I was inspired to make “Sea Compass” just by walking along the coast of Maine looking for shells and things on the beach. I started wondering what would be a neat thing to find washed up on the shore, and decided it would be some sort of ancient, mechanical object. I think my sister was the one who came up with the phrase “some sort of sea compass.” I still have no idea what a sea compass would do, but in my mind it looked like what my character held in his hands at the end of the film, and that provided the inspiration for the story. Then I set to work.
My process in making these types of stop and start animations is incredibly low-budget and painstaking. I drew backdrops and objects with pencil and pastel, cut them up, and arranged them under a camera attached to a plank of wood set atop two sawhorses. I lit the scene with a desk lamp and various flashlights, and then placed my character in the scene. For the character, I took photographs of myself acting out the motions of a scene, and then cut out each photo of me in a different pose to put in each frame of the scene I would be working on. Originally, I wanted the character to be hand-drawn, but when I first started making these movies I realized using photographs would be a lot easier. Now, having had the experience of cutting out many, many little images of myself late into the night, I wonder if this is actually true. After I put all of these frames together to create the movement of the scenes, I edit and arrange it all via a movie making program called Pinnacle Studio. Then I add sound effects and write the music on my keyboard and a virtual instrument program called Mixcraft.
As I said, this is an extremely low-tech process, and one that does not require anything computer-generated (except for the sound). It is also a project that requires an immense amount of patience, something I don’t always have. But in many ways, it is my favorite medium to work with. I spend so much time with detail that the final result surprises me every time.