The creative possibilities, visually speaking, to play with narrative nowadays are enormous yet rare are those that fully explore that rich palette before us. And then there are certain films that linger amid the ether of memory more than others. Chris Shepherd’s film, ‘Dad’s Dead’, screened for the first time in 2002 has both these possibilities. When I saw this film for the first time, the visual treatment, unconventional narration, the montage and clever use of mixed media, all came together to leave quite a surprisingly profound impression.
The creative process behind the production is a detailed journey of narrative, impression and inspiration that was built up from a specific and deeply personal experience. As Chris pointed out in an interview I conducted with him in summer 2006, Dad’s Dead had initially sprung from a return visit to his childhood neighbourhood of Everton, Liverpool. Walking through desolate council concrete and his then demolished secondary school, Chris suddenly began to feel a profound sense of loss and hopelessness. It is from that feeling Chris began to slowly layer up his film ‘like a painting’, mixing live action footage with animation and visual effects to enhance and evoke the very sentiment which had touched him so. And indeed you feel this as a viewer, the emotional impact can be felt with poignant ease.
The reason we are drawn into the Baconesque World of Dad’s Dead is in part due to the emotional side which many can relate to and also in part due to the means of communicating that emotion with efficiency. There are of course deeply cultural iconic images that play a part in that : The ‘Ladybird’ story book that opens up with nostalgia, the Dr. Who Daleks and the classic British ice cream van. Beyond these though there is also a tonal treatment to the film that enhances the darker sides of emotion, the animation is imaginative and the graphics perfectly chosen. Chris had also chosen to use a first person narrative that is in effect the camera. It takes you through that story as a character and that character could well be yourself.
‘Dad’s Dad’ is a great example of mixed media film. It underlines the fact that different techniques can be used to strong effect without having to be exclusive to any particular genre. Are we in pure narrative fiction, drama, documentary, animation ? This little film has it all. And all in the right amounts. Chris has just finished his latest short, ‘Silence is Golden’ which was premiered in Paris in 2006. It is yet another example of Chris’ ability to mix different techniques giving a wonderful dimension to his narrative work. Unlike Dad’s Dead, which is a film about memory and nostalgia, Silence is Golden embarks upon the imaginary World of a little boy. An imagination that draws him into sometimes difficult corners of reality.
>>> Chris Shepherd Films :
Dad’s Dead 2003
Who I Am And What I Want 2004
Silence is Golden 2006