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Moving Pictures Lab: Using Stop Motion and Time Lapse to think about Documentation and Narrative (iv)

Written by Ben Worthington
August 27, 2013

In addition to a documentary approach, stop motion can also tell a story a bit more nuanced.  With the Tar River Writing Project, I recently participated in a toy hack led by the indomitable Stephanie West-Pucket.  For homework one day, we were to go home and find old toys to bring in the next day to fold, bend, mutilate, and repurpose.  At home that evening, I looked around and didn’t see much to fit the bill.  My son is 2 and still plays with everything we’ve ever bought him, and most of the toys I still have from childhood are quite dear to me.  Toy Story hits a little close to home, if you catch my drift.  Looking for some practical pursuit, I thought about my Kenner B@tman figure.  He was scuffed and had been missing an arm since I was ten, but his cape was still on, and paired with a R0bin and B@tmobile, he was just too good to let go.  Instead of taking him to class the next day and quartering him on the altar of hack, I decided to use whatever parts might be laying around from the other earnest hacking to try to restore him.  As I worked, I chose to document the process using stop motion.  The film above, which borrows from real events on that day, tells his story.
As with the shrinkray film, narrative sprung from what was available—a handful of toys, a landscape of parts and pieces, and the occasional human hand popping in to keep us grounded.  Even though I think what I did was “tinkering” instead of “hacking”, the results were happy—B@tman has a killer silver arm (that falls off a lot), and through my goofy movie I started thinking about the spectrum-straddling but complimentary pursuits of narrative and documentary.  When my students are looking for a kind of text that can get a point across, I’ll point them to a little easy filmmaking.