Evolution — Arts Centre Melbourne

About the project

CLIENT: Arts Centre Melbourne

AGENCY: Dirty Puppet Animation Studio

PROJECT: A three to five minute animated film that illustrates the history of the site upon which Arts Centre Melbourne is situated

IDEA: Weave poetic snapshots from the site's history together with interesting transitions

REALITY: Animation plays on a custom built screen, 6 x 1 metre, on the ground floor of the concert hall

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The following are answers to questions posed by an animation festival:

Q: Can you explain the genesis of this project?

A: Arts Centre Melbourne were commissioning animation projects to show in the architecturally renewed Hamer Hall. We pitched a concept and style for the Evolution brief and were awarded the project.

The idea was to show poetic snapshots from the history of the Hamer Hall site and weave the images together with interesting transitions—things like Eucalypts swaying from the banks of the Yarra in 1600, a man watching his girlfriend ice-skate from the sidelines of the Glacarium in 1914, and the curtains opening onto the State Theatre in 1995.

From there we were given heaps of photography and a detailed break-down of the moments in history and developed the story with help from the Arts Centre team.

Q: The assumption of the viewer is that it is factually accurate. Was there a lot of research done to make that so? And what was involved in portraying the indigenous culture in the film?

The research was mostly done for us. The team at Arts Centre Melbourne had a vast database of archival images and fact sheets about the site's history. We immersed ourselves in the photos and stories so that we understood it completely, then started to piece the script together with the internal team to make sure it was factually correct and told a compelling story. Our illustrator referred to original photographs throughout the process as well to make the images as historically accurate as possible.

In the early days of the project we spoke a lot about indigenous Australians and how we could possibly represent them in the story of the site.

We decided that our role was not to tell the indigenous story, mostly because it's not our story, but to allude to it in a symbolic way that remained respectful. The history of the site obviously began with centuries of indigenous habitation and we wanted to make sure that was unmistakably the beginning of the site's history through the narrative.

You might even say that the absence of any indigenous people within the animation is perhaps a strong metaphor for the colonialisation of the site. Early in the animation, smoke rises from a behind a distant mountain—the only sign of indigenous life. It's a reflection of the mindset of the founding fathers and how little they understood and respected the traditional land owners.

Q: The screen ratio is a very interesting and visually compelling component of your film. What made you use that ratio and how did it affect the finished film?

Like all interesting creative solutions, the screen ratio was a constraint given to us in the brief. The screen, six by one metre, was custom built to cover a long space behind a bar on the ground floor of the concert hall. It was limiting in some ways but gave us more freedom in other ways—we really had to think about how we wanted to use the space to enhance the storytelling across the whole screen.

We played with positive and negative space to draw people around the screen space, either with information that's covering the whole width or moments where action is only happening in a small space.

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Tait Ischia

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