In the first seconds of the film, a dark screen appears and fuzzy neon green text slowly types the message: It is the distant future. Mankind has conquered many galaxies, but the universe is vast. The mega-corporation Apocalypse Inc. has dispatched exploration vessels to discover new resources and possibly new life. The following is a journey of Syrinx-87.” This opening statement is frozen on the screen for a full 75 seconds before launching into the one hour and 13-minute long feature film, “Constant Space”.
“Constant Space” is a claymation space adventure filmed with a vintage Super 8 camera. The filmmaker Emmett Fifield, Snohomish native, wrote the script at the age of 16 and began filming at 18.
“I decided to make a full movie when I was 16 because I’m crazy,” said Fifield. “And to prove I can learn to do something was a big driving factor.”
Now 22, Fifield has spent six years creating this intricately entertaining movie which will be playing at this year’s Local Sightings Film Festival at TeenTix Arts Partner, Northwest Film Forum from September 22nd through the 30th. Local Sightings shows films from Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, the Yukon, and British Columbia – this is Fifield’s first time having one of his films in a festival.
Fifield’s curiosity about the great unknown started at a young age with the book “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan which prompted his curiosity with outer space – and provided the setting for his journey into the film world before the age of 18.
Fifield points out that despite the plot of the film exploring space-travel and extraterrestrial life, no computer effects enhanced the images.
“Some of the paper graphics you see were reduced with a Xerox machine. That was the most digital the movie gets,” said Fifield.
In an age focused on computer generated imagery, Fifield is an outlier in the world of animation. His style harkens back to the days of “Wallace and Gromit” adventures and celebrates the grittiness of filming a movie without digital technology. The contrast of the futuristic plotline and his vintage approach to animation creates an intriguing alternate universe with space travel and analog film simultaneously exisiting.
Fifield chose to use Claymation for its artistic aesthetic and the flexibility it offers to create anything in his imagination – like portraying spaceships roaming through the galaxy while producing the film for a low budget.
“With animation, pretty much everything is going to cost about the same. An action scene will cost the same amount as a dialogue scene,” said Fifield. “That can lend itself to all sorts of possibilities with alien life and the effects of galaxies, black holes, and dark matter.”
In addition to the creative use of clay figures and cardboard props to create a futuristic world, another essential component in “Constant Space” is the music. The music was composed and written by Fifield, Fifield’s friend Mark Langstaff, and Fifield’s father. The music enhances the viewing experience with its nostalgic yet otherworldly sound
“We watched the movie when we were still editing the audio and we picked spots where we thought, ‘This scene need to feel more intense,’ or ‘This scene needs to feel more intriguing’, said Fifield. “Then we tried writing songs in the basement of my house, just trying to make something that would feel the way we wanted it to.”
Fifield also contributed to the voice-acting portion of the film, along with 6 of his friends, making for a total of 7 voice actors in the film.
“I think what largely gave the characters their personality were the actors who played them,” said Fifield. “The voice actors were recorded before animation started. I wrote in their improvisations and that’s what resulted in some of the funniest lines in the movie to me.”
Fifield describes the characters as a combination of people he has known in his life with different facets of his own personality. Amidst the lighthearted slapstick humor of the film, moments of profundity peeked through.
“But I want to get hurt, better than sitting around while discovery is taking place,” says one of the characters in “Constant Space”.
Go to www.localsightings.com for a complete schedule of the Local Sightings Festival.
This review is by Sophie Poole who is the Co-Editor-in-Chief and the Arts & Entertainment Editor of her school newspaper, the Islander at Mercer Island High School. She is a member of the TeenTix New Guard: Arts Leadership Society, and also loves to participate in musical theatre around Seattle, write poetry, and play the guitar.