About a week or so before the scheduled release of the new Hilary Hahn/Hausckha CD Silfra, we were treated to both a short documentary of the making of an animated video for one of the album’s songs “Bounce Bounce”, and then the actual video itself, directed by Hayley Morris. Having been greatly intrigued by this film and its making, I had to look into doing my own profile for Hayley, and I had discovered that she’s done an incredible number of these animated shorts for various projects virtually all by herself (with a bit of assistance in post production) and even does her own sound effects. She was very kind to take a break from her activities to do a chat with us about her work on this and some of her other creations.
CM: How did you get to make the “Bounce Bounce” short for Hahn and Hauschka?
HM: I saw Hauschka play about 5 years ago with the Icelandic group múm and I really liked his music. Last year, I was craving to do a more creative film project, so I just e-mailed him, asking him if he’d ever want a music video. I started working on a music video last year for him that I actually never finished because some other stuff came up, and it didn’t work out. We stayed in touch, and he wrote me back when the Silfra album was coming out, asking if I’d be interested in doing a video for that. He sent me the full album, and let me choose which song I’d want to do, and I thought “Bounce Bounce”…like, all the other songs are amazing too, but I thought that one was the most energetic, and I thought that it would be really cool for animation. It was also good that it was one of the shorter pieces, because stop-motion is super time consuming. I came up with the idea of the tide pool after listening to it over and over.
The film took me 2 months to shoot. On a good day, I could do 8 seconds of footage. I spent a month making all the materials, and then the next month animating it and editing it. I pretty much did everything myself in my apartment, and I set up a little studio space here, and I didn’t really go outside for 2 months! [laughs]
CM: Did you hear from Hilary Hahn as well during the making of the film?
HM: I didn’t actually talk to Hilary much, I mostly talked to Volker, and he was super-open to whatever I wanted to do. It was just nice that they were open to pretty much whatever. I would send them some photos of “in process” things, and I would just keep going and sending them stuff, and I didn’t get much criticism, so I didn’t have to keep going back and redoing things. They were just encouraging and happy with the whole process.
CM: Are the crabs and the starfish dancing or fighting?
HM: I think I wanted conflict in it because the music gets really intense, so I had the section with the starfish pulling back and forth, and the crabs pulling back and forth in the same action, but since it’s choreographed to the music, it looks like they’re dancing.
I, myself, am not that musical, but I come from a very musical family. I think I picked up my musical side through my timing of my visuals. My grandfather, John Morris, is a composer, so I grew up with music all the time. I always watched him growing up, making music to visual, and so I ended up doing the opposite, making the visual to music.
CM: I also love the film Undone. Can you tell us about it, and how it should be interpreted?
HM: It was inspired by my other grandfather, not the musician, who had Alzheimer’s, so, that was my thesis film in college, and for a couple of years, I was just fascinated with the whole progression with that disease. I became kind of obsessed with it, making different projects about it, and I think I just needed to get it out of my system, so that was my exploration and like a closure of the Alzheimer’s. I just wanted to make a metaphor for the progression of it.
I think that the end of the film represents a rebirth in a way, and I think one main memory I have with my grandfather was when he was at his worst point, he almost seemed like a child again, so it’s kind of a rebirth from an elderly person almost to a young person again. I mean, there are a lot of ways to interpret it.
CM: The film really got to me because I felt like the character represented me in many ways, like things are slipping out of my life.
HM: It’s really nice hearing how the film affects different people. It’s really nice hearing that was your interpretation. I brought that film to a lot of festivals, and after the screenings, so many people would come up to me and say, “thank you for making this”, “that really touched me” or “my mom had Alzheimers”, so it was really nice making that film and having so many people feel a connection to it.
A lot of the times you think of animation, you think of humorous things, but I think it’s a really powerful medium where you can make anything happen, it doesn’t always have to be funny, and I like making things that will affect people and make them think.
CM: Can you talk about Corn Mother? That’s a very poignant story as well.
HM: That was based on a Native-American folktale. I did these series of drawings of the Corn Mother, and I just kept looking at them and said “I need to make a film about this character”. I don’t know why I drew corn in a woman’s head, it just came out! [laughs]
I started researching different tales about corn, and I came across a Native-American folktale called “Corn Mother”, and there are a bunch of different variations of it, but I took bits and pieces from different ones and made my own.
I have 2 older twin brothers, so [the two boys in the film] are kind of like my brothers but not really. [laughs] I make them look terrible in the film. It was just my way of thanking my mom for everything she’s done for us. She raised us as a single mother and she did so much for us, and I wanted to say that she’d do anything for her children. That was my way of making a film for her, even though it’s kind of depressing.
CM: Have you ever thought about making feature-length animation?
HM: I would love to do a feature-length film of a fairy-tale of some sort. I’ve been researching a bunch of stories, and I would love to do that one day, but I don’t know how I would do it. I would need a lot of people to do something like that, but that’s definitely a goal I have.
Hayley’s official website