Inspired by a sweaty kiss

A few years ago in60seconds designer Lieke Milder was visiting a circus show. A clown came on stage and looked for someone from the audience to join him in his performance. She was the one who got picked. The start of a creepy clown story…

Lucky me! I had to pretend I could shoot with a balloon bow and arrow. It wasn’t even that bad until the end. We had to bow down for the audience. Then it happened. In front of a packed house he kissed me on the mouth! A sweaty, sticky, creepy kiss. I think that moment stayed in my subconscious, only to come back again a few years later. I stumbled across a very nice song on a stock website. The song conjured up an uncanny image of a creepy clown in my mind. I knew I had to make an animation using this track. I pitched the idea of Black Comedy to my bosses and when approved I started making the animation as an internal project at animation studio in60seconds in Amsterdam.

Putting music first

Next to producing my first short film, the challenge of the project also lied with making something not cute. Apparently it is in my nature to make happy animations with funny movements, something that leaves a smile on people’s faces. Now I wanted to make something that would seem happy at first, but leaves the audience with a strange and mysterious feeling. This song was perfect for that! Where normally music is composed during or after the production, I did it the other way around. I listened to the song very carefully and made up every shot and movement based on the various instruments and rhythm. After each storyboard version I made an animatic to check timing and the storyline. In the second version it worked, I was very pleased with it! The result is a story that neatly fits the music. Also, working this way there was no need for sound design afterwards, as the music already fit the movements.

A big production dip

After the storyboarding phase the project became a struggle for me. I was learning Cinema 4D at the time, because I wanted to make the environments in 3D. I purely wanted to do this to open a new world and learn how to combine 2D and 3D animation. But I was so focused on technique that I forgot about the illustration style. It didn’t look the way I wanted it to. I stopped with the project. Colleagues kept asking me how the project was progressing and I just got more frustrated about it. The project hours just flew away. I think every creative person finds himself in this kind of issue in a bigger project. You want to do too much in too little time. So it was time to make choices! I killed my darling and decided to not make the environments in 3D. Then I focused on developing the illustration style. This was a real turning point. Inspired by modern cartoonists I quickly designed something I really liked.

Common efforts

The project now became a comfortable ride. I involved two great colleagues – Amanda Nedermeijer and Almar Sloot- to join me in animating. We tried to finish the project in one full week. Of course that didn’t happen. But we made a lot of progress. Plus, working together added something to the project. Each of us got their own characters to animate, so their personalities would really come to life. And doing a nice sprint in the end of a long-lasting project is something I can recommend. After the animation process I did some finishing touches – and there it was. My first short film. Fully animated on music. About a creepy clown. Be scared!