McGee and the Marionette

by Teresa Lynch

Funeral March of a Marionette won Best Narrative at the Iris Film Festival.

Funeral March of a Marionette won Best Narrative at the Iris Film Festival.

Last fall, Russell McGee was a busy man. Working on thirteen productions busy. “That’s why nobody ever saw me,” he said with a laugh. But, his hard work and long hours have started to pay off. One of those productions, Funeral March of a Marionette, became the 2013 winner of Best Narrative Film at the Iris Film Festival on January 19th.

This particular short film came about because of a class project. “I started thinking about Hitchcock and thinking about the opening theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the song that they use is entitled ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’…The song made me think what could I do if I had a Marionette come to life via stop motion thus the germ of the idea. Another part of the idea came about because this was shot as a class project in CMCL 560 and we were required to shoot on 16mm in color and black and white and I thought to myself that I could use the Black and White to show the lifeless hum drum life of my main character and color for his creation coming to life.”

Russell created the stop animation by rearranging individual segments of this paper character.

Russell created the stop animation by rearranging individual segments of this paper character.

To contrast the lively and colorful doodle-come-alive, Russell and his crew created the stark world of the funeral director by shooting in black and white on 35mm film. They also filmed on location in the dissection lab at Jordan Hall. In other words, in an actual morgue. “The first person who was put to death in the state, well, their stomach was there in a jar,” said Russell of the location. Macabre as it was, the location worked perfectly for Russell’s leading man and good friend, Roy Sillings, to play the part of the funeral director.

On set in Jordan Hall with Roy Sillings as the Funeral Director. Photo courtesy of Russell McGee.

On set in Jordan Hall with Roy Sillings as the Funeral Director. Photo courtesy of Russell McGee.

Despite the success of the short film, Russell said he’d like to re-do some of the stop animation in Marionette and improve some other aspects of the filming. Still, he was thrilled to be selected and encouraged for his future work.

And, you can be assured that Russell isn’t slowing down in terms of workload. His other short film, Grief Stricken (also featured at the Iris Film Festival) is currently being scored by a composer from the Jacobs School of Music. It will be featured in the upcoming on-campus festival Double Exposure.

Be sure to catch Russell (if you can) to hear about more of his projects, both completed and in the works.

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