Daisy Jacobs, 26, learned how to paint watching her late grandmother, Eileen, and her Oscar-nominated short, The Bigger Picture, is a funny and poignant tribute to her gran. Estranged brothers have a hard time coping with their aging mom in this hand-drawn/stop-motion hybrid, in which objects transform into dark emotions: tea becomes anger and keeps on pouring and fills the room; a Hoover sucks up everything in the room. Jacobs made the short as her final MA project while attending the National Film and Television School in London and is working on her first professional short, raising money and doing prep.
Bill Desowitz: What was the genesis?
Daisy Jacobs: Story wise, it’s based loosely on my family and the lead up to the death of my gran and the conflict within the family that we had. And in terms of style, it’s how I naturally paint, which has a strong ’60s look to it. My grandparents were painters in the ’60s and so that was a big influence. And also I very much like David Hockney and there are some similarities there as well. I love his use of color.
BD: I like the dream-like quality of your use of hand-drawn and stop-motion with paper mache. What were some of the challenges?
DJ: The painting and animation comes naturally. What was harder was incorporating the stop-motion element because we’d have quite a lot of things we were focusing on with the animation: characters were speaking, their hands were going in and out, picking things up as well, two of them at the same time.
BD: What was the process like for you?
DJ: Well, in terms of it relating to me, I think it had something to do with prolonging the memory of my gran, but this is something I thought about afterwards because I was very sad when I left the shooting space. I wasn’t keeping the story alive at that point. But I really enjoyed making the film, although it was very tiring with very long days.
BD: Did you have much experience with stop-motion before?
DJ: I experimented a little at the National Film School but my experience was with illustration, painting, and animating 2D backgrounds.
BD: And how did you manage the integration technique?
DJ: As I would paint all the paper mache objects and all the sets, trying to keep a consistent style helps to blend everything. I would paint some of the real objects, for example, and have real objects in the foreground, not painted on, and then an in between area where it would all be paper mache and painted, and then my paint in the back, so that way it brought the real world into this world and the other way around and it wasn’t such a harsh gap. We did almost everything in camera except for one join at the end of the hospital tunnel.
BD: What were some of the more difficult scenes?
DJ: Where he explodes with rage in the living room and grows to 7 meters high, so he’s incredibly long and I had to get up and down the scaffolding each time to paint and repaint him as he exploded and wheel him away and back in. And we also used motion-control. We had a scene with a TV and rain on the window. And the TV blew up. So we had to start it all again. The motion-control was old and it wouldn’t do as you wanted sometimes. It launched itself backwards once. We had to hit the stop button, and that was scary.
There was also a scene when Nick is cleaning up his mother and I didn’t want anyone to come into the room when I was doing it for the whole two weeks. I actually did it very low down in a corner. I wanted to sit down when I did it because I normally like to jump around all over the place. But I wanted to do it quietly so I knelt down in a corner and just painted for two weeks. I think that was the best way to do it because it was a very emotional scene and I felt more connected.