Made by

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou


Some weeks ago, I came up with the idea of making a film with my soon-to-be eight year old son. He plays a lot with Playmobil, making up stories (usually battles, wars, adventures), enacting all the dialogues he comes up with – and sometimes calling me to watch a particularly exciting scene, or saying “this is in slow motion”.

So, we sat down and wrote a script, of a short film to be shot with a digital camera, starring the various Playmobil characters. We created the sets together, and I shot, edited and scored the first scenes, which is the video you’ll see here. From there on, I encouraged him to shoot his own, which then I proceeded to edit (the app is still too technical for him) – but still haven’t scored.

The idea was to entertain him and spend time with him doing something different, but also encourage him to think of a story in visual terms. If there is no dialogue, how are going to understand what happens here? Music does help a lot, but it mostly has to do with continuity, shooting angles, transition shots, or simpler tricks: like choosing a kid playmobil wearing green with black hair and then a grown-up version of the same, and substituting the blonde hair of his protector early in the film with grey hair and a beard, to denote the passage of time (this you will not see in the short video below). It made me think of the medium afresh, all the difficulties that a filmmaker has to envisage, and how easy it is to go down the slippery slope of using script as a crutch. Although film is essentially a composite medium, I always saw it as predominantly visual.

It was not easy shooting with the Playmobil (they are better for tableaux vivants), since most of the plans are static (relieved by the occasional traveling shots, or zoom ins), but it’s not like we master the stop-motion technique or anything. The result is pretty crude, but I found it wonderfully creative, my son loved it and all he wanted to do was work on our film. I harbor a secret hope that the habit will stick, as he is also passionate with photography.

So here it is, our little labor of love: