Lee Hardcastle makes neat, nasty little films with clay. From cult classics such as Eraserhead and The Evil Dead, as well as more mainstream fare like The Exorcist, his 60-second films are a hyper speed take on gruesome films. He takes a minute from making miniature's heads explode and vomit to chat with us.
What was your first stop motion piece?
In 1996-ish I bought a Tyco video camera with my birthday money, £20 brand new. It was basically a lo-fi B&W security camera that hooked up to your VCR, so your filming couldn’t go much further than a meter away from the video player. Playing about with the record+play then pause buttons, I suddenly discovered stopmotion animation. The first film I did completely like this was a couple of soft toy hedgehogs running around on a Subbuteo pitch.
Cult film classic The Evil Dead done in 60 seconds with stop motion. Surprisingly accurate special effects when compared to the original film!
How much time does it take to do a 60 second piece? Do you have any shortcuts to speed up the process?
Ten days working solid. I have some shortcuts, biggest ones are within the story – keep characters/locations down to a minimum because that stuff takes the most time to create. Something I learned over time is that whatever you do, do not skip out on the animation. People watch a video for animation, not a static image or boring moving graphics.
Eraserhead's Lady in the Radiator, complete with fucked up cheeks, makes an appearance in Hardcastle's claymation parody.
All things considered the finished product is pretty smooth, how do you finish these on such a small budget?
Budget? I re-use materials like cards & clay. Once in a blue moon, I’ll invest in something, last year I bought & made three armatures at £70 a pop. If I need something, I’ll search the apartment for props/materials. Check out my Eraserhead claymation, the bed sheet they’re sleeping in are in fact the underpants am wearing right now. It’s just the rent I have to worry about.
Have you ever had anyone bump or otherwise ruin a scene your were in the middle of?
No, I’ve done it myself. My girlfriend has learned to stay away from me while am animating cause if she comes within arms distance, I shout like a little girl “Stay away! Stay away! I’ve spent 4 hours on this, stay the f#’k away!”
The excorcist is slightly less frightening when condensed to 60 seconds and clay. Much more amusing, though.
The Evil Dead short is your first video to go viral. How'd that feel?
It was the jackpot. I didn’t have a clue what happened, I was a bit like “I’ve done something right?” and I went and told my mum & dad, and they said “Well done, Lee.”
When did you decide to make perpetually playing with clay your full-time gig?
I wanted to make films with real actors but unemployment kicked in and my film-making dreams were over when I decided to get on with another easier career in post-production by brewing tea & butt-licking the bosses in Soho. But there was just that little part of me that wouldn’t give up and ever so slowly, animation was the only way I could make films. That’s where it started, the story goes on a bit longer than that but it’s complicated, one road leading down another.
Are there any animators or general filmmakers do you borrow style from?
Sometimes I’ll directly rip-off a film for a gag, nothing more. I borrow stuff sometimes from really random things, like for my graduation film Stories from the Hotel… the Hotel is lifted directly from a 70s porno called Thundercrack.