It is always a joy to work with old friends whose work you admire. This was certainly the case when Fonic once again worked with award-winning animator Elizabeth Hobbs.
Her latest film The Debutante is a tour de force. Inspired by a short story of the same name by the British surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. The film recounts the macabre and mischievous tale of a young woman who conspires with a hyena to take her place at a debutante ball. Elizabeth’s skill in printmaking is demonstrated to great effect throughout the film. Ink, paint, colour washes, on a range of surfaces generate a host of marks that playfully boil and dance across the screen.
For Fonic the real joy of working on Elizabeth’s film was creating the surreal sound combinations the film required, such as the sound of a hyena in high heels! To ensure they created the sounds just right they bought in award winning Foley artist Sue Harding. Even though it is only 8 mins long she was able to demonstrate her extraordinary talents to the full.
Sue notes “Elizabeth’s film although short required a long list of sound effects that we had to generate and modify. From the swish of a 1930’s ball gown, the sound of a hyena’s paws dancing in high heels to the sound of crystal glasses being smashed at a traditional 1930’s dinner party. Working on such films can force you to be really creative and I’ve learnt that sometimes a combination of the oddest objects can make just the right kind of sound. Something Fonic are well aware of. Over the years they have amassed a cornucopia of items, all for their sound quality, housed in a mass of dark cellars under the studios. Visiting them is like stumbling across a massive junk shop full of the oddest stuff. The result is that they always tend to have something to hand that will generate the right sound. For Elizabeth’s film thankfully we didn’t have to delve to deep into the spooky cellars to get what we needed. I think one of the hardest sounds to nail was recreating the large wooden manor house floor, yet we accomplished this by using a variety of raised wooden surfaces constructed by Fonic over the years to create the depth and variation to the footsteps.”
As mentioned by Rory Hunter Fonic’s junior dubbing mixer “Foley is such an important part of what we do. Sometimes it is forgotten that all those sounds of feet walking on different surfaces or garments of different materials swishing against each other are created in our studio. Especially with animation where there is never any on set recordings to work from.”
Sound editor Christopher Swaine created the mix for the short. Composer Hutch Demouilpied’s excellent atmospheric score, that cleverly mixes classical elements with discordant notes, was used as a bed for the film. While the voice talents of Joanna David, Alexa Davies and Naomi Stafford, captured in Fonic’s state of the art sound booths, were perfectly married with Hutch’s score and Sue’s Foley.
Elizabeth Hobbs adds “I really love the period in my productions when I emerge from the darkness and set off for Fonic. The discussions that take place with Barnaby, Chris, Sue and Rory feel like a real celebration of the work, there is both an appreciation of the whole piece and an attention to detail at every stage, from voice recording, to sound design, the beautiful foley, and the mix.
The animated films that I make are narrative but experimental, I use many unusual materials to create the work, and the characters and visual spaces in the film are sometimes depicted quite minimally, so the sound design has to work a little harder to both support the narrative and complement the materials used to create the work. Fonic always meet this challenge with their diligence, experience, creativity and skill and it’s always such a pleasure to work with them finding ways to tell unusual stories together.”
The Debutante is currently successfully touring animation festivals across the world and has already gathered a host of awards, including the Animated Short Jury Award at SXSW. It was also shortlisted for the 95th Academy Awards and was a candidate for the European Film Awards.
The Debutante is a film by Elizabeth Hobbs, produced by Animate Projects, with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, and with thanks to the Estate of Leonora Carrington.
Director:- Elizabeth Hobbs
Producer:- Abigail Addison
Executive producer:- Lizzie Francke
Executive Producer:- Gary Thomas
Composer:- Hutch Demouilpied
Editor:- Mark Jenkins
Foley artist:- Sue Harding
Foley recordist / sound designer/ voice recordist:- Rory Hunter
Dubbing mixer:- Christopher Swaine
The Debutante older / Mother:- Joanna David
Hyena:- Alexa Davies
The debutante younger:- Naomi Stafford