Interview with Mandy McIntosh on The Thunderbird's Ballad

We interviewed Mandy McIntosh on the production of her film The Thunderbird's Ballad.

The Thunderbird's Ballad is one of the ten films produced by Animate Projects for Channel 4's Random Acts. These films were produced in 2013 and premiered on Channel 4 from August 2013.


What inspired your Random Acts film?

I found a second-hand book on supernatural and mythological creatures with real life accounts of encounters with them. The story about Marlon and the Thunderbirds really struck a chord with me because it felt recent, I was roughly the same age as him in 1977 when he was snatched, and I was really struck by how his community turned on him instead of feeling compassion for him. He felt like such a strong metaphor, and I was interested in the psychology of being considered food.

How did you breathe life into the idea?

I used the same techniques I'd used in the past, starting with analogue and digital drawings and then scanning them as skins for 3D models. I always want to push that combination aesthetically, to see where the drawings can go when they become digitised, how weird they become when they are smoothed over a '3D' surface. Especially the faces, the faces can take weeks.

During the making process did your film change much from the initial idea? Were there any surprises?

Yes, I had initially imagined the whole piece would be a song, like a kind of epic dustbowl era ballad, but what I discovered was the animation and picture was stronger at stating what had happened and that it could be quite non-verbal throughout. Also, when Malcolm's music was introduced, that had a huge emotional hit that didn't need to be explained.

How did you collaborate with other people on making the film?

I collaborated with Malcolm Brown on music. I even used classic SoundEdit 16 software myself and sang a bit. I made a verbal structure and we patchworked the music: some of it was from Malcolm's personal archive, old reel to reel recordings from the 1980s, some brand new glitch tracks that were very raw but percussive and worked very well with staccato text. So I liked that there was a time span on the music, it hadn't all been made at the same time, it makes deeper layers, I think.

What motivated you to work with animation in your artistic practice in the first place?

It's one of the only places where I can combine lots of obsessions: texture and form, drawing, virtual sculpture, sound, poetry - its boundless for me.