Next month’s London International Animation Festival will host an opening gala titled The warped, wonderful and terrifying world of Chris Shepherd, celebrating the work of the respected British animator. As part of the event, Chris will be premiering his latest film, Johnno’s Dead, a sequel to his award-winning short Dad’s Dead, 13 years later.
Dad’s Dead (2003) told a dark story about a teenager who gets involved with a delinquent named Johnno, who turns out to be more sinister than expected. Acclaimed for its mixture of animation techniques fused with live action, the film showed Chris’ flair for storytelling in a multitude of forms.
“The hybrid way of working is very much my signature,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I’ve done it other projects like The Ringer and Silence is Golden, I love it when the real world becomes fantastic, when something amazing happens in the drabbest of places. This can be joyous or scary. What’s fun with hybrid approaches is they can mirror how the mind works – a daydream or fantasy can be mega potent when played right. Reality is too dull not to mess up with mad stuff.”
For the sequel (trailer below), Chris has continued to use this “hybrid” style, making the most of technological advancements while staying true to the film’s identity. “When I made Dad’s Dead I used the first ever version of After Effects so it would be really clunky. I’d render a scene and it would take four days! Now it would take 20 minutes.”
Johnno’s Dead uses the same actors, Ian Hart and Chris Freeny, and some of the original camera rushes, which Chris re-digitised and used takes from, in different ways to the original.
“Technology has moved on so there’s a lot more CGI and things are crisper,” Chris says. “Some of the original’s scenes were shot on BetaSP, which is bonkers. It was quite a challenge not to be seduced by the ghosts of the past with the techniques, and to find what was right for the sequel, as ultimately you have to go with what’s right for the story.
“Dad’s Dead was built up like a painting doing multiple shoots and edits over a year, so I could react to real life locations and the film evolved. I decided to make Johnno’s Dead in the same way, so that the answers would come to me over time. It’s been like reworking a painting and finding new meaning.”
So far the reaction has been “amazing” Chris says, and already there are calls for part three. “Let’s hope that if there is a part three I don’t wait another 13 years.”
The film will have its UK premiere at the London International Animation Festival at the Barbican, as part of The warped, wonderful and terrifying world of Chris Shepherd from 6:30pm on 2 December.
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