Sean McCarron is an animator and storyboard artist with over twenty years of industry experience. He has worked on numerous television and feature film productions in Europe and North America, including roles at Oscar-nominated Irish studio Cartoon Saloon and Oscar-winning Norwegian studio Mikrofilm.
Sean joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about his hand-drawn short film, Corvine. This beautiful animation shares the story of a boy who has trouble fitting in at school due to his obsession with crows.
Congratulations on being selected for Tribeca with your beautiful film Corvine, where did the idea come from to write this film?
Thank you, I am so excited to be screening at Tribeca. There were a couple of things that came together to spark the character into existence. When I first met my wife, Síona, we would to the Irish Times crossword together. She is really great with word puzzles and I struggled to keep up, still do. I remember clearly the joy of getting a clue she had been stuck on. A seven letter word for crow-like, Corvine. Naturally, I had to make a film to commemorate this momentous occasion.
I then told her about my Dad who would stand out in yard of my childhood home and mimic the sound of the crows. He’d be out front calling to them and amazingly, the crows would respond and even come in for a closer look. It was really quite funny.
I realized as I was telling Síona about my Dad, that this would actually make a great character. Years later, I got my father into a sound booth and recorded his crow call and I used this for the voice of the little boy in the film.
Why did you use crows as a symbol in Corvine?
I needed the main character, Kevin, to be likeable and charming but also have a side to him that could be seen as abrasive. Crows naturally have this duality. They are incredibly intelligent creatures and are endlessly fascinating to watch. I love how effortless their flight is and how quirky and quick their small movements are, they are playful and curious puzzle solvers. However, they have not been graced with the most beautiful of voices. They are loud and brash and can be grating to a lot of people. The crow was a perfect fit for Kevin.
The family in the film are very supportive of a little boy who is different which is beautiful to see, why was it important to you to show this?
Family and community are both very important to me. I was lucky to have a supportive family growing up. My parents were nervous about my decision to go to film school but when I said I was going to learn animation on the other side of the country they said okay. They kept their reservations to themselves, I only found out years later how unsure they were. I think that is amazing.
I wanted to put that in the film. Kevin’s parents don’t know what to do and can’t solve his problems but are open and willing to learn. The neighbours see Kevin most days as he plays with the crows and they enjoy his visits. They can see things from a different perspective. It is a beautiful thing to have such a supportive community. I wanted to show how everyone benefits from those small daily acts of kindness and how the community is greater for supporting one another. It is something I have really come to appreciate in my adult years.
The animation is beautiful, how long did it take to make the film?
The film took 8 years to complete. The first 7 years I worked alone, something I would fit in around my full-time job. It was a slow process but it was something I looked forward to after work. I eventually got some funding from the Canadian Council for the Arts which allowed me to hire a small team of talented artists to help finish up the film. I also hired Suad Bushnaq to compose and orchestrate the film score. That was a magical experience and really took the film to new heights.
What would you like audiences to take home from the story?
The biggest thing I hope they come away with is the joy of finding your voice and having the confidence to express yourself in your own unique way. Maybe it will also inspire people to be kind to one another – that would be great!
Are any elements of the film based on a true story or is it completely fictional?
There are elements of the story based on my own experiences and then a there is a healthy dose of exaggeration and fiction. I have often felt like an outsider, especially growing up, and I struggle with confidence. I wanted to build a story around these feelings. The love of nature and getting out to appreciate it are important to me. The ending, not giving anything away, is completely fictional but there is an emotional truth behind that decision.
What is it that interests you about this medium of storytelling?
I love animation, particularly 2d hand-drawn animation, because of the artistry involved in its creation. You have to create the story on a frame by frame basis and it starts with a line. It is a painstaking process but becomes meditative. You don’t become the character so much as you pour yourself into the drawings and they take on the qualities you give them. You go on a journey with them and at the end they are their own little beings. It’s weird.
In terms of creation, what kinds of stories do you wish to tell?
I like to tell character based stories. Stories that if you pluck the character out of their existing story and imagine them somewhere completely new, you can. You can imagine clearly how they would act, like a close friend. I like joyful colourful worlds, although I am trying to push my boundaries here. The natural world is a theme that seems to unconsciously pop up in my writing.
Tell us about your journey, how did you get into animation?
As long as I can remember I have been drawing. It is something that just grabbed me at an early age and I never got bored of it. There wasn’t a lot of information on animation when I was growing up, not a lot of “making of” material like there is now. I remember watching Astroboy and the show was a lot of fun but it was the end credits that amazed me. Along with the names of artists who made the episode, there was a pencil drawing of Astroboy in the corner of the screen.
Eventually, the image would flicker and new slightly different image would appear. Another flicker and a new image. This flicker would continue but the amount of time that the new image stayed on screen would decrease, eventually the drawings would be running so fast the illusion of motion was created. Astroboy was alive he was running! In 30 seconds, without any dialogue, I learned how animation worked. It was a revelation! It seemed like magic to me and it just kind of stuck.
What is next for you?
I am going to go back to some studio work for a little while, working on a new 2D feature film starting here in Vancouver. I can’t say too much at the moment but it will be a fun and challenging experience. I am also working on a few ideas for my next short film – I really want to continue telling my own stories.
CORVINE will screen at Tribeca on Saturday June 10th, Sunday June 11th and Saturday June 15th.