Wonderland: The Trouble With Love And Sex

Wednesday 11 May 2011, 10:54

Zac Beattie Zac Beattie Producer/Director

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"So it's like Creature Comforts but with humans instead of animals?" is often what people ask when you say you've just made an animated documentary. It is and it isn't.

Yes, animated characters lip-synch the words of real people. But there's more talk of sex problems and extra-marital affairs in this.

The Trouble With Love And Sex is a hybrid of documentary and animation, which takes a look inside other people's real life relationships as they spill their troubles to relationship counsellors.

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There is certainly humour in it, but my ambition was to encourage understanding, not laughs. After all, we've all been there - heartache and rows.

I'd wanted to try a new way of making a documentary - to use animation to tell the stories of people who wouldn't normally agree to appear on screen.

Could animation help us get inside the counselling rooms of Relate and inside the normally private lives of its clients, if we only needed their voices?

Could animation make the storytelling more compelling?

I hope the answer to both of these is yes, but I'd be interested to know what you think.

We promised to design the participants' animated alter-egos so as not to look like them, but it still wasn't easy to find people to record with.

They had to agree to us using their real voices and, unsurprisingly, often felt like they had enough on their plate.

But for the brilliant and generous people who let me crouch in the corner of the counselling room to record their weekly sessions, being hidden behind the animation was critical.

It gave them enough privacy to feel able to talk freely about infidelity, erectile dysfunction, and their deepest family secrets in a way I don't think they would have in a traditional documentary.

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We wanted the animation to do more than just recreate what happened in the counselling room or at home. We wanted the animation to interpret the voices and their stories.

So sometimes the counselling room transforms into a frosty ice field or transports us 30 years back in time.

A fly buzzing against the window or an awkward glance act as a short hand for the emotional mood I witnessed whilst recording.

Jonathan, the animation director, was tirelessly patient with my obsessive commitment that, whatever the animation did, it had to be an honest and fair representation of the participants' experience.

These are the stories of just two couples and one single man struggling with relationships, but I hope viewers might find a tiny bit of themselves somewhere in the film.

Zac Beattie is the producer and director of Wonderland: The Trouble With Love And Sex.

Wonderland: The Trouble With Love And Sex is on BBC Two and BBC HD at 9pm on Wednesday, 11 May.

To find out times of future programmes in the Wonderland series please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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    Comment number 1.

    An excellent programme, sensitively handled, and well produced with good animation to approach a difficult issue within relationships. A programme worth paying a license fee for, more of this on the BBC please, educational and informative.

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    Comment number 2.

    The programme was brilliant - so moving. The people in the programme were so brave to do it. Thanks.

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    Comment number 3.

    This was a masterpiece, moving, enlightening and positive, congratulations BBC

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    Comment number 4.

    Thanks, Zac and all the team.

    I just caught the last half hour of this and it was a very interesting, useful and important programme. Particularly good on the effect of parents and not talking. Kudos to those who let you record.

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    Comment number 5.

    Yeah really good, i just watched my first episode tonight. Suffice to say, i definitely related to one of them so i listened carefully to the advice. Good stuff and a great idea.

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    Comment number 6.

    Trusted that since Relate was involved it would not be exploitative and the programme justified this. Very interesting and sensitively done. Animation a great way to keep anonymity but allow the very real voices to tell their stories, without the programme makers interfering. Hope there is more to come.

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    Comment number 7.

    Still trying to work out how the animation added so much to the emotion - because it did. It all felt so human. Amazing work. Thank you :)

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    Comment number 8.

    I agree with Bazn, what a great programme. Kudos to the people who agreed to take part. They have allowed us a glimpse into a very intimate part of their lives.

    Seeing animated tears welling up was strangely touching. The gestures and facial expressions of the animated characters were perfect echoes of real life.

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    Comment number 9.

    Thanks for a great programme. The animations were really good and conveyed all the complex emotions brilliantly.
    I would worry that the people might be identified, especially where names were mentioned, but I don't think anyone who watched the program could be anything other than sympathetic and supportive of the participants.
    It was a great insight into the work of the counsellors too. Their job can seem simple but this showed that there is more to it than meets the eye.

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    Comment number 10.

    What a truly wonderful piece of television. Having experienced both individual and couples counselling I know how hard it can be to express ones own feelings, let alone understand or be sympatheic to the feelings of others. This animation allows the honesty of those involved to be explored sensitively... really beautiful and joyful in an overwhelmingly positive way... thank you...

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    Comment number 11.

    Wonderful. I could feel the pain, the stalemate, frustration and confusion as if I were in the same room. The animation was so well set and the details you attended so precise. I would like an In Treatment type Wonderland treatment, one on every night with each night a full therapy session recorded in full. How helpful for all of us couples struggling through miscommunication, no communication and back history of issues.

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    Comment number 12.

    I thought the program was excellent!

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    Comment number 13.

    enjoyed program greatly...didn't expect to as animations not 'my thing'.

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    Comment number 14.

    Wonderland is the best documentary series made ever. I think this episode was also probably the best ever. Very thought provoking. Absolutely, well, wonderful!

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    Comment number 15.

    Saw the pre-publicity, but wasn't sure what to expect. Turned out to be so moving - spent most of it tissuing tears from my eyes. Relate should be proud, the animators too and thanks BBC - some lessons for my own home life to take away.

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    Comment number 16.

    well done zac. you score another 100% for first class documentary making, and brilliant to see something so enlightening in animation....clever you....we love your work

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    Comment number 17.

    I thought this was brilliant, so much to relate to (we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last weekend, and I so recognise the comments of Iain and Susan's children at the end). I was in tears when the credits came around! I think the animated characters make it slightly easier to digest, less voyeuristic. And the animation was phenomenal, especially all the body language details.

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    Comment number 18.

    I found it very moving, especially the depiction of the single man struggling with romantic relationships. It was so moving when he finally found some comfort and positive resolution from his counselling, I had tears in my eyes! Very intelligently and sensitively produced - thanks for this unique and memorable programme.

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    Comment number 19.

    Congratulations Zac and the team on a great production. Animation was detailed and reflected the voices, drawing you into the characters and their compelling stories. Inspired filmmaking, well done.

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    Comment number 20.

    Having been through relationship counselling, I thought this was a great representation of that experience. The animation was incredibly good, it conveyed the emotions so honestly that it made me smile, it made me cry too. A brilliant documentary, thank you.

 

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