A dark comedy about the world’s second oldest man: Second to None is a funny and highly original animated short film in competition at the 10th Irish Film Festa (March 30th – April 2nd, Rome). We spoke to the director Vincent Gallagher, who was in competition also last year with Love is a Sting.
A black comedy about extreme rivalry: why did you choose to tell this very original story through stop-motion animation?
When it came to the idea, it was always going to have this darkly comic tone, sort of similar to the WB cartoons of the 1950’s. Live action didn’t seem to be the right fit for the tone of the story and with the main characters being the worlds oldest people, casting would have been difficult to say the least. Having loved the work of Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton as a child, I always wanted to work in stop motion. This story had the perfect aesthetic and tone for such a charming, tactile medium.
Since the film has no dialogue, character design and acting have a primary importance: how did you work on that?
It was important for me to tell the story visually, so everything had to be clear and easily understood. Character design was a huge part of the process. Once I had the script and a very clear idea who these characters were I worked with Pierre Butler on designing the look for them. We had a bunch of sketches and different designs and eventually we landed on the right look. We had to take into account that these characters will be occupying a physical space and that they would need to be simple enough to animate, but also give the range of emotion that the script required.
In stop motion, the animator is basically the actor. It is a very time consuming craft that requires a lot of concentration. I would speak to Jason Watts, our animator, about what I wanted from the puppets in each shot, we’d act the scenes out ourselves on camera as a reference and then Jason would go to work. For timing, Jason would work off the references as well as the animatic, which is a blueprint for the pace and structure of the film using storyboards.
Last year you were in competition with a live action short, Love is a Sting: is animation more difficult, or maybe more creative, or funnier, or…?
I believe that animation is simply a way to tell stories as much as pointing a camera at actors. You use whichever approach is the most appropriate to tell the story in the most interesting way possible. I see myself as a storyteller no matter what the medium, so I will always look at stories and figure out what is the best way for me to tell them.