A celebrated short filmmaker has just produced one of the great screen characters: welcome Desmondo Ray and his creator, Steve Baker
These days Melbourne is a hub for short film festivals, special screenings and filmmaking prizes – and we couldn’t be more pleased. But there are times when the crush of Tropfest or the unreliable weather of the Moonlight Cinema are a little more trouble than they’re worth. Enter: the internet. With every short filmmaker, indie or otherwise, getting their stuff out there via websites such as Vimeo and the ever ubiquitous YouTube, you don’t need to leave your nerd cave to watch the latest offerings from the world of brief cinema. And some of the stuff you'll find is pretty great. We recently caught up with Brisbane short filmmaker Steve Baker – the animating mastermind behind Tropfest winner and cult hit An Imaginary Life. He’s back on the scene with a new film, The Video Dating Tape of Desmondo Ray, Aged 33 and ¾, and a brand-new character: the titular Desmondo, a hopeless romantic, creepy spinster and archetypal lonely guy lookin’ for love. And as the YouTube views click up, he might just find it.
Steve, let’s start with your new character, Desmondo Ray. Where did he come from?
Well he came from my brain for starters. I’m always intrigued by characters like him, people on the outskirts of society. There’s something simultaneously funny and sad about characters like Desmondo. But in terms of where he came from, he’s pure invention. He went through a few transformations though –he was going to be a monkey at one point but he eventually ended up as this strange, little – well, big – man.
How long did Desmondo and his movie take to come together, from conception to upload?
I took my time with this one because we weren’t making it for a specific reason. Normally, when I make a short film it's for a festival or a deadline of some sort. This we did solely to show people something and show them something a little bit different in terms of style. The live-action stuff only took a day to shoot but the animation took shape over a couple of months.
We loved the style of the film, this mixture between live action, animation and old home movies. What inspired the use of this style?
Primarily I think it's visually quite striking. And I wanted Desmondo, as a character, to feel separate to our reality, like he existed in his own world that was connected with ours. So animating him then juxtaposing him with live-action film made him appear out-there and different. It was almost a subconscious decision to mix the mediums, but if people see the significance then great, if not then at least the film still looks nice. We did a similar mix for An Imaginary Life. That film was originally supposed to be totally live-action but I ran out of time before the Tropfest deadline.
You’re famous for animations, but are you looking to make more live-action productions?
Yeah. I want to move into feature films and when it comes to that medium I’d be wanting to focus on live-action. I don’t want to be stuck in a studio animating for the rest of my life. I’m one of those people who likes to work relatively quickly because I have a lot of ideas and I want to get them all out there. Live-action, being much quicker to make then animation, is appealing in that sense. But I love the total control you get with animation.
You’ve said you often gravitate toward sad, outcast characters – is this a reflection of the animator’s trade?
I’m not sure that these characters are borne out of my own solitude, but maybe they are [laughs]. When you make a feature you’re obviously surrounded by heaps of people and the opposite is often true when you make an animation. I wouldn’t classify myself as an outcast, personally, but I don’t mind being by myself. I have friends who say they go crazy if they’re not around people – for me it’s the opposite, I find solitude very peaceful.
Desmondo has a pretty ingenius Twitter account – where do you see him and his film ending up?
Well we’ll definitely be taking it to a few film festivals. Like I said earlier, the film was intended to show the audience a slightly different style of film and hopefully, if it does well, then Desmondo will open up new and wonderful career paths for me.
Check out more of Steve's films at Vimeo.