Earlier this summer, director and stop-motion animator, Mikey Please, released the trailer for his next film, Marylin Myller. Thirty seconds later, it was clear many, including myself, were anxious to see more. Though the teaser provides tantalizing narrative and technical crumbs, Please had been reluctant to reveal many details beyond the tagline, "Marylin Maketh, Marylin Taketh Away."
"Well, a longer synopsis might read -- Marilyn is trying really hard to create something good. For once her expectation and reality are going to align. It will be epic. It will be tear-jerkingly profound. It will be perfect. Nothing can go wrong," Please seemed to exclaim over email.
"Does that help? Probably not," he confessed.
What is clear is that Please is expanding his signature monochromatic foam constructed universe. His 2011 short, The Eagleman Stag (above) led the then recent graduate to be heralded as a new darling of the animation community, and internet at large. The film won a BAFTA and was even shortlisted for an Oscar. It also became a viral hit that stood out not only for its restrained style and intricate technical execution, but also for a poetically universal story. The Eagleman Stag is a both epic and grounded, as it wraps an emotional narrative around the anxiety of our hastening perception of time.
"They're totally different films, but it's hard not to see Marilyn in relation to Eagleman," wrote Please. "Actually, the film is about 'the follow up.' How you imagine something might turn out, and then how it actually does. The anticipation of an audience and how that measures up to the real experience. This film is a lot more personal than Eagleman and as a result, I think it's funnier. Not because I'm funnier, just because there’s more to mock"
Beyond plot differences, Marilyn was crafted under new circumstances. Wanting to explore the permeation of animation in Japanese culture, Please applied to attend a Japic residency in Tokyo. His experience as a foreigner seeped into the script he was writing. "It's an odd one, living as a stranger; I hadn't done that before. And being in a room trying to make something good, that's an even weirder one."
Fueled with new resources, Please also promises this film to be technically grander. The making of from script to post spanned a year, with production support provided by Hornet in New York and Blinkink in London, which both represent Please as a director. Before shooting, Please and his team built life-sized character rigs and then strove to experiment with in-camera light illusions on set.
The clip above is a comparison shot that illustrates some of those tricks: showing what Please saw compared to what the camera could capture. Please elaborated on the latter half of the making-of sequence: "I was looking for a way to combine something loose and expressive (the painting with light) with something controlled and intricate (the jumpy lady). The circular rings were particularly fun to animate. In each shot, that spider-like light rig was wound up with cable. Then, as the shutter went off, I'd yank it away twisting the rig like a spinning top. It was just the right interplay between precision and the loose expressive quality that comes with doing something for real."
"Real" is the heart of Please's craft and informs his decision to physically build and capture his work one frame at a time. Indeed, animators today have a wide box of potential tools, which make pixel perfect control increasingly easier. "I'm into the imperfections, the tiny mistakes that betray the human hand, something that now feels decidedly absent from a lot of art."
Though you can't yet see Marylin Myller in full online yet, the film will be making a festival run in the coming months. To see if the film will be screening near you, check in with Hornet or Please's twitter accounts. Not to worry: Please hears the clamouring of excitement through the like buttons and Vimeo comments as he assured us, "...We're keen to get it up online as soon as we can."