Production Talk - 'Project Marionette' by Joshua Tan, Candice Elizabeth Chua & Liew Yong Jia

The Scoop
Project Marionette is a psychological thriller about a girl who wakes up to find herself in a locked room with no recollection of past events. Unable to escape, she stumbles around in the darkness and discovers clues that lead to a startling revelation.

We speak to the filmmakers Joshua Tan, Candice Elizabeth Chua & Liew Yong Jia, who made the animation as part of their final year project at the School of Art, Design & Media.


S: How did Project Marionette come about?

M: Project Marionette started out with a very different plot, involving puppet clones controlled by large corporations to do their bidding; hence its title. We felt it was a little too complicated and streamlined the plot to involve a single protagonist, her father's mysterious involvement and a shocking revelation.

S: You spoke a lot about giving the film a more 'realistic' treatment; both through the story and the technical processes. Can you tell us more?

M: We wanted to achieve a realistic treatment for our animation as it suits the mood of the story and to give it a "filmlike" treatment. In terms of visuals, the environments and props were modeled after real life references and the main character, Kaitlyn, was textured with multiple layers to simulate the depth of real skin.

Animation wise, the team took advantage of our school's motion capture system to achieve a naturalistic movement for the character based on real movement. Detailed facial and finger rigs were developed to allow us to create subtle nuances in expression. Subtle effects such as cloth movement and camera shake were also taken into account as we produced the film.

S: What were some of the difficulties you faced in making such a technically demanding film?

M: The greatest challenge was perhaps our ambition. We often went ahead with our decisions without considering its feasibility. An example is the creation of Kaitlyn's hair which took almost 3 months to develop and simulate for every shot.

Our initial storyboard was three times the current film's length. We had to make drastic cuts to allow for a more compact film and to meet the project's deadline as we were juggling our time between this film and other classes.

S: Who or what were some of your influences in making this film?

M: The style and story of our film is influenced by both film and video games. Among those is the well known Resident Evil series and 'Dememto', a psychological horror game. We also drew inspiration from films such as 'Memento', 'Gattaca' and the 'Bourne' series in terms of editing style and cinematography.

S: Any future plans for the film and the team?

M: We are sending our film to animation festivals both local and overseas and we do hope that it will be well received by viewers everywhere. The three of us in the team remains as close friends, so a future collaboration is possible. The film will be available for online viewing only at a later date as some film festivals have strict rules that disqualify films that are available online.

S: Last words?

M: A great thanks to SINdie for making this interview possible and also to those who supported our team in the development of Project Marionette, including NTU ADM faculty members, friends, family and to all viewers out there!

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