July 25, 2019.
It's summer, and in our Brooklyn studio seven fans swirl as work on My Love Affair With Marriage, Signe Baumane's animated feature film, swirls along with them. We have no air conditioning, which is a problem only on very hot days when we wear as little as possible and contort our bodies to avoid dripping sweat onto animation paper before it can safely be scanned into digital files.
For My Love Affair With Marriage, it's been that kind of a hot, busy summer.
It started in May when Signe and Sturgis travelled to Germany for the premiere of Mother's Song at the Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film.
Signe's Q&A at Stuttgart. Signe loves a crowd. The crowd loves Signe.
Voiced by Dagmara Dominczyk, Florencia Lozano and Trio Limonāde, Mother's Song is a stand-alone excerpt from My Love Affair With Marriage. We use it as one of our calling cards for the feature film.
First blood for 13-year old Zelma in "Mother's Song". Note the exaggerated shoulders and head. Signe sometimes stylizes her characters this way to visually accent heightened emotions. Even the best of actors have trouble pulling this off in regular movies.
Just as summer was heating up, Roberts Vinovskis, our Latvian producing partner, presented us with an major opportunity: a co-production partnership with a Mysterious Animation Company from a country not named Latvia or the United States. Mysterious because we don't want to jinx the funding application they have just submitted to their national arts council. We hope everything falls into place, not only because of the tremendous effort everyone made to line up the stacks of documents required for the application, but because we really like these people and admire their work in... 3D animation.
Signe Baumane and 3D animation??? Have ever the two appeared together in the same sentence?
Yes. Now. Finally. But let's back up a minute.
For My Love Affair With Marriage, Signe created Biology, a neuron-shaped character, who accompanies Zelma on her 23-year quest for perfect love and lasting marriage, and analyzes... the changing chemical states of Zelma's mind.
Biology with 17-year old Zelma
Now, why is this important, you may ask? Because as Biology will demonstrate, brain chemistry plays a HUGE role in Love and Relationships, and many of us don't realize this (Zelma for one) and maybe we should, because we keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. So, pay attention to the rapturous voice of Tony-Award winner Michele Pawk as she, Biology, leads us on a journey into the amazing world of Zelma's Body and Brain, which will be animated - if the Fates allow it - by Mysterious Animation Company in glorious 3D.
Sample images that Signe provided Mysterious Animation Company. We want to celebrate science with this film.
Summer means interns. Lots of interns both in the Brooklyn studio and in Riga with our Latvian team. We teach them how to work in a professional environment (no cell phones within 20 feet of work stations!!!!). They bring their time, talents and developing skills to our film. The highlight of any day is LUNCH!
Rule #1: We all eat lunch together. Sometimes we get raucous, sometimes conversations turn international. The group above collectively speaks 8 different languages. Employees and interns from left: Yupu Ding, Karyna Wilson, Signe, Sofiya Lypka, Yasemin Orhan, Britt Sodersjerna, Kelly Schiesswohl. We have other employees, other interns. Every day there's a different mix of people in the studio.
As writer-director-designer-animator-director of photography-project manager Signe Baumane has WAY too many hyphens on her plate.
If you're thinking of inviting her for brunch, Signe would LOVE to... in about 18 months. Bottom right Signe goes over line-test scans with Sofiya.
All departments go through Signe. She's specific with what she wants, yet loves to be surprised by your better ideas.
Sturgis Warner builds and lights the background sets. He also helps Signe photograph them. There are 145 scenes in the film, perhaps 100 sets in all (we haven't counted!). Background sets come before the animation so there is pressure to stay ahead. This summer we've been creating them as fast as we can.
Sturgis and his plywood bathtub. We try to ground the sets in realism, yet stylize them in a theatrically elevated way.
Yasemin Orhan is responsible for all design choices post-wood. Recently, she created moldy wallpaper for a certain interior set.
Top: Yasemin. Left: Sofiya, Yasemin, Karyna. Signe usually rotates the interns - in the morning some work at the computer stations with Britt, others join Yasemin on sets, and after lunch they switch. Right: The team textures every set piece with papier-mâché before painting - usually 5 coats layered dark to light. The thin paper of old telephone books works really well with smaller objects. Sorry if that's your phone number on the toilet.
Britt Sodersjerna was one of our interns last summer. Now, along with Signe, she chooses the colors of all the characters and with her team she prepares the digital files that we send to Locomotive Productions in Riga, Latvia for coloring and compositing. In Latvia, Anete Matvejeva organizes her team to color the thousands of animated images. Georgs Harijs Āva and his compositing team place the animated characters in and around the photographed background sets and turn the collective images into movies.
Top: Britt. Left: Anete. Right: Georgs. Signe spends 8-12 hours a week going through the Latvian work and sending notes and corrections. Once Signe approves an image or sequence of images they become part of the final movie. Over time, all departments have become more efficient and - frame-by-frame - the film moves forward.
A single completed shot:
Darya and Zelma as composited into the background photo of Zelma's dorm room at college. Darya is Zelma's first female friend. She accesses the mystical side of life through drugs.
It's a balancing act, this film. We try to make every element as good as we possibly can yet still keep the project moving forward. As such, the budget has grown. Striving for quality will do that. We won't bore you with specific numbers or how we structure fiscal responsibilities with our Latvian partners. Only know that arts funding in the United States is a tremendous challenge. And it won't be getting easier anytime soon.
Darya: "I love your hair. It's like sliding my fingers down glowing threads of pure gold."
The constant need for money keeps us on our toes. No complacency for Team Brooklyn! We write as many grant applications as we are eligible for, but grants for film are highly competitive and animation for adults poorly understood. ("You're making a cartoon about what?")
If you want to annoy Signe, refer to her work as cartoons. Here Cartoon Zelma, 19, enters a Cartoon Party.
And so we turn to our friends and supporters (1,600 donors so far!) to keep the Brooklyn studio fully operational and expand our staff. No donation is too small (or too large!) for our gratitude. We love it when self-appointed ambassadors share our posts and spread the word about this project. We welcome new ideas on funding. A few supporters have pointed us toward small foundations they've had connections with. Everything helps!
Sergei and Zelma enter the Hall of Ceremonies. It's their turn for an assembly-line wedding, Soviet style!
The easiest way to make a contribution is to go to the donate page of our website. https://www.MyLoveAffairWithMarriageMovie.com/donate
We have three options: PayPal, Stripe or for a tax-exemption through our fiscal sponsor, Filmmakers Collaborative.
Everybody's invited to a party at Yasemin's moldy-wallpaper set! Drinks are on us!
Thank you for following and supporting us!!! We could NEVER do this without you!!!
Sturgis, Signe, Roberts and the entire My Love Affair With Marriage Team