Wednesday 11 May 2011, 10:54
"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.
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.
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.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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