Whilst attending film festival parties in 2010, Canadian director Chris Landreth found himself in the awkward position of forgetting the names of a couple of key people from his past that he encountered. On return home, he happened to see some reruns of the ’60s TV game show Password playing at his neighborhood video store and was struck by an absurd parallel between the show and his own experiences of trying to recall these names. Here was a film needing to be made – and Subconscious Password was born!
Animated by students as part of a Seneca College program, the film uses a wider variety of animation styles than Landreth’s previous films. The opening titles are created with SANDDe [Stereoscopic Animation Drawing Device], which allows artists to create hand-drawn animation in 3-D space. The party scene is done with pixilation giving a lo-fi unpolished effect, which helps to accentuate the chaotic situation into which Charles has descended and heightens John’s frenetic performance. Once we get into the CG game show part of the film, Landreth gradually increases his use of 3-D to the point where, with each successive shot, the depth becomes more intense and the animation starts to literally leap from the screen. By the time Dali melts, towards the end of the game show, it’s really in your face, mirroring his growing psychological imbalance.
In an interview with Chris Robinson for the NFB, he explains his approach, ‘I have this tendency to script the story out in text, not pictures. Only after the text part got worked out okay on Subconscious Password did I seriously start drawing stuff. This is apparently a bit ass-backward to much animation development, particularly for short films. Dialogue figures heavily in this story. You can’t board dialogue before scripting it. Feels like I’m going against a dominant mindset here, to be honest. Not a single Oscar nominee for Best Animated short film had a word of dialogue this year. I go to animation festivals and feel like I’m getting subjected to repeated exercises in mime. I’m tired of mime. Dialogue makes us human. Give me lots of it as long as it’s good, fun, intelligent, challenging”.
Chris Landreth is one of Canada’s most celebrated animation directors, known for the Oscar-winning 2004 animation Ryan and the creator of a style he calls “psychorealism”. This is the process of storytelling by showing a thought process or an emotional process – rather than a direct recreation of reality or copying reality in photorealistic detail.
Read Chris Landreth’s Skeleton Key to Subconscious Password written for Cartoon Brew