Searchlight: Hoku Uchiyama

Waaaaay back in the early days of the Young Director Awards in 2003, Hoku Uchiyama a college student from California’s Art Center College of Design won a category prize. It was for a drunk driving PSA called Prelude #2 that cross cut between traditional hand puppets and flesh and blood actors as each acted out a drunk driving accident. Unfortunately this was back in the olden days before YDA’s online archive began.
Uchiyama also directed Rose, a short film about a little boy and his friendship with the ghost of a murdered teenage girl that haunts the woods near his house. We love the sound of that too but what has really caught our attention is Uchiyama’s latest work with an old college pal, animator Adam Bolt. This is called Evelyn, Evelyn and we think you should view it immediately and go steam up a room and start drawing.

How did the concept for the video come about?

The idea just hit me when listening to the song. I draw on foggy windows every day. I think lots of people do which is part of what makes the video neat. As the idea developed, Adam Bolt (co-producer and lead animator) and I zeroed in on those old rubber hose cartoons from the early days of animation. They have that mix of sweet and a-little-bit gruesome that’s in tune with Evelyn Evelyn.

Had you worked with the animator Adam Bolt before?

Adam Bolt and I met in college at the Art Center College of Design. We were the two guys who were into cartoons and horror films so we naturally gravitated to each other. He’s an amazing director in his own right. We have pretty different styles, but our brains have a sync that’s unusual and because we’re so close as friends we’re each a good second set of eyes on each other’s work. We’ve worked together before, but this was our closest collaboration.

We love the combination of live action and animation. How on earth did you achieve it? Can you talk us through the process please?

We carefully storyboarded the video, noting down to the second when a character would be drawn, when it would move from one window panel to another. We filmed the video without condensation on the glass, just the twins behind the clear windows. Then we practically fogged the window panels and filmed each panel separately without the twins. We then motion tracked the condensation on to our live action plate we had shot with the twins.
The animation was essentially black drawings on a white background and it was used as a map to cut through the condensation to the other side, allowing us to see through the fog. The animation itself was done with a lot of rotoscoping. Almost every part of the video was acted out to the music and then animated over to give the characters a special relationship to the song. The video was technically complicated and our producers at Vanishing Angle were amazing at shepherding it through.

Were the girls actually drawing too or was it done with layers or by magic?

The girls were actually drawing, we found a way to guide their hands so they hit those drawing marks on their cues. No computers were involved in that.

Where are you currently based?

I live in Los Angeles, CA

Do you work independently or are you signed to a company?

I’m excited to say that I just signed with Partizan.

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