Who I Am And What I Want: Chris Shepherd interview
The co-director of Who I Am And What I Want on his collaboration with David Shrigley.
Fresh from his award-winning short Dad's Dead, animator Chris Shepherd teamed up with David Shrigley to make Who I Am And What I Want, an adaptation of Shrigley's 2003 book. With the short animation now out on DVD Chris talks about their collaboration...
Tell us how the collaboration between yourself and David came about...
Years ago, in about 1998, I was working on the TV series Big Train and read a book called Why We Got The Sack From The Museum. I just thought it was brilliant, mainly because when I was in school I was always drawing really weird pictures that were always a bit wrong [laughs]. I remember looking at Dave's drawings in the book and thinking that they were like the ones I used to do, quite pure and to the point. I wrote him a letter, saying we should do some animation together, and we spent five or six years staying in touch but we could never quite think of the right idea. And then in 2003 he wrote a book called Who I Am And What I Want. The book was about one little man called Pete and it had a continuous narrative, so we thought that could be the one to make.
How did the collaboration work in practice?
The first thing we did was get all of the pages from the book and film them, to get an idea of how long it would be (it was about 25 minutes long). Because the book was a whole series of vignettes, we realised that we needed a glue to hold it together. None of the sections in the forest and the street are in the book - in fact, half of the film is not from the book.
Dave redrew the entire book and what he did was draw elements - he'd give me a page of street furniture, then a page of people, then a page of trees, a page of buildings. I'd cut them all out, like a big Letraset set, and make it work as a film.
What were your aims with the project?
Like with all the things I do, just to tell the character's story, really. What I like about it is the way that Pete's in such a state of self-denial. There are also moments when he's talking about drinking that I find interesting, because they're subjects you don't normally see in animation.
And it's definitely animation for adults...
Well the DVD got an 18 certificate. The warning says 'Contains strong sex references and violence' [laughs]. But I think Chris Cunningham's Rubber Johnny is a 15, and that's really scary! Dave's very proud of the 18 though.
Tell us about the casting of Kevin Eldon as Pete...
I'd worked with Kev on Big Train, and when we were writing the script I had his voice in my head. I kept thinking about a sketch in Big Train where he plays the Devil and he's quite arsy in it. Kev could have played Pete as a madman, but what we were after was his ordinariness. He's a bit like an academic who's gone mad. I like Kev's über-rant at the end as well, that's a tremendous piece of voicework.
What reaction has the film been getting at festivals?
It keeps winning audience awards, which I'm really proud of. I think it surprises people, because they're not sure what it's going to be. Some people are scared of it, I think, and some people really connect with it and think it's about them! It's been doing a lot of odd festivals as well - it screened at a zoo in Belgium the other week, which was great. The zoo had a forest with trees and big giant toadstools, and it really looked like our film... I hope the animals enjoyed it!
Any plans to collaborate with David again?
We've been thinking about doing some stuff together, but we'll just have to see what happens.
And is Pete a character you'd like to revisit?
Yeah. I'd be good to see Pete running for President. Pete joining the Conservative Party would be good, wouldn't it?
Who I Am And What I Want is out to buy on DVD from Monday 5th June 2006.
Adrian Hennigan | Published 08 June 06