The Sword of Damocles is a short stop motion animation that was made in response to the StopMoShorts December 2006 contest. The contest provided three words (sword, cave, and fear) to inspire animators. I focused on the sword with the idea of doing something related to the legend of the Sword of Damocles. I would also embed the other two words in some fashion within the film.
When I first learned of the legend I envisioned it in a medieval setting. However, the legend appears to be Greek in origin and much older. The premise I chose would keep a medieval setting while also referencing the legend. By using a referential approach I took the opportunity with this film to explore how it could become a veiled criticism of conventional film formulas (including film techniques, story formulas, three-act structures, etc.).
The list that follows contains the conceptual ideas that I was working with when creating the storyboards, the script, and during filming. The whole process was very much stream of consciousness and experimental to see what I would come up with quickly. I may have succeeded in some places and failed in others. In either case, I did have fun making it quickly and learned several things that I can apply in the Vitruvius production process.
- What quote by a literary figure is being referenced in the opening tale by the Jester? What is the context and meaning of said quote?
- At what points do the harp strings sound?
- Is the Jester ever seen in the same frame as any other character?
- At what point does the Jester directly address you the viewer?
- Why was the Jester dismissed by the King?
- The King and Damocles toast each other? Who is the other party that the Jester is toasting at the end of the film?
- There are multiple films presented, which one is the real film?
- There are five characters and each are symbolic of participants in the film making process.
- The sword is hanging behind the window at the end of the film but the Jester’s words are future tense and speculative.
- The voice of the sword in the last act says: “I am the Sword of Damocles. Pay no heed to the tale being told by the fool jester. I was recorded by Cicero as being invoked by the King Dionysus to inform Damocles of the perils of being King. I am the one true Sword of Damocles.”
Character and Set Design Photos
The characters are aluminum armature wire with epoxy putty at the hips and chests. The wire is wrapped in jute string and painted. I used thin craft foam for the clothes and hot glue to hold it all together. I painted raw umber acrylic paint on the clothes to dirty them up a bit. The hands and heads are carved from basswood. The arms of the puppets are single strands of wire and the hands have a small hole in them so they are easy to put on and spin around. The feet are epoxy putty with a slot cut through to use tie downs. I also used some epoxy putty for hair. The eyes are wooden beads and the eyelids are Sculpey clay. Eye blinks are made by pressing the clay over the eyes for for one, two, or three frames as needed.
The sets are made out of pink insulation foam and covered with plaster wrap and then painted for texture. The chairs and table props are basswood and epoxy putty.
The film was shot on a Nikon D50 and edited in Sony Vegas. The vocals were recorded and edited in Audacity and the music was made with Sony Acid Loop samples.