After a career in the medical profession, Dr Nigel Smith turned to animation to tell stories of people and health. He spoke to us about Mute, the power of animation and listening
Mute is a film about a lifeboatman who happens to have a rare form of Alzheimers. I met ‘Paul’ at a day centre and was struck by his interest in art, music and his past as a lifeboatman. At the library I came across Nigel Millard‘s book: ‘Lifeboat: Courage on our coasts‘; I’m an animator; I wanted to make his iconic images move.
I tried several methods to recreate the mood of the photographs using toy lifeboat models, paint, pastel drawings and finally settled on charcoal as a quick, fluid medium for animation, influenced by William Kentridge and Joanna Quinn. Charcoal reduction involves drawing, erasing the image and redrawing at least ten times for every second of animation.
As a hospital doctor, I’ve always been interested in story, how people intertwine life events and the onset of illness. Most conditions are long-lasting and the subjective experience of chronic disease doesn’t get the attention it deserves. What’s it like to have dementia? If we listen carefully, can we understand?
Animation can create beautiful, vibrant, transforming images which resemble how our brains work. And yet most people are unaware how easy it can be to combine moving images with a good story. I’d like to bypass ‘talking heads’, instead: use visual story-telling: portraits of ‘fluffy experiences’ like fatigue, itch and memory loss.
Creativity is a central human quality in home-making, relationships and art. Artists promote that creative intent. Filmmakers add to our repertoire of visual stories to express the human experience.
I’m a stop motion animator using 2D and 3D techniques. My favourite is evoking bird flight using magnets with 3D models and real landscapes in the background.
I’m submitting Mute to a number of film festivals with a focus on the sea, student films and mental health. After that, I’ll make it available on the internet. My current project is a four minute fully-painted music video to accompany a song without words. You can follow my work at ‘Stop Animation Now’ stopani.blogspot.co.uk
Mute by Nigel Smith is at the English Riviera Film Festival on
Saturday, October 12 as part of the Finalist Screening.
For times and tickets, go to the ERFF site.