In this movie making project, we’re challenging young filmmakers to produce a film that stars an inanimate object as one of its lead characters.
This might sound really strange, but there are lots of possibilities to create ‘other worldly’ and sometimes terrifying effects by using inamimate characters that can’t speak or move.
What is an inanimate object?
An inanimate object is one that is not alive, such as a table, a rock, or a car. It cannot live, breathe, move or change form by itself. Many people like to imagine how an inanimate object might behave if it was to be granted life. This is the premise behind several successful films, such as Toy Story and Cars. To find out how to use inanimate objects in filmmaking, join a SPARKS moviemaking course and get involved in your very own inanimate object-based film project.
As an example, take a look at ‘The Red Balloon’ below. (The whole video is 34 minutes long – you don’t need to watch it all, just enough to get a sense of the balloon character).
What can you tell about the balloon from the way it behaves in the film? What character traits would you use to describe the balloon?
Choose an Object:
Choose an object from the list below to focus on. You’ll build your story around this object. It should be something you have access to at home for making your film.
- A balloon
- A doll
- A mirror
- A jack-in-the-box
- A teddy bear/soft toy
- A musical instrument
- A book
- A teapot
- A bike/a scooter/a skateboard
- An item of clothing, e.g. a glove or a t-shirt
When choosing, it’s helpful to go for smaller objects, as they will be easier for you to manipulate.
Think of your character’s traits. What is your object’s personality like? How does it behave? What might it want? Use these traits to help build your story…
Plan Your Story:
Try to think up a story that features your character in the leading role. Try to include a beginning, a middle, and an end.
(If you’re feeling more inventive, you can also try other story structures – you might want to include some flashbacks/flash forwards, or include some ‘visions’. One of the great things about inanimate characters is that they can open up other worldly possibilities).
We’d suggest keeping your story short and simple. Manipulating inanimate characters when movie making can become very time consuming, so very simple stories work nicely.
The next stage is to choose your shots and plan them out in a storyboard. We’d suggest keeping it to around 6-12 shots, but you can add more if you think your story needs it.
Download the storyboard template here and map out the shots you’ll need for telling your story.
Think about what else you might need for filming…
- Does your storyboard feature any other actors?
- Will you need any props?
- Do you know which locations you’ll use?
- How will you ‘characterise’ your object? Will it move? Will you need a voiceover for it?
Once you have your story planned out, the next stage is to shoot your movie.
Shooting Your Movie:
Work through your storyboard to collect your shots. If you need help manipulating your character, invite a sibling, parent or friend to help out. (This can sometimes be tricky, so you might need to try a few takes, especially if your shot requires movement).
Later, you can edit your film, or if you want to, you can work ‘in camera’. This means shooting each of your shots in order and also deleting any bad takes as you go. It means your film will play from the camera as you intend it to look like by the end.
If working in camera, then remember to think about any voiceovers you might need. These should be filmed live. If you plan to edit your movie later on, then you can record these afterwards.
Editing Your Movie:
Once you’ve finished shooting, you can edit your shots together and add in any effects.
Transfer your footage to your editing app. Assemble the shots in the order you’d like them to play.
Add in any sound effects and music. (Remember to use copyright free music. We’ve listed some sources below. If you’re musical, then you can also consider making your own sound track).
Video effects can also add some interesting visual meanings, especially to films that feature inanimate objects. What is the impact of using black and white? What about some of the more stylistic filters, such as cartoon styling, or harsh lighting? Sometimes these effects can help to add drama, horror film feels, or other wordly qualities. Experiment with the different options and see which effects best suit your film.
Apps to make inanimate objects talk
Filmmaking involving inanimate objects has been made easier and more creative with the advent of apps and software that can bring them to life on screen. Using these apps can work by adding movement to objects, or creating mouths and faces to enable them to speak and develop a character of their own. More information about bringing inanimate objects to life using apps is available online, as well as at SPARKS filmmaking courses happening at venues across the country.
Share Your Movie:
Once you’ve finished, you can share your movie with others. We’d love to see it.
If you share any of your work online (with permission) then you can tag it with #sparksmoviemaking and we’ll be able to find it.
Happy Movie Making! 🙂
The following libraries are available for movie makers to use, without infringing copyright permissions.
Remember to credit the authors at the end of your films.