Earlier this fall, the National Film Board of Canada released the short Come to your senses, co-created Alicia Eisen and Sophie Jarvis. It is part of NFB’s The Curve, an online series “featuring the talents of 40 creators and filmmakers, giving a voice to millions whose lives have been touched by COVID-19.”
Eisen, a member of the Jewish community, is an animation filmmaker and visual artist, while Jarvis is a writer and director. Both women are based in Vancouver and have worked together before.
“We met in 2015, when Alicia was in pre-production on her first short film, Old Man,” they co-wrote in an email interview with the Independent. “A mutual friend introduced us, as he knew that Sophie was interested in learning more about stop-motion. It turned out that we live across the street from each other, and a wonderful friendship was formed.
“We first worked together on a short film for kids that blended live action (Sophie’s arena) with stop-motion (Alicia’s arena) and was basically a vessel for us to learn more about each other’s practice and to test the waters of a working relationship. It was an intense experience that threw every obstacle at us, and we came out stronger and ready for more. Which leads us to the stop-motion short film we are currently working on with the National Film Board, Zeb’s Spider.”
When their work was interrupted by the pandemic back in March, they said, “It was very disorienting to have that full-time routine stopped cold, so, when the NFB offered us the opportunity to contribute to their pandemic series, The Curve, it was a blessing to focus our creative energy into something new, and completely different from anything we have ever created before.”
Using the format of a group Zoom, Come to your senses explores the question, “Is the human need to make sense of chaos an inherently chaotic pursuit?”
“The five senses can be a somewhat intangible subject to explore, especially through film (which is an audiovisual medium). We aimed to evoke the other three senses with these limitations, which meant that we had to get a little weird with imagery and sound,” said Eisen and Jarvis. “A large part of our process was to let our intuition guide us; instead of planning what footage we needed to collect to complete the film, we issued open guidelines to ourselves and our artistic collaborators and worked with what we received…. It was exciting to see the patterns and instincts that were shared amongst the group (who were all working remotely from each other), and these similarities helped guide our process into the next phase: the edit.
“Our editor, Kane Stewart, was integral to helping organize this experimental film and to creating what you see in the final cut. We gave him direction on the tone and the arc, and detailed notes on the material that we wanted to include, but ultimately let him organize the material with fresh eyes. Our sound designer, Eva Madden, took the core intention of the project and brought her own spin to the film, which was exciting. The score really sets a tone, and we were thrilled to work with Yu Su, whose personal work we admire.”
The film is voiced by an AI voice-generator, said Eisen and Jarvis. “This way, we could manipulate the speed of the voice and revel in the tech restrictions that come with that choice (which are mirrored in the group video call). We landed on a voice named Tessa, who struck the right tone – gentle but commanding, like a self-help audiobook.”
The artists collaborating on the film were people with whom Eisen and Jarvis had worked over the years: Mona Fani, Suzanne Friesen, Meredith Hama-Brown, Charlie Hannah, Kara Hornland, Arggy Jenati and Janessa St. Pierre.
“We gave everybody a list of creative prompts designed to be completed within two days … things like ‘choose a spherical item from your home and interact with it using each of your five senses.’ We asked each person to approach each prompt with a design sensibility informed by our mood board, but to ultimately bring their own flair and artistry to it, so what we received from each person was unique, yet fit into the collage that ultimately makes the film.”
To watch the short, visit nfb.ca/film/come-to-your-senses.