HANNAH ANASTASI

Commute of the Crow (2014)

" It's 9:00am on a dreary Monday morning. London is packed with traffic jams, ambling pedestrians and disgruntled taxi drivers. Will Mr Crowe be able to make it to work on time?"

Commute Of The Crow was my first attempt at creating an animated short using 2D stop motion techniques. It was created using 225 paper cut-outs, 22 hand drawn backgrounds and thousands of individual photos. From concept to completion, the animation took 4 months to make.


Music: "Standing Here" by Silent Partner

Sound effects: freesound.org

CREATION

Commute of the Crow began life as a paper collage that I made, inspired by the works of Gary Russell. I often found myself imagining the scene in motion: Cars whizzing around on roads that looped around skyscrapers, the Crow-man 's outline etched against the over-sized, monochromatic sun, an atmosphere thick with smog from the bustling traffic...

Commute of the Crow, paper collage by Hannah Anastasi.

At this point in my life, I was not an Animator or film-maker of any kind. I was trying to became a Freelance Illustrator, but as my Partner pointed out to me on a regular basis: "The work you're producing looks more like parts of a story, rather an Illustrations. Why don't you try and make a film instead?"


Taking his advice, I bought a small Rostrum and decided to use the collage as a starting point for a little stop-motion film. The plot was going to be simple: Mr Crowe was late for work, and had to get to get there as quickly as possible!


As a beginner, the point of the film was to get a character up and moving about, so I chose to stick with 2D cut-outs of photographs to create the characters, vehicles and interactive objects.

These puppets were so small that rather than have articulated limbs, I had to make multiple versions of each character and swap them in and out of the scene when needed. Although it restricted the amount of animation that I could do with each character, it was a lot of fun to see how much personality you can give something with just a few little well-timed wiggles.


The look of the film came directly from the original collage that I made, but also from black and white photography of London and images from old newspapers. I always pictured the scenes having this gritty, jittery look to them, reminiscent of classic black and white movies and early animations. But I didn't realise until I started photographing the first scenes that I could create the effect by not properly lighting my animation space!

Paper puppets used in Commute of the Crow.
Filming the stop-motion animation, Commute of the Crow.

Apart from knowing where the film would start and where it needed to end, I didn't have a clear storyboard to follow. This approach made the idea of film-making less intimidating to me at the time because it forced me to focus on creating amusing modes of travel for Mr Crowe in each scene.


Although no where near perfect from a technical stand-point, I was satisfied with my efforts and felt I had created something with a spontaneous vibe that had captured my sense of humour!


Photo of some of the hand-drawn background art for Sweet Tooth.
Commute of the Crow: Official Selection BFI Future Film Festiva

The day that I finished Commute Of The Crow and made it public on youtube and vimeo, I noticed that Talenthouse were hosting a short film competition. The Prince Charles Cinema together with the British Film Institute were looking for young British filmmakers to submit unscreened films under 10 minutes in length, in any medium or style, for a chance to have their work shown during London's Film Festival.


On a whim, I entered the competition and to my complete surprise, Commute of the Crow was one of the seletected films. It premiered at the Prince Charles Cinema in 2014, and the following year, was also included in the BFI Future Film Festival and the Barbican Focus Film Festival.

Paper Puppets of Mr Crowe from Commute of the Crow.

In 2016, Commute of the Crow also appeared at the Blackburn Open Walls Street Art Festival. It was included in the 3-day Exhibition space, where it was played - on a vintage television set - alongside the work of other Artists. I also created a set of limited edition prints and some paper-puppet pals to display at the event!