as an animator on some great stuff, so I can’t wait to celebrate those projects when they’re finally out!