LICA Film student reflects on creating short film 'The Table'

Black and white photo of a person peering over the edge of a table. © Corran Gourlay

THE TABLE is a short student film that combines both stop-motion and live-action to bring a seemingly normal table to life – sweeping up the film’s unnamed protagonist in a journey that will take her where it is she needs to be.

The idea for the film was born when director Corran Gourlay – a 20-year-old Film Studies student at Lancaster University – came across the great surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s film BYT (The Flat) from 1968. The film brilliantly combines stop-motion and live-action so that a real human actor interacts believably with the cartoonish scenario in which he finds himself. This, along with research regarding the pre-production of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, inspired Corran to build a table that, using animation, could come to life and be as much of a character in a film as its human counterpart. To make this happen, the table was built specially to have different leg lengths that could be swapped easily, to create an illusion of the table growing shorter and taller, as well as wheels being attached so in some shots the table was literally rolled around the room to create the impression of movement.

As well as the table being specially made for the film, the technical process was also very important to the making of The Table. For example, the film is of a slightly lower quality than audiences might be used to seeing in films – this is a conscious choice inspired by the look of those 1960/70s Czech films by Švankmajer, which employ a grainy appearance that perfectly reflects the tone of his films. With this in mind, the blurriness and fuzzy edges that appear in The Table are not a mistake in the export, but rather a formal decision to build the tone of the film, a tone that literally blurs reality and cartoonish fiction. To better blend the stop-motion with live-action, the decision was also made to play the film at 12 frames-per-second; this means that the whole film has a jitteriness to it, even the parts that were recorded normally, that gives the impression that it could all, in fact, be animated – this ensures that the stop-motion sections do not jar the viewer when they appear amidst the “reality” they have seen so far.

These two technical decisions, much like the table itself that was built for the film, create a very rough product by the end of it, it appears almost unpolished, but this is the intention; it is as though the audience is seeing something that it shouldn’t, as if it were a piece of rare classified footage that has had to pass through many hands, and has lost much of its original quality, to be displayed to whoever it is that sees it now. And yet what is seen in the film is nonetheless compelling.

The Table will be screened at Take 2 Cinema on Thursday 1st December at 19:00. Watch the trailer below.

Follow Corron on Instagram @thetable_shortfilm

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