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Outside the Box with MFAT

There’s more than one way to tell a story – sometimes you have to think outside the box.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was looking for something different – something new and unique to get people’s attention and leave an impression. They wanted to develop something memorable to help clarify the different options available to New Zealanders looking to get Citizenship across the ditch in Australia. As we had previously collaborated with the Ministry on several animated projects, they figured we were up for the challenge. Leaving no stone unturned, we pitched several approaches – animation, live action, and everything in between. In the end, they liked the in-between – something not quite animation or  live action: a puppet show.

As pop-puppet-icon Pinocchio so insightfully put: “I got no strings to hold me down”. Although we had never done a puppet show before, we chose to take this advice to heart and give it a crack – worst case scenario we end up whale food. We decided early on we’d keep it simple and avoid going full Sesame Street – opting for illustrated paper cutouts and a low-fi, but cohesive aesthetic. Working closely with our illustrator, we developed a drawing style to suit the project. The illustrations were then printed in batches onto A3 card, carefully cut out, and mounted onto small wooden dowels to use as handles. With the puppets made, we were ready to tackle the next part; filming. Initially, we were going to perform the entire puppet show in real time and shoot it in one take. We realised very quickly that this wasn’t as practical an approach as we’d have hoped. Not only was it near impossible to operate our paper puppets so precisely, but it also left little to no room for flexibility in post. Next, we tried filming the puppet show in sections so we could then stitch each scene together to appear as one seamless take. This, however, also had its challenges. After one failed first draft, we decided to go back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, we cheated – filming individual elements on green-screen and then compositing everything together in post. While this may not be as romantic a solution as a real-time performance, it was far more practical. This approach gave us complete control of timing and transitions in post while maintaining the real ‘hand-held’ shake and motion to give the puppet show its realism.

Experimentation can lead to innovation and discovery – and we are extremely grateful MFAT trusted us with this opportunity to think outside the box and try something out of the ordinary.

Are you ready to put on a show? No matter which approach you want to take, we’re here to help you tell your story. Get in touch and let’s start making stuff together.

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