Kara Sowles was part of Team Amelus, winners of the Lovecraft Under the Gun competition at last year’s H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR. She did stop motion work on Follie a Nix, Uno, Deux, Tres, a short stop motion film completed in just 72 hours!
TSOP: You participated in the Lovecraft Under the Gun Film Challenge, or I think that’s close to the title.
KS: Film Race. I say that to other people, and they think I’ve been running for a film, so yeah.
TSOP: And you did a stop motion film, which I find amazing. It’s something I can’t see being completed in 72 hours. What was that like?
KS: It’s a little crazy. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would do stop motion in that short a time. But it’s how I learned to do stop motion, so I’m looking forward to getting to slow down and take more time at it, having learned how to do it in a short period of time.
TSOP: Your film had basic claymation characters, but also had a knit dog. And I’m assuming that’s because of the quote that was stipulated by contest rules to be included in the film. So, tell me about the dog.
KS: We saw the quote and we throw up our hands and went, “Oh, no, we’re not doing this. We’re going home.” That was a long and difficult quote, what was it, “the puerile stick throwing of the alien bipeds?’
TSOP: Something about dogs and cats, and we all know Lovecraft preferred cats.
KS: Yeah, but there was no mention of the word dog or cat in the quote, and with the word alien in it, it throws off the groove, so the best we could think of was to have a dog say it in French, so it seemed like the person hearing it is crazy, because dogs don’t speak and dogs don’t speak French.
So, I wanted a dog that looked a little fuzzier than the clay, because the people we were using had clothes and I thought the clay wouldn’t look very much like hair. So we made a little wire armature for the dog and I bulked it up with tin foil, than wrapped electrical tape around it. Than I sewed on a thick fabric that kind of looked like fur. But in my exhaustion, and in the light, I thought it looked brown, and it turns out it is kind of a magenta. So bit of a mistake there.
TSOP: But it worked well. And to have a dog speak that line was perfect.
KS: Well, I’m glad it seemed to work.
TSOP: A lot of people consider stop motion a dying art. What got you into it?
KS: I’m not a great artist. I wouldn’t be very good at making films either. And we all have to find something how our creative abilities fall into something that they can work with. What I have is an excess of enthusiasm, and I find that stop motion, the concoction that makes it, is large parts enthusiasm mixed in with a little bit of other things.
I don’t know why or how I started. A friend of mine and I said, “Oh, stop motion. I’ve never done that.” So we broke into a friend’s apartment while he was out at a concert…
TSOP: Wait. You broke into your friend’s apartment?
KS: We found a key to his apartment and went in without asking and we made a stop motion film of all his stuff moving, than we put all his stuff back and we left before he got home. Than we emailed him and said, “Oh, I found this cool video.” And he’s like, “Wait. Is that my stuff?” He couldn’t figure out what happened and that got us hooked on stop motion pretty fast.
TSOP: Did you watch stop motion films as a kid?
KS: Definitely. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. A Christmas classic, everyone loves that movie. In retrospective, it’s a little sexist, a little questionable in some ways, but it’s a great film. And the stop motion in that is just lovely. The little kittle felt animals are darling.
You get an effect you can’t get otherwise. CGI, no matter how realistic you can make it look, at least at this point, we can tell it’s not real. And that’s why a badly made puppet coming at you is going to be scarier than the entirety of an enormous tentacled, freakish monster in CGI. We feel that there is something real there and that’s hard to capture otherwise.
Like Jason and the Argonauts. Damn, kids love those, because you feel it, right? They’re fighting skeletons! I mean, you’ve never seen anything that cool, and a CGI skeleton, it can’t convey that same charm and excitement as a real object.
TSOP: Where do you want to go with stop motion? We have a fabulous stop motion studio here in Portland. Is that a dream for you?
KS: I highly doubt I will ever make a profession related to this. As I said, I’m creative and have a lot of enthusiasm, but not a lot of actual raw, or trained, artistic talent. The great thing about stop motion though, is people without the training or talent can still make awesome, cool stuff.
I’d like to do something beyond film races. I started something I’d like to have submitted to this festival, but you know how life catches up to you.
The person I worked on this with, Michael Entler, he’s absolutely fantastic. He’s been doing this for quite a while, much longer than I have. We met last year, because we were the only two people who put in Lovecraft Under the Gun entries, and he did live action, while I did stop motion. And it was the first time he did live action, and here someone comes in doing stop motion. So we teamed up, but he has a lot more experience. He went to Cannes once, and absolutely fantastic guy.
TSOP: If people want to see more of your work, where can they go?
KS: I’m really new to stop motion, so my work isn’t really anywhere yet.
TSOP: One other question. Did you make the dice used in the movie, or did you find them somewhere?
KS: Guardian Games is where the kick off happens for the Under the Gun event, so we were right next door after it kicked off, thinking our brains out, and someone thought to walk back and find out if they had miniature dice, and thank god they did. Thank you, Guardian Games. We are so grateful.
So we painted over the numbers, and painted new numbers on, but we did not have to make ten-sided die. So grateful for that.
TSOP: Did you already have armatures to use for the characters, or did you have to build those in the 72-hour time frame?
KS: We did the whole thing from scratch. The music, the story and I made the armatures on the spot. We had someone sewing the costumes for them. That whole set you saw (in the film), cobbled streets, buildings, all from scratch. The only thing not from scratch was the chair. I’m very proud of it, it’s a beautiful chair that you only see for a moment. It took me a whole afternoon to make, on a different afternoon, and we pulled it in for this project.
TSOP: What did you make the armatures out of? I imagine you can’t make ball and socket armatures in 72 hours.
KS: Fortunately for me, I don’t have the skill or equipment to make nicer armatures outside of film races. So I’ve had time to adjust and find fast, cheap ways to do them. These I’m particularly proud of. These are made out of wire Michael found, that we pulled apart. It was multiple wires coated in plastic we pulled apart and I twisted into the shape of people. Then I padded them out with tin foil and clay on the legs, so it was light on the upper half, but heavier the lower half was heavy enough to hold down. Then I wrapped the whole thing in electrical tape because it’s bendy, stretchy and holds the clay in. And it gives a more skin like appearance to the tin foil. I gave them clay feet, which ideally you will never see, but in this film you will. And you’ll see them smushing their way across the cobblestones, that’s why I don’t shoot feet. Then I put clay heads and hands on them.
TSOP: Well, it looked great. Best of luck with the contest. I know they are announcing the winners soon, and I don’t want to keep you.
KS: Thank you. The other two films were really excellent and I’m really excited to see who wins, but getting to see all three films was a big treat.
TSOP: Thank you.
Kara is listed as part of Monsieur Soeur, a group of filmmakers specializing in stop motion, miniature and animated shorts. Check out The Monsieur Soeur Facebook page for more information about their films, and be sure to check out their latest entry in this year’s Lovecraft Under the Gun Film Challenge at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival this weekend at The Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR. Festival passes are still available, as of this post.