THE STORY BEHIND THE LADY OF NAMES
The Lady Of Names began its journey to the screen in 1995. It was then that writer Michael Stokes and director Adam Ciolfi first met to discuss the possibility of a feature film using stop motion animation after having successfully collaborated on an animated short (ATTIC IN THE BLUE, 1991) using the same technique. That meeting led to a year long process of Michael working on the script while Adam designed characters and tackled the logistics of the actual production.
The script was completed in February 1996. In order to garner interest in the project, Adam spent the next year organizing and shooting a 3 minute proof of concept trailer. Completed in 1997, the trailer led to meetings with several production houses. While impressed by what had been accomplished, no one was willing to take a chance on a first time feature director with such an ambitious script.
Undeterred, Adam decided to forge ahead. Between the summer of 1997 and the fall of 1999, he immersed himself in pre-production. The script was broken down and story boarded, characters were designed and sculpted, equipment was purchased and set construction began.
Voice casting and recording took place in November 1999 with the final audio edit following soon after. Adam now had the template he needed to begin animating. On February 10, 2000 the first shot went before the camera. At the time, the expense of a digital system was not within the budget so The Lady Of Names would be shot using a Bolex 16mm movie camera. This necessity would ultimately work in the films favour, imbuing the finished film with a unique, nostalgic flavour.
In the first year, Adam shot 10 minutes of footage. At that rate, he calculated it would take 8 years, 6 months to complete the animation. Adam felt that as he continued shooting, he would naturally become faster and the actual shooting schedule would be closer to 4 years. However, as shooting continued, more and more characters were needed and the action became more complicated, sets more expansive. So while his technique and speed did improve, the rate at which the film progressed did not.
The film became a way of life; up at 8:00 AM, warm up the lights, have some breakfast, go to the basement studio, animate for 3 hours, have a quick lunch then leave for a full time job, 2 PM to 10 PM. Saturdays would be spent shooting all day. At night he would spend many hours working on models and props while keeping an eye on Hockey Night In Canada. Sundays he played hockey and recharged for the coming week. This schedule would be followed for the entire shoot.
It was in the winter of 2004, with 40 minutes of film shot that Adam accepted that his initial time calculations had been correct. Having invested 8 years on the project already, abandoning it was not an option. He packaged some scenes together and made another run at funding but was met with the same reticence. Rather than become discouraged, Adam simply turned on the lights, framed another shot and got back to work. It would be 5 more years before he would complete animation on The Lady Of Names. The last shot went before the camera on November 7, 2009.
To fully appreciate the endurance and dedication to this one project, consider this: when The Lady of Names began production, Peter Jackson had not yet been signed to direct The Lord of the Rings films. By the time Adam completed animation, Jackson had not only finished all 3 Ring films but the King Kong remake as well.
With animation completed, Adam pushed ahead with post production. With consumer products now readily available and relatively inexpensive, Adam was able to edit the film himself using Final Cut Express. Hoping to obtain money for post production, Adam sent the final edit to several arts councils and agencies, but again, no funds were forth coming. After all he had accomplished on his own, with limited resources and endless determination, this final round of rejections truly discouraged him.
The one thing that Adam felt the film needed and could not do without, was a full orchestral score. With over 1200 titles in his personal collection and a lifelong devotion to original orchestral film music, Adam decided to attempt scoring the film himself. There was however one very large obstacle, he could not read music of play the piano. In fact, Adam had never composed any music at all. He had, however, listened to thousands of hours of music while animating the film.
Undeterred, he purchased a keyboard, bought a full orchestral software package and a recording program. He took some rudimentary keyboard tutorials from Youtube and started recording. He would spend the most rewarding year of the entire project learning to compose, record and mix the score for The Lady Of Names. While working on the score he also spent countless hours on the films sound edit, recording sounds and working with a large selection of purchased sound effects.
On May 8, 2011 the final touches were added and the production came to an official end.