Great Guns’ Duncan Christie directs a powerful new campaign, ‘Family Monsters’, for the charity, Family Action. The film compellingly combines live-action and animation to create awareness of the breadth of family problems that the charity helps people to deal with.
Creatively devised by And Rising, the quietly gripping 90-second film shows families living with a physical manifestation of their problems: a dark and ever-present monster. These shadowy, animated beings observe silently as each family struggles with isolating issues such as post-natal depression, poverty, alcoholism, and communication breakdown.
Fresh from gaining global accolades (LIAs, CLIOs, The One Show) for his Breast Cancer Now campaign, ‘2050’, Great Guns director Duncan Christie was tasked with bringing this idea to life. Duncan comments: “A key aim of the film is to reduce the stigma around these issues and get people talking - something us Brits aren’t always so good at! It was important that the film felt relatable for families from all different socio-economic backgrounds across the UK, not just for the most vulnerable people Family Action work with.”
With authenticity being a major consideration, extensive preproduction was completed ahead of the two-day shoot which took place in South London. Duncan and And Rising Creatives, Julie Herskin and Scarlett Montanaro, attended focus group meetings in order to shape the narrative from first-hand stories shared by Family Action staff. Duncan comments: “We worked really closely with the charity to make the film true to real life. Their insights were invaluable, as they helped make the script as tight as possible without making the scenarios feel forced or overdramatised. We were lucky to work with an amazing casting director, Maddy Hinton, who helped bring our families to life. I worked closely with each family ahead of the shoot, so they developed a rapport. It certainly helped that a lot of our actors could relate to the roles.”
Duncan and cinematographer, Nanu Segal (Bohemian Rhapsody), worked in close collaboration with BlindPig, the animation arm of Absolute Post, to create a seamless combination of live-action and animation elements. Commenting on the process, Duncan says: “This was the first time I had worked extensively with animation. The amount of work that goes into combining live-action and animation is huge. Of course, the film had to be carefully storyboarded but I still tried to leave some degree of spontaneity on the day to capture moments that felt off the cuff and impromptu. Retaining an observational feeling can be difficult when you’re working with animation, but BlindPig’s presence on the shoot meant we could discuss the impact of any changes on the animation.”
The team avoided horror film territory when conceptualising the monsters – opting for neither a threatening nor cute characterisation, but rather an unwanted presence that weighs the families down. The monsters were imbued with different personalities, with BlindPig designing their anatomy and movements to loosely represent the problem in each scene.