We chatted with some of the filmmakers from Oh Deer Studios, the team behind the stop-motion animated short film 'Prey'. The short film is the July winner of our monthly short film contest and an official selection for the 2021 festival. Q&A contributions by Aiken Chau, Keni Xiao, Monica Santos, Ryan Maman, Alice Liu and Saniya Baig.
What was the inspiration behind making this film?
When we first came together, we agreed on wanting to create a film with a more dark and mature direction. Animation often has a reputation of being ‘for children’ and since the medium of stop motion naturally has a feel of grit and uncanniness, we gravitated towards it. Nathan originally pitched the idea of making a horror film with a never-ending loop. Some of his initial inspirations were from horror films such as The Triangle (2009) and The Ritual (2017). His pitch caught the whole team’s eye and we began to add our own influences and ideas into the fray.
What did you learn from the experience making the film?
This was our first time making a stop-motion film of this caliber. Communication between team members was essential as we had only one stop motion set to work with. Completing a single shot can take up to a day or two. We scheduled in time slots for animation and setup (which included dressing the set, arranging the lights to create the proper mood and positioning the camera angle for the shot). We also made sure that our puppet and prop fabricators were around just in case our puppets broke halfway through animation.
Stop-motion is very physically involved compared to other animation mediums and can be an unforgiving process. Sometimes a shot doesn’t turn out the way we envisioned but we tried to embrace it and incorporate it into the film. A bit of post-production work helps too. We also learned to have faith in each other and be open to sharing critique.
What’s interesting about Prey’s film-making process is that we didn’t have a team member who was assigned as the sole director. Instead, decisions were made based on group consensus and votes. It was a difficult process at times but the discussions we were able to have allowed us to make the best film possible.
How has the film been received?
During the pre-production process when we were figuring out the storyboards, we realized we had an extremely complex narrative to tell in a short period of time. How would we explain what happens to the Hunter in the end without spoon-feeding the audience throughout the film? We’ve received a lot of excitement from our peers about Prey’s story and suspenseful atmosphere of suspense that we set up. Even when people drew different conclusions on how the world in Prey works, it’s been interesting to hear their personal theories.
What do you love the most about the filmmaking process?
Everyone on the team has a different favourite part of the process but we can all agree that the most rewarding moment is when all of the pieces of our film come together where we see our puppets coming to life on screen. It’s amazing to be part of a creative and passionate team where we can brainstorm and bounce ideas off of each other. We’ve made a lot of memories together from being on set, to trips to the craft store to buying materials - it’s been a great time. We also loved to share new and interesting snacks at our group meetings to keep things fresh!
What is your advice to filmmakers making their debut short film?
Your first film isn’t going to be perfect. Be brave, just make it! You’re going to learn so much through the process. Making a film comes with its own set of challenges which can feel discouraging at times, but remembering why you decided to make the film in the first place can keep you motivated. Don’t lose sight of your vision & have faith in the story you want to tell. But most importantly, keep an open mind and remember to have fun!
What are you up to next?
We all still have our fourth & final year of school in the animation program at Sheridan College. We’ll be working on our individual graduation thesis films for our final year of school. We’d love to do more stop-motion projects together in the future as well!
Prey is currently going through its festival run. To see when Prey will be playing and for more behind the scenes, please check out the films Instagram account.