New Directors: Christine Hooper
New Director Christine Hooper discusses insomnia and her RCA graduation film; On Loop. Taken from shots 153.
For Christine Hooper, studying animation at the Royal College of Art (RCA) will be remembered for lying awake in the early hours with anxious thoughts. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Suffering from a bad case of insomnia throughout her first year on the course, when it came to the subject matter for her graduation film, there was only ever going to be one theme.
“On Loop started life when I came across an interesting quote from the film critic Bill Nichols,” explains the director. “He argues that every film, even the most whimsical of fictions, gives evidence of its director; from the culture they were brought up in to their personal experiences.”
She decided to draw on her own sleepless nights for the project designed to be ‘seen’ through the eyes of an insomniac. Hooper built the bedroom set for her stop-motion film in a dank basement at the RCA and spent the majority of her grad year there, where it was constantly lit to feel like 4am.
“Shooting took around three months,” she reveals. “With the complex nature of the edit (some scenes contain nine separate shots combined to make one picture) I filmed and edited simultaneously, relying on Dragonframe Stop Motion to shoot, and used pretty much every programme in the Adobe package to piece it all together. It was like completing a complicated but very satisfying jigsaw puzzle.”
The film’s aesthetic was inspired by David Hockney’s photomontages and Hooper explains that she wanted to achieve a cubist feel, with time layers to represent the idea of fractured thoughts. Sound and script were just as important, and after attending live spoken-word poetry sessions as part of her research, she became inspired by the medium and adopted the style.
“It was so good; engaging, lively and also very funny,” she muses. “My experience of thoughts at 3am are that they are really disjointed and repetitive so I thought the format of a poem would reflect this well. It was important to me that the visuals and voiceover worked together to tell the story, with neither working independently.”
When it came to finding a voice artist to speak the erratic thoughts, Hooper approached fellow insomniac and actor/comedian Susan Calman.
“I’d read many articles she had written about struggling with insomnia and knew she would give the film a sense of authenticity and much needed humour,” the director explains. “I sent her an email and, luckily, she said yes. It was amazing to have the opportunity to direct someone so professional – we were wrapped in 40 minutes!”
Having worked in production and post, Hooper says her experience has given her the thirst, knowledge and skills to produce more of her own work, and from the sound of it, there’s a lot to learn about the new director: “I would definitely like to create more work based on personal experience – I feel having first-hand knowledge helps communicate and craft a story which people can identify with.”