June 14, 2021
FIRST LOOK SPOTLIGHT: Claire Dundee
Claire Dundee Graduated with a BFA in Film & TV Production in 2021. Dundee directed the film, Monsters of Mine, a film about a lonely girl who uses high-tech glasses to fill her world with imaginary monster friends, but when they break, she discovers the value of true human connection.
What are the themes/subject(s) matter explored in the film and what inspired them?
Monsters of Mine explores the themes of loneliness, connection and friendship as the main character Meep is forced to venture out of her comfort zone once her virtual glasses break and meets Amy, a girl with similar feats of loneliness. The feeling of loneliness is universal no matter who you are, and we wanted the film to speak to this feeling of isolation and fear to break out of your comfort zone in order to make human connections. It just so happened that this film started to develop in the middle of the pandemic where those feelings of loneliness and need for connection and friendship were amplified across the entire world. It allowed us to hone in on what true friendship means and how a simple connection like a new friend can affect someone’s life.
What was your collaboration process like?
The collaboration process for Monsters of Mine was really all hands-on deck. As we made the film during the pandemic, the way of communicating as a team completely changed. We no longer had the opportunity to walk across campus and meet with each other in person, but had to do all of our meetings virtually. As much as this was a challenge, our team handled this in such a professional and efficient way, not letting it get in the way of communicating clear ideas that the team could work on together. With the form of our film being very inventive and different, every single department had to collaborate with each other throughout the whole process to make sure everyone was up to speed. As the production design team was building miniatures and puppets, they were relaying all information to our two DPs in order to ensure that the miniatures and puppets will be shot correctly, who would loop in our editor and sound designer to allow them to have a clear idea of where they would be headed during post, all being headed by our amazing director Lana. Luckily Connor, my producing partner, and I quickly became a well-oiled machine, allowing us to figure out the best pathways of communication early on in the process and iron out any kinks that came our way, allowing us to all collaborate quickly and easily.
What were your biggest challenge(s) in creating the film?
The biggest challenge in creating this film was that during the end of summer as the pandemic was surging and much of the world was surrounded in uncertainty, we were told that all 480 films would have to be created fully virtual with no in-person contact from any single person on our crew. As we had a 12-page live action script ready to go, we had only a couple of weeks to come up with a completely new idea that would allow us to tell the story of Monsters of Mine, but could be done all through zoom meetings and Amazon deliveries. Our team was able to put our heads together to come up with a new, and pretty risky, idea of combining elements of animation, puppets, stop motion, and miniature sets to turn Monsters of Mine into a multi-media 5 minute short. As we were creating this new way of storytelling, we were racing the clock in getting it done by the end of the semester but with our amazing team we successfully were able to tell the story of Meep and Amy in a new way that pushed what was thought capable of a virtual film.
What were your biggest creative successes? (It could be anything from finding the right actor to a great location or realizing that you had a similar vision for a scene. Whatever you are most proud of)
I believe that our biggest creative success was our ability as a team to effectively work together during such a turbulent time and still come out of the semester with a film that pushed the boundaries of what was possible virtually. Even though everyone was struggling to come to terms with what was happening in the world at that moment, every single person on our team stayed motivated to tell this story and believed in its success and vision. Everyone’s motivation to not allow the fact we weren’t able to make this film in person stop us, allowed us to take these different elements of filmmaking like stop motion animation, puppets and miniature sets and combine them in a way no one has before to get our message across. Logistically, we had to balance ensuring each department was on schedule as we had a tight time frame, all while thinking about COVID safe delivered and handoffs. With hard work and good communication, we were able to push ourselves to make each deadline and eventually all parts of the film came together.
What was your biggest lesson in making the film?
The biggest lesson I learned during this process was the importance of being able to quickly pivot on a moment's notice. As a producer, handling the logistics of this film was a lot to take on especially when we decided to change our live action film into what the film came to be. I learned that as a producer, one of the most valuable things to have is a plan B and sometimes even a plan C, as during the making of a film something can change in a second and being prepared can save the film and it’s vision.
Any insights you would share with students who are thinking of enrolling at SCA about what it’s like to have the opportunity to make a First Look film?
To any student thinking of enrolling in SCA, I would tell you that being able to make a film at SCA allows you to not only have the resources and advice that comes with SCA, but it pushes you to think outside of the box of what being a storyteller and filmmaker is. Through this process, I have witnessed and was able to collaborate with such incredible talent that I know I will be working with for the rest of my life. SCA allows people with all different visions, come together and create something special, which is what happened with Monsters of Mine and I know I will value that experience forever.
The film was made in collaboration with the following SCA students:
- Connor Williams, Producer, Production ‘21
- Lana Nguyen, Director, Production ‘21
- Val Tan, Writer, Production ‘21
- Rhys Kroehler, 1st AD, Production ‘21
- Daphne Daniels, DP, Production ‘21
- Gerardo Garcia, DP, Production ‘21
- Justine Chen, Production Designer, Production ‘21
- Laura Malatos, Art Director, Production ‘21
- Ezra Robsinon, Puppet Designer, Production ‘21
- Hanna Adams, Editor, Production ‘21
- Collin Schuster, Animator, Animation ‘20